All Play Involves Learning
One of the most widely accepted notions in child development is that children learn through play. They learn to navigate their world through interaction with others, including through playtime. Children have a variety of play encounters on any given day. Sometimes they are engaging in parallel play in which they play near another child, but not with them. At other times, they are fully engaged in dramatic play. Yet other instances see children playing with functional toys. No matter what a child is doing during play, play can strengthen their cognitive, social, and emotional skills.
What Is Creative Play?
Essentially, creative play includes activities that are not governed by rules. Creative play can include making or creating something new such as art or crafts, but it can also include dramatic play. Creating stories and writing can also be part of children’s creative playtime. These stories do not have to be written on paper. Toddlers can create elaborate tales using only their words and imaginations.
Fostering Creative Play
You might be thinking, “if children learn through play, how can we foster that play to teach them the maximum number of skills?” There is no right way to play for learning. All play involves learning. We should help children feel safe trying new things, though. One way to do this is to give them a prompt or situation and let them use their imaginations to determine the ending. For instance, you might ask a child to pretend to be a police officer on patrol around their home or school. What kinds of things do they do? What situations do they find as they are patrolling? Children can be hilarious with this sometimes. You will be expecting the officer to come to talk to you or their friends, and the next thing you know, the police officer is fighting a dragon outside the school. It’s a very dangerous job, you know!
1. Provide Props
One way to foster creative play is to provide props. These props can be things like badges or firetrucks for service careers, crowns and wands for royalty and magic, dragons, dinosaurs, and robbers for enemies, or other props that can fuel the imagination. Do not be surprised if your child takes some innocuous item and makes it a weapon or foe. You never know when that teddy bear might spring to life and try to eat your family. It’s a dangerous world we live in these days.
2. Provide Opportunities To Create Props
Building blocks, design bricks, and appropriate websites offer children opportunities to create the props they want in their dramatic play. Some websites are designed to help children envision themselves in their scenarios and create a prop that is similar in size to toys. Children might even choose to create several people and start a new town. Your daughter can be the mayor, or your son can be the schoolteacher. Whatever roles they want can be theirs.
3. Become A Character In Their Stories
Create your own persona and jump into the creative play with your child. Become a citizen of the town. Try some role reversal during creative play. What would your child imagine they would be like as the parent and you as the child? These activities can really help children understand their world.
4. Resist The Urge To Correct
Don’t correct your child’s creative play. No, dinosaurs no longer roam bedrooms, but your child can learn about themselves and bravery during these activities. These creative playtimes need not be realistic. Adults often become far less creative as they grow older. Let your children remain creative as long as possible.
What Does Creative Play Do For Children?
Creative play is great for child development, as we have mentioned. However, many parents wonder what that means for children. There are many benefits to creative play. These are just a few of the best ones:
1. Emotional Release
Children sometimes need help working through emotions. This is especially true when they have stressful situations such as divorces, deaths, and moving to navigate. As parents, you probably try very hard to avoid as many of these emotionally difficult situations as possible, but life is full of unexpected changes. Dramatic, creative play can be an outlet for children. Their issues do not even have to be that significant. A fight with a sibling or friend can be difficult for them to understand. Dramatic play allows them a chance to explore their feelings.
2. Social Skills
Children who engage in creative play also learn social skills. No, officer unicorn is not real, but the situations that your child puts him in might mimic real situations. A traffic stop by Officer Unicorn can help your child explore what might happen in different situations. For some children, this can become a life-or-death situation as an adult. We hope it never comes to that, but dramatic play can help children learn to navigate scary adult situations.
3. Problem-Solving Skills
When Firefighter Pat has to rescue Dino Dan from the rooftop, your little one is learning problem-solving skills. How would they get the dinosaur down? What equipment is needed? Why can’t they use some of the equipment? While this is not a real-life situation, it is one that might require them to think about their choices. This skill is transferable to nearly every situation in life.
Don’t worry too much about wild creative play. Even the craziest situations can help your child develop skills necessary for adulthood. They will create and solve problems in a childlike way, but these skills will be invaluable as they grow up. Let them have their fantastic play. Children and adults can benefit from creativity, but adults have all too often lost their love for the weird and unconventional. Let the kids keep it as long as possible. You might just rekindle your love of pretend play along the way. That’s never a bad thing. What kind of world will you and your children create?
Originally published at www.littleyou.ca.