17 Aug, 2020
A friend recently told me about her daughter, who spends 15 minutes every evening telling stories with her four-year old daughter. Without even realizing it, she has been teaching her daughter the process of “mind mapping”; starting with something you know, writing it in the center of a blank paper, and jotting down any word you can think of that might associate with this word.
Now, of course, this four-year old child can’t write, but she can think. And that is what her mother is encouraging her to do. They chose objects and describe them in great detail, incorporating stories around those objects. By definition, mind mapping involves brainstorming ideas organically without worrying about order or structure. How much structure does a child have? Next to none at that age.
And that’s what I find so beautiful about it. Without even trying, this little girl is being exposed to words and definitions and verbs and descriptions. Mind mapping allows her to get information in and out of her brain quickly with colorful visuals and happy stories. It allows her to take unrelated things and bring them together – a very important aspect of creativity, if you think about it.
Incorporating objects in life —such as an apple from the pile at a grocery store or a coat from a window display at a local store or the sound of a honking horn while driving — is one of the best ways to take parts of a child’s world and turn those details into stories. When they’re young, these stories are verbal. And they can go wherever you want to take them. They can be as serious or ridiculous or as “normal” or “out there” as you want them to be.
As children get older and they’re able to write and express themselves that way, they can create actual mind maps that involve words and descriptions. And that’s when beautiful stories are created.
I don’t believe it’s ever too early to start. In fact, in a section titled “The Wonder of Words” from Reading Is Fun! Imagine That!, I talk about how, no matter how many stories have been written or ideas have been formed, there is a large world out there, and story potentials are limitless.
People are imaginative, and keep thinking of new ways to say things, inventing names for new products, and making more words to describe the parts and uses.
Ideas are no different. You would think that after decades and centuries of people writing stories and books, ideas would eventually run out. But the truth is, more ideas are born with every generation. Every new human put onto this earth comes with new ideas and ways of thinking that are unique to them.
We should never take this for granted, and we should remember to honor these ideas and nurture them in any way we can. And one way to do that is to start young. So, I encourage you—when you’re in the presence of our beautiful youth, please take the time to ignite their imaginations with the world around them. Show things to them. Ask them questions about their surroundings. Describe things. And any chance you have, turn those surroundings into stories. Only great things can come from that.
Ruth A. RadmoreBack
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