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As we mark the lead up to our 7th Birthday celebrations, Imaginosity's General Manager Jenny Bohan takes a look back at Imaginosity's early days, while also taking a peak back at her own.

 

Growing up in the area, I fondly recall everlasting hot sticky days spent running along the old railway track picking blackberries to our hearts content. We would drift from a local estate in numbers and wander aimlessly exploring unchartered territory, well, as far as we were concerned anyway. But that was Sandyford then, many moons ago where the most exciting thing was a trip to the 'Tea Time Express' factory cake shop for a cream bun!

This is all hard to fathom when you view the heaving metropolis Sandyford has turned into. There's so much packed in its hard to find what you're looking for, even if you know what that is! Of course I am biased in saying the diamond in the rough has got to be Imaginosity, a stunningly beautiful building, developed by Landmark Enterprises and designed but Traynor O' Toole. But this gemstone is hidden, surrounded by towering buildings hitched up against the backdrop of the Dublin Mountains. Some are gleaming, flashy in the sunlight, some vast and void, unfinished memories of good and bad times. These beacon towers all stand sentry, watching as commuters spin past by car, on foot and light rail, but not oblivious to the memories or time flying by in the blink of an eye! Although the commuters do seem blissfully unaware of the cries of joy and screams of laughter experienced on a daily basis within this beautiful inspiring structure! If only they knew, the fun that can be had when you put your trust into the hands of a child.

I'm proud to say that I was involved in the development of this amazing and unique addition to Sandyford as a project Manager from early July 2006, and that all who were involved viewed it as a life's passion rather than a job. It was with children and community in mind that it was developed and continues to serve as a not for profit Charitable organisation. The concept gleams from the United States where the first children's museum was developed in Brooklyn in 1899, followed by Boston (1913), Detroit (1917) and Indianapolis (1925). Children's museums don't enforce strict schedules or agendas, they are places where children freely play and learn through their play. They house enhanced exciting environments that are specifically developed to allow for this non-directed play. These environments are powerful in their ability to engage children and stimulate curiosity, imagination, experimentation and role play. Children's museums celebrate children, but they also create quality experiences for families.

 

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By Joanna Fortune, Clinical Child Psychologist & 'Blog-osity' Monthly Guest Blogger

A walk around Imaginosity, Ireland's only interactive children's museum for the under 9's is like taking a stroll around your child's imagination, this is the inner world of a child brought to life. On offer is a myriad of rich interactive experiences for children to engage in; from meeting the Eco Badger up on the roof garden, and learning about how the unique 'green' building works, to making your way up the Climber past the Wizard's Lair and the Rocket Ship to Rapunzel's Castle. Of course, Imaginosity is a wonderful and fun place for children to be and we see this in how their faces light up when they are there, but behind the fun it is clear that Imaginosity is providing children with much more, a genuinely child centred learning, educational and development opportunity!

There is a Greek saying that 'Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play' and that is what we can all benefit from in Imaginosity.

There are 3 stages of Developmental Play (Embodiment Play; Projective Play; Role Play) which is how children develop their understanding of who they are and who the people and the world around them are, that sense of learning where the "I" ends and the world begins.

In summary, Embodiment Play is the first stage (from 0-3.5/4 years) and is essential to developing a sense of trust. Babies learn to trust in a physical way, not through words. This is a very sensory stage of play and touch plays a vital role. Imaginosity has two dedicated spaces for smaller children, 'Little me' on level 2 for under 12 months and 'Tir na n'Og' on level 1 for children up to 24 months. Both spaces offer smaller visitors a sense of security and safety in these specifically designed, soft play, tactile, enclosed areas.

Projective Play (from 3.5/4-5.5 years) comes next and here we see an increased focus on stories and narrations to further explore and investigate objects, people and their general environment at a deeper level. Engage your child in play with dolls and puppets in Imaginosity's theatre space and have the dolls/puppets play through things your child has experienced in their lives i.e. sharing with others, staying in their own beds etc. Level 1 in Imaginosity contains everything a child needs to "create their story" and is wonderful to encourage projective play.

Role-Play (from 5.5-7 or even 9 years) is the final stage and is about dramatic play, which children use to re-structure/re-arrange aspects of their life events to gain a better understanding of themselves and the world around them. There will be aspects of both Embodiment and Projective play evident in this final stage. Imaginosity's Performance area is perfect for this, as it allows and enables children to role play different characters and scenarios in a safe environment where they are in charge.

This is the seriousness of play and it is important that as parents we learn to play with our children and to become comfortable communicating with them at their developmental level, as a way of connecting with them and supporting their development.

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Roisin Ingle, Daily Features Editor with The Irish Times is a member of our 'What's the Story?' Judging Panel for this year's competition. Here Roisin tells us of her own little story-tellers and the places that their imaginations take them and the stories that they tell!

I live with somebody who can make hailstones the size of golf balls appear from the sky with just a flick of her hand. She has turned me into a statue twice today. It's her magic powers you see. I live with someone else who thinks she's my boss. I go home from work and she makes me sit at a desk with my laptop, barking orders. " Make more work," she says in her harshest "boss voice". She's got a smile Julia Roberts would kill for so all I can do is comply.

Living with two four year olds can be exhausting but mostly it is the best fun I've ever had in my life. Why? Because they don't have any limits on their imagination. The stories they tell are the tallest stories you've ever heard. There's the time they went out to our tiny back yard and found fairies hiding behind the daffodil shoots. They were busy packing for a holiday on the moon. Or the time they met a teddy bear made of jelly and decided not to eat him. "His Mum who's a butterfly and his Dad who's a giant would be so sad," they explained, their blue eyes shot through with sincerity.

They can't write yet but I'm encouraging them to start making stories, setting them down for posterity in crayon and colouring pencil, helping them realise the stories they tell have the power to entertain, astound, move and shock. They take out their pencils and draw a girl trapped in a tower. Suddenly there are orange flames leaping out from the wobbly turrets and a ladybird arrives on a horse to rescue her. Then their junior infants teacher Miss Walkin emerges from a corner of the page with a bucket of water. To look at the page, a colourful mass of pencil marks, you wouldn't know any of this, but I've been told the story. And every part makes sense. It's often said that the Irish are a nation of storytellers. And if that's the case the young people of Ireland are our laureates. I can't wait to read all the entries to the Imaginosity competition. I hope my two laureates never stop making stories. Best of luck to all of yours.

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