Charlotte Reznick Ph.D.

The Power of Imagination

Boost Your Child's Brain Power With a Little Imagination

Test grades are pouring in - not always with the best results.

Posted Sep 29, 2009

It's just the beginning of the school year, already the test grades are pouring in - and not always with the best results. Does your child have a learning style that sometimes gets in the way of his success at school? Is he often labeled slow, lazy, or disruptive? Without understanding and support, kids with different learning styles than their peers can suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety from too much pressure, or a negative attitude toward school and learning.

Not every kid can be a super learner, but every kid can aspire to reach her potential. Your child's imagination is a resource that can be used to maximize her own individual learning style and boost her brain power and overall school performance.

Here are six imagination tools to try:

Go on a tour of her brain. Have your child take a few deep "balloon breaths" - with her hands around her navel, have her breathe slowly and deeply into her lower belly so it presses into her hands like an inflating balloon. Now ask her to close her eyes and take you on a tour of her brain and describe what she sees. Which images and symbols are happy? Which are gloomy or sad? Which part is associated with homework and school? The images she conjures up will give you a common set of symbols to talk about and work with.

Clean out his brain. Encourage your child to take time before homework to clear out his fuzzy brain of negative thoughts about his abilities or the subject at hand. Have him start Balloon Breathing, then imagine cleaning out the dust, clutter, and gloomy places with white soapy bubbles, light, or anything else that pops up. He can picture his brain primed to learn, or he can increase his brain power with a Super Smart Solution. Finish by having him imagine how satisfied he'll feel when he successfully completes his homework.

Invite a Subject Wizard to Help. Your child can close her eyes and ask for special help - with reading from a Reading Wizard, or math help from a Math Wizard. For example, have her describe the wizard in detail and tell the wizard what she wants him to do. In one girl's case, a Spelling Wizard helped to turn her spelling drills into a fun studying game. Her spelling improved to the point where there were just 3 or 4 errors per paragraph dictation down from 27! Wizards can also help during quizzes too, when they can come up with the right answer even when the child can't.

Give his feelings an identity. Next time your child is obviously distressed while doing homework, ask him to name the feeling. Then ask him what the feeling wants to tell you. When children are permitted to give a voice to their feelings, such as anger, their feelings will have a lot to tell you! Ask your child what the feeling looks like and where it lives in his body. Once a feeling has a name, voice, or identity, you can work with it. You can negotiate with it, ask it questions, draw it, erase it, surround it with a soothing or neutralizing color, and so on.

Create the ideal school. Listen to your child's thoughts and concerns about school, and ask him about his favorite subjects: What are the easiest and the hardest? How would he like school to be? Have him visualize what he desires--describing his dream school. You will learn a lot about him by doing this, it will bring you closer, and it will give you lots of ideas to play with.

Give tests a positive spin. Have your child imagine the grade he hopes for at the top of a returned test. Ask him to picture the smile on his teacher's face when she hands it to him. This is not hocus-pocus. Visualizing a good grade will reinforce his goal and encourage him to work hard to achieve it. The rewards for clear goals and hard work are practical magic.

Charlotte Reznick, PhD is a child educational psychologist, an associate clinical professor of psychology at UCLA, and author of a new book, The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success (Perigee/Penguin 2009,

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