Jul 1, 2014

Encouraging Creative Play in Kids - A Dad's Perspective

You have probably noticed that all children love to play. The thing is, children spend so much time on watching or swiping screens these days that it possibly robs them of creating the skills necessary for imagination. Definitely, not all play is created equal.

A child is constantly exploring, adapting, engaging, responding and re-adapting to everything he/she encounters. That explains why toys and activities that promote creativity has to remain open-ended. Open-ended toys can be enjoyed by boys and girls, appeal to a wide age range, and don’t need adult demonstrations.

And while I do not profess to be an expert on the topic of creative play, I believe having three monkies had taught me something about getting creative when it comes to playing with them. After all, I did naturally transition into pretend mode as they went through that whole role-play phase - dress up, robot battles, cars, serving tea, trains, you name it. Those, and my new-found ability to truly pretend when it comes to music - "WOOT! Let’s listen to that Frozen song, kids! AGAIN! Yippee!”

So let’s get practical now. What if we want our children to be able to play more creatively, but don’t know where to start?  Here are some of my tips to encourage creative play:

Concede a Little Mess
With creativity comes a mess. Set up a dedicated Mess Area so that there is minimal worry of a mess mushrooming in random places of your home. Stock up on those art supplies: crayons, markers, paints and coloured pencils. Throw in a recycling box consisting of tissue boxes, cereal boxes, toilet rolls and milk cartons, complete with glue and watch the most creative expression come alive.

Oral storytelling is best because it encourages children to create their own images in their minds. They need experiences from which to build these pictures, so begin with stories about their own adventures.

Open-Ended Playthings
You can’t do better than a good supply of basic building blocks, is what I have always advocated ever since I became a Dad. Provide toys that can be used in a variety of ways and need a child’s interaction. Dress-up clothes and hats, cars and trains, dolls and animals, LEGOs and building block sets are just some of the toys that require a child’s essential input to make them come to life.

Go Outdoors
Experiences in the outdoors develop curiosity and a sense of wonder, so trips to the parks and playgrounds further aid in a child’s visual and auditory stimulation. In addition, playing with other children outdoors will allow them to learn how to interact, and also, practice their ability to adapt to the surrounding environment and learn how to respect another’s opinion.

Ask Questions that Require Decision-making
With young children, sometimes a few questions requiring response help boost creative play. If your kids begin making up a game, join in. Ask questions that require them to make up the next step, like “So when I place these blocks here, what do I do next?” The kids are still creating, and you are just providing more opportunities for them to create.

At the end of the day, creativity is not something that I can put a score to. The process is more important than the final product. Let us not impose our adult consciousness onto our little ones when it comes to something as important as our child’s play. So the next time your child is busy slaying Decepticons or having tea with Queen Elsa, let them truly indulge. All together now, let it go, let it go.

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