By Clay Clarkson
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. Henry David Thoreau
There is a language of imagination. Let’s call it imaginationish.
It’s not actually a language, but more of a universal dialect. It is using words to describe things that the eye does not see, the ear does not hear, the senses do not sense.
We always knew when our children were speaking imaginationish. They would hear a symphony and begin to describe a forest teeming with life and mystery. They would look at a painting and walk into its colors and lines as they narrated a story of their journey. They would watch a movie and begin to think out loud about the deeper spiritual meanings of scenes and symbols.
We never sat down and created a plan to make our children imaginative and creative. We did, though, deliberately create an atmosphere in our home that was rich in spoken and printed words—reading lots of books, discussing lots of topics, experiencing many forms of art and creativity. It was the air they breathed in our home—they inhaled it to fill their curious lungs, it oxygenated the verbal blood that fed their creative brains, and they exhaled it as the language of imagination. Call it immersion learning, I guess.
If there is such a thing as imaginationish, it isn’t learned from a workbook. It is grown and cultivated at home in a print-rich environment and verbally-enriched atmosphere, and it is fed with abundant and nutritious words. God—who is the Word, and created us to be people of his Word and of words—has given parents the privilege to create that creative ecosystem. It all starts with words.
Vocabulary is critical to an active imagination. A child’s ability to imagine things beyond their own senses is directly related to the depth and breadth of their vocabulary. It takes little imagination to realize the limitations of limited vocabulary on creativity, or on believing spiritual truths for that matter. However, the more words your child has with which to express himself, the greater will be the scope and intensity of what he can imagine. The stronger your child’s grasp of language, the richer will be her own creativity and ability to wonder about things beyond her five senses.
To paraphrase Thoreau, your children naturally know how to look at things, but you can give them the supernatural ability to truly see beyond the material world. You can give them the language of imaginationish. But you’ve got to be speaking it first. Filling the air of your home with words, reading books that take the power of language seriously, and feasting on all the arts—paintings, music, poetry, and more. If you do, then you can sit back and watch the seeds of imagination that you plant and cultivate in your children blossom into fruitful vines of creativity. Your imaginative children will help the world not just look at, but see the God who created us all.