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February 29 2016
The Power of Dreams: The Importance of Encouraging Children to Dream



The imaginings of children can conjure up make-believe worlds invisible to adults. Top head teacher Tony Lewis of St Nicholas School, Knightsbridge urges grown-ups to let those childish dreams flourish…



Apparently Don Quixote had a few problems with windmills but how many children dressed in the most extraordinary costumes have dreamed the dream and fought mythical monsters in mysterious worlds? Exciting stuff and why would you want to dissuade or distract children from such creative imagining? The impossible or miraculous to adults is an every day occurrence for children with imagination.

When I grow up I want to be......an astronaut? The concepts of "reach for the stars" and "limitless horizons" are very real. Tim Peake has stimulated all of our imaginations but in reality there can be only so many astronauts so should we stop children aspiring? The importance of childhood is not the adult-imposed sense of parameters but making it safe for children to "dream the impossible dream" (that man of La Mancha again!).

Children thrive on discovery and curiosity, in some ways iPads and computers influence more than TV once did but hark back to the BBC of yesteryear and "Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead?". Everyday I see nursery children being children playing, dressing up and role playing imaginary characters, enjoying telephones that do not work in made up conversations with unseen others. They are not embarrassed in a way we as adults might be and in their imagination they develop language and empathy therefore a depth of skill in communication which should be a lifelong benefit.

Children take risks because they are unafraid of or do not even understand the meaning of "failure". How rapidly do we unnecessarily make them aware of "danger" rather than sharing in their risk-taking? Is not success based on hard work, an element of genius or insight but also copious amounts of risk taking, putting it out there for others to take exception but potentially to share, celebrate and take forward? I have wonderful teachers who ask challenges of children they know they cannot do and yet this only increases the excitement and ambition of the children to be imaginative and creative in proving their teacher wrong.

Trees are to be climbed, rivers and streams to be crossed. Last summer at Prize Giving our children were inspired by Leon McCarron speaking of his adventures crossing North America on bike, China on two feet, surviving ferocious blizzards and occasionally more threatening human beings. Why? Well, inevitably "because it was there" but also because he did not think it possible, he doubted he could but the dream of making something possible is incredibly powerful. School entrance interviewers have sometimes posed the question "if you were to invent something what would it be?" Now there's a fun challenge and are we not surrounded by every day utilities that are the product of modern necessity but also someone's incredible imagination, practical know-how and determination to turn dreams into reality?

Dreaming is neither redundant nor a distraction but a reality and necessity. Encourage it in your children for the absence of dreams and aspirations impacts on their longer lives as adults which may turn out to be far more fun, substantially less limited and potentially incredibly fulfilling.

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