Tips on how to encourage creative play to enrich your children’s imagination
Most play is creative even when it entails a toddler noisily banging a wooden spoon against a pan. He is learning motor skills and how to make music. Okay … how to make a LOUD sound but he will get to the music part eventually. How to encourage creative play? It’s easy.
Any time, a child, uses his imagination he is feeding his brain. Playing with toys, doing art projects and dressing up in creative costumes, teaches the child about his five senses — what things smell like, how they feel, what they look like, the sounds they make and, yes, even what they taste like.
When a youngster dresses up in a costume he knows this is make-believe yet this nurtures his imagination and teaches him about abstract and figurative thinking. He learns to be innovative. A towel becomes a turban; a broom becomes a sword; a chair becomes a castle.
Costumes or clothing from another era are usually quite different from the clothing children normally wear. They may feature bows, ruffles, petticoats, sequins, belts, metal and hats. Children are exposed to new textures and material and learn about colors and design and how complicated clothing used to be.
This is a teaching moment. Give them a history lesson. Tell them about the Knights of the Round Table or about kings and queens and dragon slayers– or even what it was like when you were a little girl. Relay stories your own mother or grandmother told you about their youth.
Dressing up betters cognitive processing facilities because the child learns how to move from the tangible (real) world to the emblematic and ethereal world of make-believe (which is usually a lot more fun.)
When a child play-acts, this bolsters the executive function of the brain and teaches him how to sort out ideas and the end results of certain deeds. This is called socio-dramatiic play because kids learn to decipher problems when engaging in this type activity. They also learn empathy because they must collaborate and decide on roles, which helps them see things through the viewpoint of others.
Dressing up and play-acting help children get through difficult times. It is therapeutic. It allows them to process those times in life that are overpowering and traumatic, such as moving to a new town, leaving best friends behind. If a child is allowed and encouraged to play-act, it makes it easier for him to take hold of the circumstances and deal with them more effectively.
When a child or an adult cuts loose and dresses up in an outfit he wouldn’t ordinarily wear, this cultivates imaginative processes and permits interacting without a script. So much of a child’s time is regimented it is extremely beneficial when a kid can just be a kid.
When interacting with a sibling or other children, a child learns how to listen better and his speech improves.
Playing by oneself is equally important. This is when the imagination gets a big time work-out and the child learns how to entertain himself. Throw in a boa and some high heels and your little girl is going to have a great time by herself on this rainy afternoon.
Children who do not engage in this type of activity but, instead, sit in front of the TV for hours, possess lesser ability to interact with others and their environment than those who are encouraged to use their imagination
Children who interact playfully with their parents have better mental health, closer family bonds, stronger friendships and better school experiences than those who do not romp and play make-believe with their parents.
As for you adults … you know you’re just dying to get in the mix and play My Little Pony with your daughter or Batman and Robin with your son. Taking part in this kind of activity with your children benefits them AND you!