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Enjoy everything. That’s the motto of Kiyohiko Azuma’s “Yotsuba&!” However, another motto should be added: “Imagine everything”. I recently got a chance to catch up with Yotsuba&! and have been thinking about how children’s imaginations should be encouraged more by society.
We all know about Yotsuba Koiwai’s youth and energy, but her imagination is what allows her to explore opportunities and learn. I still remember Yotsuba’s whole “vengeance-seeking killer” scheme (one of my favorite Yotsuba stories, by the way) and her subsequent “targeting” of the people around her. In the end, she learned a valuable lesson that’s very applicable to people today in that getting revenge isn’t a great solution to solve problems. In Volume 10, Yotsuba decides to go into playtime and plays “house” using her bricks. She even comes up with a wacky way of playing hide and seek that involved building a house. The best part is that her father encourages Yotsuba’s imagination by playing along. In a sense, Yotsuba is developing the building blocks (no pun intended) for being an awesome creative thinker.
Now let’s compare Yotsuba to today’s children in the real world. Where should we start? One can argue that the increase of technology has stunted the growth of children’s imaginations. However, technology can help to stimulate children’s imaginations when used in moderation. Parents also aren’t spending enough time with their children or pushing them to excel for their own selfish benefit. Even schools are guilty of destroying imagination because of their love to standardize education. Media influence can be blamed as well because of their “approved” role models (i.e. Lady Gaga, Rihanna, etc.) for kids. Sometimes, it feels like society isn’t doing enough to help encourage better relationships between children and parents/guardians/teachers.
There is hope though. Look below:
I don’t know about you guys, but Caine Monroy is a real-life Yotsuba Koiwai or what she could be like at the age of 9. For all we know, Yotsuba probably could create her own Danbo cardboard robot that works and protects the neighborhood she lives in.
One thing that bothers me is that fantasy play with your children is treated as “important, but not necessary”. News flash: IT IS NECESSARY. Fantasy play allows them be able to solve problems and teaches them valuable social skills. Most importantly, fantasy play strengthens a child’s brain for cognitive growth. It will definitely pay off for kids as they will develop good and desirable traits as they become adults.
Seriously, we need more Yotsubas out there. Instead of just being the President of the University of Anime, let’s make her the President of Creativity in Children.
Keep the imagination alive!
If you loved the Caine Monroy "Cardboard Arcade" video, be sure to check out and donate to the Imagination Foundation. The children really are our future.