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PHUKET: I read an article in the BBC recently that I thought was worth sharing with my readers. It was about an investment that actually costs no money, but could yield very large returns to your children in the future.

The investment is in their imagination, and the study I read about had some counter-intuitive advice. It actually concluded that the best thing you can do for your kids’ future, in short, is actually nothing.

Before you say hogwash, let me explain in more detail what the study found. Imagination is often cited as one of the most important traits for success in life, yet the modern world is robbing young people of something that throughout history happened quite naturally. Boredom, it turns out, is the most important requirement for young people to develop their imagination.

When children are stimulated constantly, they never have a need to creatively think about how to entertain themselves.

Every second that is spoon fed to them, whether by television, teachers and tutors, or tablets and mobile phones, is a loss of a chance for the child to exercise his or her imagination muscles. Of course, there needs to be balance; nobody is recommending locking kids in a closet for their entire childhood or taking away their education.

The problem with the ultra-competitive modern world is that fear of falling behind has led the “more is better” philosophy to wreak havoc on balance. Kids are being pushed harder and faster than ever, and those lazy summer days of no responsibility that I remember from my youth seem nonexistent to most children these days.

Those boring times are precisely when kids’ imaginations flourish, and nobody seems to realize this is the cheapest investment in your child’s future that you can make.

Piano classes, soccer teams, extra English lessons and all of that is fine, but I think it is important to never forget that kids, after all, are just kids. They will never get another chance to go back, and if pushing them into adulthood is shown to have the likely effect of making them less prepared for success in the real world when they grow up because of a decreased imagination, why not schedule some time without the high-tech toys and outside stimulation?

Schedule in some weekly “imagination building” hours. Don’t just take away the gadgets, but make them go outside and play. Let them complain that there is nothing to do outside, and let them be bored. They will figure out a way to deal with it, and in the process they will build their imaginations.

When I go up to Isarn every high season (in fact I am writing this from there now), my kids spend countless hours getting filthy, playing with sticks and rocks and dirt.

Many of my friends ask me if I am worried about them missing lessons during this time, but when they get back to classes they always catch right back up with all their classmates.

In the end there is no perfect formula for raising children, and a common response to this is to throw as much money as possible into their education and extracurricular activities.

In my opinion, spending time with them is far more important and it costs nothing. Making them overcome boredom also costs nothing.

Balance is the key and forcing your children to develop their imaginations could very well someday be the thing that leads to real problem-solving ability and sets them apart in what is bound to become an increasingly competitive world.

David Mayes MBA resides in Phuket and provides wealth management services to expatriates around the globe, focusing mainly on UK pension transfers. He can be reached at david.m@faramond.com or by calling 085-335 8573. Faramond UK is regulated by the FCA and provides advice on pensions and taxation.

— David Mayes

 

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