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Championing Imagination in Our Children’s Lives and Our Own

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Where the Heart Resides

By: Amanda Hyslop  |  October 4, 2023

Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” In my household, this wasn't merely a quote fit for a fridge magnet — it was our family motto. Growing up, creativity was a family value. My dad was a solid-state physicist and assisted in engineering the gigabit.  And my mother, she might've daydreamed about Hollywood, but she channeled that inner starlet into mommy mode and taught aerobics with flair. Our house was a hotspot of imagination: think dance-offs in the living room, my bro crafting epic haunted houses, and my sister penning poetry.


Yet, as I've grown older and faced the demands of adulthood, my imagination, like many of us, has dwindled. My left linear brain frequently overshadows my imaginative right. In fact the other day when my right brain tried to imagine a world without taxes, my left brain chimed in with “Nice try!”


All of this has led me to wonder: as we get older, do we squash our imagination? In my quest to understand the relationship between aging and imagination, as a nurse, I turn to research for insights. What I found through a Google Scholar search was a consensus among studies: fostering creativity can enhance cognitive development, assist in problem-solving, nurture emotional well-being, and increase cognitive flexibility. Imagination also enhances empathy by allowing us to see the view of others. So, with all of its benefits, why aren’t we doing it more?


One reason I believe adults neglect our creative tendencies is that we've come to regard imagination as something reserved for childhood. As we transition into adulthood, certain norms have pressured us to act 'responsibly' and 'maturely'. This mindset often diminishes the value of imaginative endeavors, viewing them as frivolous, especially when compared to tangible tasks like hitting the gym, making dinner, being present for others, or paying bills.


Think about it: when's the last time you doodled on a napkin, riffed on a music melody, or let yourself drift into a daydream. Have you dismissed these moments as frivolous or childish?


Embracing moments of imagination can rejuvenate our daily lives in ways many might have neglected or forgotten. Most wellness conversations revolve around physical health, mental clarity, and emotional stability. Rarely do they touch on the rejuvenating powers of being creative. Yet, this is an aspect that can elevate the everyday grind into something energy boosting. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that participants who engaged in everyday creative tasks, such as drawing or creative writing, experienced increased well-being the next day. They felt more enthusiasm and flourishing in their daily lives.[1]


One of my favorite TED Talks is "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" by the renowned Sir Ken Robinson. He talks about the inherent nature of creativity found in kids. Children don’t censor themselves, they take chances. However, as they grow up, this inherent capacity is squashed due to fear of making mistakes, or being judged, induced by an education system that prioritizes more linear conventional thinking.


My daughter told me a story once about a kid who was freestyling on the xylophone in music class. He was told if he wasn’t going to follow the instructions then he needed to go sit in the corner. Instead of celebrating this burst of creativity, the child was unfortunately reprimanded. I get that rules and structure matter, but couldn't the teacher have saved the last 15 minutes for some free play? I mean, I don't know the whole story or what was going on in that classroom, but whatever happened really stuck with my daughter.


Here is a thought I like to share. A lot of adults, maybe because of stuff that happened in the past or worrying about what others think, hold back their creative side. We're all about getting that home gym, but what about a space to just let our creativity out? Imagine turning the kitchen or living room into a dance floor, cranking up the tunes, and just letting loose!


Another point that resonated with me in Robinson's Ted Talk is that in a world where college degrees are becoming more commonplace, what truly differentiates individuals in the workforce is their ability to think outside the box and innovate. Yet it is hard to find a public education school that values creativity as much as math.


Just the other day, I received a brochure from my son’s school's fundraising team. It highlighted that the funds raised through donations are crucial in safeguarding positions for teachers in areas like art, music, library, media, and STEM. These are the exact spaces where creative thinking is nurtured. In a world where problem-solving, innovative thinking, and adaptability are becoming increasingly crucial, it concerns me that our public schools need additional funding to secure these essential skills. If creativity isn't practiced in these formative years, how can we expect our children to harness it when they confront the challenges of the future?


Creativity, for many of us, is often seen as a luxury—something reserved for artists, designers, dancers, musicians, or writers. But in truth, it's a crucial skill for everyone, regardless of your profession. From engineers to healthcare providers, caretakers to entrepreneurs and educators, the ability to think outside the box, to envision what doesn't yet exist is essential. This is why it's crucial to champion creativity in our children's lives as well as our own.


So, challenge yourself to give creativity a rightful place in your child's life and yours. The truth is, every imaginative spark offers an opportunity to connect, to heal, to innovate, and to understand better. Furthermore, life's creative energy doesn't diminish with age. It's merely waiting for us to rekindle the flames. Our capacity to imagine and create is boundless. By welcoming our creativity and imagination back into our daily lives, we not only enhance the quality of our experiences but enrich the people around us with new perspectives, humor, entertainment, and ideas. So let the left brain move out of the way, let creativity be our next task.

[1] Conner, T. S., DeYoung, C. G., & Silvia, P. J. (2016). Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11(3), 259-269.


Amanda Hyslop is rocking the mom life with two whip-smart kiddos, Sienna & William, and her hubby, Bill, who has a knack for dad jokes. By day, she's a go-to Advice Nurse at Tamalpais Pediatrics; by night, you'll find her playing the keys or hitting the pavement for a run. Amanda's all ears for your thoughts and will get back to you – just as soon as she locates that pesky missing sock!
More from this issue:

Championing Imagination in Our Children’s Lives and Our Own HERE >> 

From Homeless to Homeward Bound of Marin HERE >> 

How to Choose a Preschool: A Complete Guide HERE >> 

My Inner Anauraliac HERE >>

October is for ADHD! HERE >>

So Do You HERE >>

The Power of an Early Start HERE >>