If there’s one thing that more parents say they’d like at the end of a tiring workday (besides maybe a glass of wine and a nap) it’s time – time to relax, tidy up and most of all, play with the kids. (If only there was another hour in the day or, better yet, another day in the week.) Sadly, it’s not uncommon to feel a pang of guilt wash over you when tucking your wee one into bed at night because there just wasn’t enough time to play with your tots.
Creativity and play is not something that is taught to kids. Instead, it is nurtured and nourished by parents, family and teachers, and it is fostered by providing children with open-ended activities. Play allows them to experiment with a wide variety of tools and materials that provide challenges and opportunities for them to express their thoughts and feelings, to meet and solve meaningful and real problems, to learn flexible and divergent thinking and to develop social, language and literacy skills and concepts.
There are also lots of ways to encourage creativity in your own home. Here are five great tips that can help you increase your child’s imaginative play:
- These days we spend a lot of time in the car, schlepping around the city, from daycare to dance class to the doctor and so on. The car is actually a great place to have interactive creative playtime, no matter how old your tots are. Car games are a great way to develop language skills and pass the time. There’s always good old “I spy” or naming different items/countries/things for each letter in the alphabet, singing, license plate games, etc.
- Create a writing/craft station (or corner) that is always available to your children. Make it a place where they can make a mess and not get into trouble, where they can explore their creativity with the materials they find in their junk bin, along with the glue, markers, scissors and construction paper.
- Encourage children’s imagination by limiting the amount of storebought toys in the house. Children should be encouraged to make their own props to incorporate into their dramatic play. Forget the costly big-ticket items and dig out the old dress-up box (remember the Tickle Trunk?) you grew up with. Rummage through your closet, toss in that funky scarf, an old pair of heels and cell phone you haven’t used since BlackBerries came out and watch your child’s imagination work.
- Head into the kitchen. Make meal prep an interactive experience for everyone by giving children jobs that they can manage. Remember, for a child these things are still fun and far from being repetitive and mundane. Washing fruit is a whole experience in itself, using the measuring cups and pouring things into the bowl is like a mad science experiment.
- Rejuvenate the imagination anywhere and anytime with a fun game of charades. Got 10 minutes to spare in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, before tutoring, waiting for dance class? Playing charades with your children is the most hysterical (and inexpensive) experience you can have. Plus, you’re engaging with them, which leads to enriched play and fosters their creativity and even increases their self-confidence. The more time we spend with our children the more we learn about them, strengthening your connection with them.
Try these simple tips and remember that engaging in floor time with your children encourages creative play in their daily lives. You don’t have to spend a lot of money either; something as simple as Tupperware can become a game. Time to go back to the simplicity of using our own imagination. (Now that’s something there’s definitely time for).