Like many children, my six year old daughter has a wonderful imagination. It can be a joy to hear her play alone or with others and to find the evidence of her detailed creativity. Yes it distracts her from the simplest of tasks, and yes perhaps it is why she isn’t very methodical about reading or maths, but it has provided her with the resilience to change schools and countries, (it’s ok mummy, I am never lonely at playtime, I always have my pretend friends) and to reinterpret and manage disappointing circumstances (actually Mummy – the baby squirrel really wanted a glass mouse for his birthday, not the wooden tortoise I saw last time we came).
A couple of times recently, I have made some comment about the depth of her imagination to family. And I was struck that in both cases their first reaction was to remark on what it might mean for her future career. Perhaps it is because I am not currently in employment, ( I refuse to say not working -I spent days last week entertaining a toddler for 4 hours in minus 2 degrees between car, carpark verge and ski cafe!) but everything in me bridled at the implication that the primary value of her imagination was in how it related to her future employment.
Robert Kennedy famously said of GDP that it “does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of our education or the joy of their play”. (University of Kansas March 18 1968).
If, heaven forbid, she never reaches the age for formal employment, or for whatever reason she never has a job title, or even a salary, I am firmly of the view that the vitality of her six year old imagination is by itself, something of beauty and of immense value. Why? Because imagining is something unique to humanity, By her imaginings, just as other children, she is expressing her God-given creativity to imbue life, agency and personality, to envisage things differently from how they are, to see with her heart and not just her eyes, and to explore seemingly endless possibilities of life in all its fullness.
I hope one day she will make a contribution to the economy. I hope she will earn a salary sufficient to provide for her family. I hope she will have immense job satisfaction. But for now, in her free time, let her just imagine.