Benefits of Creative Play
Creative play is an essential part of childhood. From building with blocks to making mud pies to playing house, creative play is part of a child’s natural development and will often happen without prompting from caregivers.
Creative play is sometimes referred to as “child-directed play” or “free play” and provides many benefits to a growing young person. These benefits include:
- Developing longer attention spans.
- Exploring sensory experiences.
- Boosting individual and social confidence.
- Improving fine motor skills.
- Prompting imagination and innovative problem-solving.
- Encourages dexterity and body awareness.
Ways to Encourage Creative Play
Although children will often engage in creative play without prompting, there are many ways a caregiver can support creative play and encourage the development it provides. Making time and space for creative play will provide numerous benefits for your child, no matter what their learning style or interests are! Here are just a few of them:
- Provide ample unstructured time.
Toddlers and young children need time to play and learn at their own pace. Sometimes, that might look like racing from activity to activity making the biggest messes possible. Other times, they might sit and ponder a toy or object for much longer than you thought possible! Providing ample unstructured playtime will allow you to observe your child’s natural learning style and let them discover the world in their way.
- Limit screens and distractions during free play.
The creative play unfolds best in an environment free of distractions. Overstimulation can occur much sooner for small minds since they are busy taking in everything all the time! Calm spaces with safe, age-appropriate toys make great environments to encourage imaginative and creative play. Toys with lots of lights, sounds, and distracting screens might inhibit your child’s natural ability to play and learn through focused creativity.
- Avoid directing or correcting the way creative play unfolds.
It can be tempting to try to direct your child’s play, even in gentle, “fun” ways. But by directing their play or correcting them on how they are using a toy (except when needed to maintain safety, of course), you might accidentally interrupt play that was building a specific skill or developing a certain thought process. Practice observing and being a commentator while your child plays, rather than acting as a coach directing their actions.
- Provide open-ended and thought-provoking toys.
Open-ended toys are toys that can be used in several diverse ways and do not have a “wrong” way to be used. The ExploraToy Soma Cube Puzzle is a good example of a toy that can be used to promote imagination and independent play. Toddlers can stack the blocks while talking about shapes and colors, while older kids can create patterns or assemble the puzzle into a cube. Open-ended toys also remain enjoyable across a broader range of ages, as kids can use them for various purposes as they grow.
- Ask questions instead of making suggestions.
While watching a toddler or young child play, it can be easy to make suggestions. “Here, if you stack it like this, it will work better!” While suggestions can be useful in certain situations, try to ask questions before making suggestions to help encourage innovation and creativity. “How do you think you could make that tower taller without it falling?”
- Allow your child to think of their solutions.
After asking a question, allow your child ample time to think of their solutions. Kids will learn better when they are encouraged to discover solutions themselves, instead of being told the answers. It also may surprise you when they produce a creative solution that you hadn’t even considered!
- Make sensory and skill-building toys available during creative play.
Creative play in any form will provide the benefits listed above. However, it can be extremely helpful to provide a few quality toys that encourage specific skill sets, such as fine motor activity. ExploraToy Wooden Lacing Cards are an excellent way for kids ages 3 and up to practice their fine motor skills while engaging in imaginative, creative play.
Parents and caregivers can encourage creative play in many ways. Because of children’s natural curiosity, they will often engage in creative play with whatever items or toys are available to them! However, providing a few quality toys like ExploraToy wooden toys can help prompt play that develops imagination and creativity without distracting lights, noises, or screens.
Practice observing instead of directing, allow ample time for free play, and allow your child the time and space to think of their solutions to problems. These hours of unstructured time are a gift you are giving to your child as they grow and explore the world around them!