Dear Grandparenting: My husband and I agree about most things but part ways when it comes to our little grandchildren. My husband is a retired mechanical engineer, which helps to explain his non-nonsense approach.
He teaches our grandkids about practical things like how to add and subtract numbers. I am just the opposite. I like to get their imaginations running wild with ideas and make-believe.
Last weekend my husband had a little fit after the grandchildren went home with their parents. He actually scolded me! He said my fun and fantasy was a waste of time that would not help the grandchildren succeed in life.
I agree life does get very serious. But when you are seven, five and four years old, isn’t make-believe a positive thing? Like I always say, if you can’t imagine it, then you can’t do it. Dreams set us in motion. Christine Janovich, San Diego, California
Dear Christine: Tell your husband to step down from the high horse and lighten up. We are as concerned as anyone about the need for grandchildren to earn a living — eventually.
But eliminating imaginative play is not the way to go about it. Decades of research substantiate the vital role that acting out and pretending can play in child development. It’s a skill to be encouraged, not stomped on.
“Human beings have a gift for fantasy,” said Paul Harris, professor at Harvard’s School of Education. “(It) shows itself at a very early age, and then continues to make all sorts of contributions to our intellectual and emotional life throughout the lifespan.”
Grandchildren who engage in this sort of magical thinking and play with imaginary friends aren’t just on their way to becoming more creative. By pretending to be contrived characters, they experience walking in someone else’s shoes, which promotes empathy and social skills. They learn how to share and cooperate. This should please your husband: Researchers link “high quality pretend play” to improved literacy, as well as science and math — yes, math!
Constructing imaginary worlds is harder than it seems. Pretend play often confronts children with a variety of problems to solve. They have to improvise and make do with what’s at hand, building their resourcefulness and self-reliance. That strikes us as skills we could all use.
Grand remark of the week
Tammy Taylor from The Villages, Florida reports her “grandchildren fill a place in my heart that I didn’t realize was so empty.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.