The Imagination of Children

I started working in schools as a student teacher in 2001.

I’ve had a lot of experiences and interactions with children, they are always amazing me with their imagination and creativity. I acknowledge a lot of their play is based from television, movies, and video games, but haven’t many of my own inspirations come from these sources too? I played Ninja Turtles in the field of my elementary school, but I invented a cat character that was a girl.

You know that saying, “out of the mouths of babes”? It’s true, “kids say the darndest things.” Just like adults, some are more imaginative than others, some have had their artistic side encouraged and not overlooked. If you haven’t spent a lot of time with children, you may not have noticed their distinct personalities are quite developed by the time they get to kindergarten.

I was going through some old writing and found a couple stories I had taken note of. I wish I had written down more of these tidbits, and I will try to write these down more often.  The best moments are during unstructured free time. These stories are both from working at an After School Program:


The dress-up materials were out, and we had lots of good-one-side paper and art supplies.  At one point I noticed a girl making a sign that said “Wal-Mart” and realized they had organized the clothing, jewelry, old cell phones etc. into a store. They were using an old computer keyboard and storage lid as a cash register, and other children were busy creating all kinds of paper money. $100000000000000000 bills. 1cent bills. Bills that were over a foot long. Blue bills. Yellow bills. Fancy scrapbooking-scissor edged bills. All kinds.

 I just watched.

The store soon had issues of theft, and customer dissatisfaction. Other children were making grabs at the money beneath the storage lid register, and walking off with goods without paying. Some kids complained of being ‘ripped off’ after paying too much for certain items.

A new store opened up across the gymnasium.

Dollarama did not have many items, but they promised to have better prices. Wal-Mart, feeling threatened, created signs encouraging people to shop at Wal-Mart, and NOT Dollarama. I borrowed some money from the cashier at Wal-Mart, a 5 dollar bill, and went and bought a red plastic spoon at Dollarama, which I sold to Wal-Mart to pay back the $5 I borrowed.

After Dollarama’s success, they changed their name to ‘Millionrama.’  Now everything there cost a million dollars.  Wal-Mart moved to a central location and began to get their original customer base back. Millionrama made lots of signs advertising things they had for sale, and a new ‘Sports City’ opened up (who gave me a free Wii Fit drawn on a piece of paper- now that’s good customer service).

Kids who had been playing with Lego built airplanes and robots to sell to/trade with Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart grew and did successfully, Millionrama went out of business.  They brought home their important- pieces- of- paper with numbers-written- on- them when their parents came to pick them up. They stopped imaginary texting on their dead cellphones and put them back in the bucket with the Mardi Gras beads and oversized jackets.

Seeing children of all ages interacting with each other, creating these scenarios together, makes me love my job even more. I should tell you about the time we had playdough out and they got involved in a serious round of ‘Cake Boss.’


On the playground, after-school program.

Boy 1, whiningly:”There’s nothing to do!”

Me: “Use your imagination.”

Boy 1’s Younger Brother, tagging along: “Imagination sucks!”

Me: “What!! That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard. Without imagination there would be no video games, no tv shows, no movies, no pictures, no music, no inventions, nothing! Imagination is awesome!”

I begin to worry about children who think imagination sucks, and want a non-stop fast-and-easy boredom kill. What will the future be like if no one imagines anything?

Later on.

Two girls and a boy play on the main playground structure with chunks of ice. A girl is gathering snow to use as “seasoning powder” for the pretend hot dogs they are making.

Me: “What are you doing over here?”

Boy 2, excitedly: “I have these magic gems! When I hit them together like this, one starts to glow. Then I can use them to start the spaceship!”

I stop worrying about a future without fantasy, because there will always be those born with the gift.


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