Raising Kids Outside the Box


Children are natural born freethinkers. If they were adult-sized, they might be branded as radicals, anarchists, and psychotics (well, the last part is true on occasion). Kids question and challenge everything; they explore ravenously and say amusing, borderline apocryphal things utilizing their spongy, unsullied brains. All good. Let little minds be wild. Their neurons are powered up and firing away; nature is doing its thing; why get in the way?

OK, so what about the nurture part, socialization and how they learn not to hit, spit, and sit on kittens? The assimilation of rules and structure and institution — the nurture part — does not have to introduce the decay of free thought, curiosity, and creativity. Socialization does not have to mean indoctrination. Nurture does not have to be a light-eating box that forces children into a predetermined mold. (Did an image of a typical classroom just pop into your head, too?)

Did you ever get scolded by your teacher or some authority figure for daydreaming? According to a study reported in Psychology Today, there’s a strong link between daydreaming and superior intelligence. Apparently, while daydreaming, the brain is making tons of connections between your memory, knowledge, and experiences; and those connections are significantly stronger in smarter people. So much for la-la land.

In addition to daydreaming being a cerebral workout for the intelligent, imagination plays its part, acting as an interpreter, of sorts, for stored knowledge. In fact, famous geniuses throughout history, such as Mozart and Einstein, have attributed their accomplishments to their imagination.

Instead of fitting kids into society’s box, we should give them a literal box, then step back. Watch them take a trip around the world, race through space, battle leviathans in the depths of the ocean, and push the limitless boundaries of their minds. With consistent encouragement of free thought and creative development, perhaps they’ll grow up to change our rigid world in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.

Between school, tutoring, sports, music lessons, TV, educational apps, etc., consider the importance of free time for the kids. Scientific American reports, “Free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development. It makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed.”

With fine tuning specific to the individual needs of each child, a nature-nurture balance can be found and used to foster those innate qualities unique to the innocent, open-minded, and slightly magical. Just as we protect our kids from cars as they cross the street, we owe it to them to keep the boxes at bay and guard their beautiful brains in their purest form.

Society is no friend of the freethinker. Therefore, the onus of preserving the unique way children process the world around them, their responsibility to question everything, their unobstructed flow of free thought and raw creativity lies with us parents (despite how maddening it is to raise little open-minded people).

“Our children have a light that warms and ignites an imagination so wild it is a crime to tame.”
-C. N. Hamilton

Thank you for being tuned in parents! I welcome your comments, suggestions, tips, and participation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

-Elle C.

Enjoy these ideas for imaginative play for kids by stages of development!

image: WarmSleepy, Creative Commons


Eugster, K. (2008). Encouraging Children to Play Imaginatively
and Creatively. http://www.kathyeugster.com/articles/article007.htm

Fries, A. (2010). The Dynamic Duo: Imagination + Knowledge. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-daydreaming/201001/the-dynamic-duo-imagination-knowledge

Wenner, M. (2009). The Serious Need for Play. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-serious-need-for-play/

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About Elle C. Mayberry

Elle C. Mayberry is a mom and author, who just released a new children's book with her young daughter. With a passion for parenting and degrees in psychology and "make it workology," she created Tuned In Parents (TiP).

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