The "Snuffling" of Imagination

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By Becca Owsley



Many have observed that children no longer need a good imagination. Toys now walk and talk by themselves, children play in a virtual world rather than their backyards and extracurricular activities keep them so busy they don’t have time to explore their own world of make-believe.

Is there one key event that can be traced to the death of the imagination?

Some may say the invention of the television or video games. Others may credit its demise to children becoming old before their time.

I think it can be traced back to Nov. 18, 1985. That was the date that, for the first time, adults on “Sesame Street” could see Mr. Snuffleupagus. He was no longer Big Bird’s imaginary friend; he was real.

From his first appearance in 1971 until that date, Snuffy could only be seen by Big Bird and the children who watched the show. He lived in their imaginations.

What producers of the show did not realize is that to a child’s mind, Snuffy was real and it was not necessary for the adult world to see him. Big Bird may have been frustrated because adults never could see Snuffy, but to a child that was part of his mystique.

What did this revelation show children? The imagination was no longer important or necessary in their world.

As a child, I lived in my imagination. It was the place I could go to and be anything I wanted to be. I could be a princess, an astronaut, a super sleuth, an archaeologist and even a Jedi.

I could go to jungles, deserts, intergalactic planets and ancient ruins all in my own backyard.

I could see Snuffleupagus and didn’t need the adult world to justify the fact that he was real. He was real to me the same way my adventures were real, in my imagination.

The imagination is a form of expression of creativity, critical thinking skills and escape for children. Because imagination no longer is developed or encouraged, children are caught up in a world they cannot always handle or understand.

Without imagination, children are thrust into adulthood far too early and unnecessarily.

What is even sadder is the fact that adults have lost their imaginations, too. When children are playing pirates in the backyard, how many of us go out and join them?

If we were asked to create a story in our heads, would we have a difficult time even beginning?

Look at many of the movies that are produced today. The film world was the one place adults could go to and see imagination at work, but sadly today many films have lost that aspect and have no creativity whatsoever.

Hollywood has been reduced to redoing and extending the classics because today's producers cannot come up with ideas of their own. For example, many years after “The Last Crusade,” Indiana Jones will revisit the theaters this summer.

Theater goers have yearned for his adventures in this void created by a lack of creativity.

Can the outing of Snuffleupagus be blamed for all of this? Maybe not entirely, but I believe it is a start.

The imagination is a powerful tool and should be sharpened rather than allowed to become dull. Go out and play, create and let your inner Snuffy roar in your imagination where he belongs. 

 Becca Owsley can be reached at 505-1741.