Our imagination helps us extract reality from day-to-day routine, conceptualise it, and then escape. It can be very rewarding letting rip it in fantasy-land. It can be a pressure-release mechanism. I remember some years back in another “life” feeling under dreadful pressure at work, as my boss (who happened to own the business) was a bully: as his demands and tantrums got steadily worse, and as I knew I could not afford to come home to my two teenage children and disintegrate once inside the door, I found a nice way to deal with the situation: I started “talking” to my boss as I drove home, on a regular basis. After some particularly rough incidents earlier in the day, I would tell him exactly what I thought of him, why his behaviour was unacceptable, how he needed to change to get back some respect from his employees, how I deserved respect from him... and so on, and so on... and with some choice words to boot, just for the right effect. By the time I got home, I always felt better. This went on for months... until I finally was able to handle my letter of resignation, and finally, finally, oh joy! see him do a major psychological u-turn, sing my praise, and beg me to stay. But no way Jose, I was out of there and I never looked back.
Though this story might sound as if I have serious psychic issues, but my imagination actually saved my sanity in this instance.
Our imagination also helps us to learn. The conceptualisation process it involves means we can transfer situations to a different environment, and toy with them while staying in control, testing various options. Children do it all the time. The “pretend” play is just that, learning to cope with, and behave in, various events and settings. And it starts very young. And the majority of us (could I say 99.9%?) continue to play, for the rest of our lives.
The beauty of Imagination and its younger brother Play is that they can make us forget what we think we can and cannot do, what our perceived limitations may be. Once we play, anything is possible.
I took Cathal to Imaginosity a couple of weeks back, just quality time for him and me alone. It was my first time there, and I found it a great place, with everything needed to let Imagination rip from small baby to 9 year olds. It has little farms, a puppet theatre, a stage, story times, a building site with a working crane, a tv studio, a bank, a post office, a restaurant, a shop, a library, train sets, a dolls house, a doctor’s surgery, an activity room, a garage, and much much more...
Cathal became very engrossed in some of the games. He totally got the “play restaurant” thing, and pretended to eat and drink for ages... though when I saw him repeatedly putting the plastic cutlery and cups in his mouth, after probably lots of other kids who did the same thing, I had to remind myself that this is good for him, helping him built his immune system...? Yikes!
But most of all, what I enjoyed the most, apart from the excitement of the two of us going from one game to another, was the fact that Cathal, who is now 2 years and 4 months, who does not walk, who doesn’t stand much, nor for any long period of time, who is an expert at spreading his legs at a right angle to land on his bum when we put him down and he thinks there is the slightest possibility we might try and get him to stand... this clever little boy totally forgot all this, not just on one, but on two occasions.
First when he was by the Builders Site. There is a wall to be built with foam blocks, just big enough and light enough for toddlers to handle easily. He saw a little girl placing the green and purple blocks, immediately understood what was required, and joined in the construction. It was fine when working on the base while sitting on the floor, but as the blocks got higher, Cathal had to stretch more and more. When he came to a stage where, despite all his stretching, he could not reach any more, I did not say anything, just put hands on his hips, gently pushed him up, and there he was standing, and bending to pick another block, and straightening to place it, and bending again. With no idea that he was standing and bearing his own weight, needing my hands only for balance... once built, the wall was knocked down, and the process repeated from sitting position to stretching to standing at least four times! I was amazed...!
Then we moved on to the dolls’ house. He became fascinated with opening the doors to see into each room, with the little wooden dolls and their cloths, arranging and re-arranging all their furniture into the rooms, placing the dolls around, making sure the one he put in bed had a pillow and a blanket. Yet again, the “ground floor” could be reached while sitting down, but he could access the first floor only by standing up. And again I helped prop him up. And again magic happened... he never knew the physical impact of his playing... he just, simply... played. His Imagination was indeed ripping!
I took very few photos that day, because:
a. I was too engrossed myself in the experience to bother with the camera,
and b. it’s not easy propping up a toddler and taking a photo of said action at the same time – I may be a great granny, but I am not a super-granny... yet!
However, here are a couple of examples of his concentration:
The only draw back of Imaginosity is that it is a Strickly No Buggie place. They spell it out very clearly on their website. I can understand why, as if it gets busy, here would be little room for the children to move around safely. Cathal had been there before with his mammy and his buggie was not let in.
My problem was: he is getting big and heavy, and I did not fancy carrying him around for the best of 2 hours or so. So I decided to braze it out, and for the first time (for me) play the Special Needs card. When you get there, you need to give the age of the child to be charged the appropriate rate. So the young lady at the reception knew he was two. I asked, very innocently if I could bring in the buggie. The answer was as predicted. So I said: “Then, I have a problem. He may be 2 and a few months, but he does not walk. He has Special Needs, he has Down Syndrome.” The effect was immediate. The poor girl became very apologetic, saying that she “did not see” (it’s true, he was in his buggy, and below the edge of the desk, so below her normal range of vision), and then confirming that of course I could take the buggie in. The only thing is that the lift between floors is only for disable access so must be unlocked by a member of staff at each level. But to be fair to them, every one of them was most helpful at all times. And the fact that it was early a Sunday morning must have help...
I just felt strange having to “play that card”. But then, it was the first time, it had to be done, and I have to get used to such situations...
And talking about Imagination and Play, Cathal has an Aquadraw mat, which is absolutely brilliant. See for yourselves – filmed last Saturday morning, early, just after breakfast...
That child has bettter powers of concentration in the morning than I have, what do his parents give him? My own brain was still asleep at that time.