Does your heart sink when you come across otherwise normal adults who claim never to read novels, preferring some thing factual?

Can you contemplate a life in which we all respond like Mr Spock from the Starship Enterprise, who has no imagination and, therefore, no real human relationships?

On the other hand, children live through their imaginations, whether it's role-playing, joining in with a story, painting a portrait of mummy or making music with whatever is to hand. At its most practical level, this would appeal to Mr Spock as they are learning about the world around them by copying it through art or acting it out.

This sort of creative play is an important way for a child to get under another's skin, to understand that other people have feelings as they do.

It's the first step towards developing sympathy and understanding. It is also an effective way of making frightening situations understandable. Parents instinctively encourage this.

And it is actively encouraged at the playgroup or nursery your under-five attends. Indeed, creative development is a key element of the foundation stage curriculum, covering the period up to when your child leaves reception class.

Art, music, dance, role-play or acting and creative storytelling might seem over-inflated terms for what your child does at nursery or playgroup, but the only real difference between what children and adults achieve is technical skill.

The creative impulse, which can blossom into real talent, at the very least can develop into an abiding hobby, which can endure through childhood and adolescence into adulthood.

So, we buy yet more expensive, creative toys? No. Your home is a rich source of material. Use pots and pans for making music; cardboard boxes, foil and coloured paper for building a spaceship or castle.

Cheap poster paints, brushes and an oasis (available at florists) make excellent miniature gardens and a resource box with tinsel, old clothes, brightly-coloured scraps and so on, can be used for dressing up Just take a look around through your child's eyes.