“The Power of Imaginative Play”
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” ~ Albert Einstein
I grew up without digital devices.
I was the child with my nose in a book, or out in the yard slaying dragons, reigning over my kingdom, or teaching school—if I could round up a “student” or two.
Here is how I entered an imaginary world from my backyard: when the wind gusted against bed sheets on the clothesline, I knew if I ran beneath them at the proper moment, I’d find myself in another land. And that was before I’d read about the wardrobe leading to Narnia.
In my Space Boy books, if Niko, in his imagination, has fashioned a spaceship out of a cardboard box, then of course the ship is going to blast off into outer space.
And of course excitement and danger will follow. Luckily, Niko can rely on his loyal crew: Tag, his dog, and Radar, his copilot.
Robert Neubecker’s illustrations depict Radar as a toy robot who morphs into a full-sized partner, overcoming the bad guys with Niko and Tag. Plus, Radar smartly knows how to navigate a spaceship. Makes perfect sense in Niko’s pretend world.
Today, children are entertained too often by their devices, with fewer opportunities to get lost in their imaginations. As a former elementary teacher, I know that pretend play is essential to cognitive and social development, as well as creativity. One of the best exercises in imagination is reading–or being read to. A story’s ups and downs are vividly played out in a young reader’s mind.
In backyard role-playing games, children can try on various roles: a fighter pilot, a parent, a puppy. All they need is a cardboard box, maybe a stuffed toy, and perhaps even a sibling. Then off goes their imagination.
Illustrator friend Doug Cushman shared this with me: “During school programs, I’d ask a child to scribble something on my drawing pad in front of the class. Then I’d turn the scribble into a character and create a fun background.
The class would brainstorm a story to go with the images. Their collective imaginations were incredible. The exercise showed that ideas can come from anywhere, even a mere scribble.”
One of the nicest bits of feedback I’ve received about the Space Boy books is from a mom who told me that her kids don’t just read Niko’s stories—they act them out. Bingo—pretend play! Which is exactly what Space Boy is doing in his story within a story.
Here’s to limiting device time for our children, and sending them outside to create their own adventures in imaginary worlds, on other planets like Niko–or at least to lose themselves in a good book.
About the Author: Dian Curtis Regan is the author of more than 60 books for young readers, ranging from picture books to YA novels. Her books have received many honors, including Best Books for Young Adults, Children’s Choice Awards, Junior Library Guild selections, Los Angeles Times Recommended Book, and New York Public Library’s Best Books. Space Boy and the Space Pirate was a 2017 finalist for the Colorado Book Award, and the winner of a 2017 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Space Boy and the Snow Monster is brand new this fall. Dian lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. To learn more, and to download a curriculum guide, visit diancurtisregan.com and spaceboybooks.com.
About the Illustrator: Robert Neubecker is the award-winning author-illustrator of Wow! City!, Wow! America!, and Wow! School!, and the illustrator of The Problem with Not Being Scared of Monsters and its companion The Problem with Not Being Scared of Kids. He lives in Park City, Utah. Visit neubecker.com.
About the Book: Niko and his crew are digging their spaceship out of a snowdrift when Radar, Niko’s robot copilot, disappears. Oh, no! Was he captured by a Snow Monster? They blast off on a rescue mission to Planet Ice, only to find the Snow Monster building an army of scary snowmen. Then they get tricked by a Killer Bunny! Can Niko rescue Radar, flee the Snowmen Army, outwit the Killer Bunny, and fly his crew back to Planet Home in time for hot cocoa?
Get ready to blast off–one lucky winner will receive SPACE BOY AND THE SNOW MONSTER (U.S. addresses).
Thank you Dian for helping us continue to promote imagination!
Thank you also to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for today’s post and giveaway!