One of the biggest concerns facing modern day parents is the amount of screen time kids are getting. Children are bombarded with live streaming videos and all manner of passive entertainment consumption these days. Of course, it’s okay to veg out in front of the TV every once in a while, but it can quickly get out-of-hand if you’re not careful.
When it comes to screens, children are passive recipients of audio and visual stimulation that usually don’t require any fine motor skills on their part. But active play gives kids a chance to stretch their creative muscles, use their imagination, and problem-solve in age-appropriate ways that are fun and entertaining for them.
As a parent or a caregiver in the digital age, how can you encourage your child in imaginative and creative play? Check out our pointers and tips below.
Set up a kid-friendly play space.
Kids need a clean, organized space for imaginative and creative play. Set up a room or a corner of a room in the house and stock it with toys, games, and other items that will encourage your child to use their imagination. A few ideas to get you started:
- Play-Doh, or arts-and-crafts clay or silly putty
- Paint, markers, construction paper
- Art supplies
- Tables and chairs, boxes of toys and play mats
- Cardboard boxes or old shoe boxes for decorating
- Storybooks or interactive magazines
- Stuffed animals
- Building blocks
- Board and card games
After playtime, you can facilitate clean up when it’s over. This has the added benefit of getting your child used to the idea of cleaning up after themselves. Encourage playtime and clean up with stickers or other rewards and incentives.
There are different types of play you want to encourage with the items you use to stock the play place. Imaginary play will happen when kids are invited to use their imaginations to create and pretend in make-believe stories or scenarios. Children can engage in imaginary play with puppets, dolls, figurines, or stuffed animals. Kids can also act-out role-playing games where they dress up in costumes or create and use props for make-believe.
For active play, your children would be encouraged to get moving in a game or activity that releases energy and helps them develop their coordination skills. Think tag, capture-the-flag, or a pillow fight. You can set up a space in the backyard to encourage this type of play.
Arts and crafts and construction or building play is an excellent way for kids to exercise the creative part of their minds, and practice focus and concentration. Imaginative arts-and-crafts play helps them with sharpening their fine motor skills and their hand-eye coordination.
When children have an idea, and then build or create something until that idea becomes a physical object, they will get a sense of mastery and pride from reaching their goals. Creative play is an excellent way to help your kids build healthy levels of self-esteem and confidence.
Another form of creative or imaginative play includes the use of board games, card games, and structured sports activities. As kids get older, this type of play is incredibly important because it helps them focus and take action within a set of rules. Games with rules help kids navigate the world of competition in a healthy and constructive way. For bonus creativity points, you and your child can make up a game yourselves.
How can you encourage imaginative play between a group of kids?
If your child is playing with several other children, it’s a good idea to supervise the children, especially if it’s a mixed age group. You might need to remove certain toys to prevent conflict or help kids deal with any flaring tempers between the playmates. You can help your child, and their friends or siblings learn problem-solving skills and how to come to a solution that is agreeable for everyone.
While it’s important for you to supervise playtime loosely, the keyword is ‘loosely.’ If you’re too intrusive or *gasp* motoring along like a helicopter as your kids' play, you can stifle their creativity or ability to learn and navigate social skills. Social play is how your kids will learn to get along with others and interact with the world. But use your common sense. If someone is getting bullied or things are starting to look a little dangerous, then, of course, you’ll want to intervene before someone loses an eye.
It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye
What about parents of only children?
When there aren’t any other kids around, your child will want to play with you. But when it comes to imaginative and creative play, you want to let your child lead the activities. Let them direct how things will go. Sometimes your child will want to play alone, and it’s good to encourage independent play too. At times, your child may need help constructing or building something, so you’ll want to be within earshot while they are playing.
What are some examples of imaginative play games?
- Pretend vet clinic or doctor’s office
- Make-believe grocery store
- Build a tent or a fort
- Create a costume for Halloween
- Play tag or hide-and-seek
- Decorate a box for your child to keep their special treasures in
- Make up a silly game
- Decorate old socks into puppets
- Make up a play for the sock puppets
- Play a board or card game
Did you find this article helpful? What have you done to encourage imaginative or creative play with your children?
Here at RoosterFin Games, October is Imagination and Creative Play Month. If you’re looking for a fun and innovative game that is perfect for the Halloween season, check out Wizard Roll. Wizard Roll is a great game for kids ages 7 and up and will surely get their creative muscles flexing.