Child’s Play – How to teach your child to be creative

When someone says “Oh, that’s child’s play” they are convinced that the action is easy enough that a child can do it. A friend said it to me and I pondered….. How does a child know how to do it? Is it inherent? Did someone teach them?

Have you ever watched a child playing? It doesn’t matter if they are alone. They manipulate objects, make up pretend stories, and visit far off places.  They are consumed by their imagination.

There are a few children who don’t know how to play alone.  They struggle to find imagination and creativity.  It seems they don’t know how to play.  They may push a toy car across the room but only until they get bored with simple movement.  They drop the car and move to something else. They constantly need new input to find pleasure.  Their learning and enjoyment is stiff because it’s based on the external environment only and it seems to be void of imagination.  These children need constant attention from parents or other adults in the room. They cannot or do not retreat to a quiet room to “play.”

As parents and caretakers we should never assume that all children inherently know how to play. Children do not learn the “playing” skill from TV. It is important that we teach our children how to manipulate toys into play. How can we teach our children to play?   Easy….stop being an adult.  Play with your child.  Set the laundry aside, forget the dirty dishes, don’t worry about mowing grass and close the door to your office – work can wait one more hour.  Instead, spend time on the floor with your child. Who cares if you look silly or if you are pretending to be a farm animal.  Play with your child.  Show her/him how to be creative.

There are benefits for you as well.  Did you know there’s a spa in Switzerland that charges CEO’s thousands to spend a week pretending to be a child?   They give them clothes to make them appear small.  They sit in larger chairs so they feel like a five year old.  They play hide-n-seek, hop scotch and other child games.  For one entire week they become a child again.  They are encouraged to take naps, go on exploration hikes and ride bicycles.  Returning to their childhood helps them to return to the stressful adult world with a new attitude and a fully rested body.  You can reap the same benefits while playing with your child.

My Sweet Pea recently received a Little People Playhouse. Her “play” began by picking up each tiny person. She studied it and dropped it to the floor. She repeated her actions with each character until she was bored and moved on to another toy.  I didn’t want her to move away so fast.  I decided to show her how to extend her play with this adorable new toy.

I gathered the cute little characters, laid on my belly in front of the house and began to play.

“Ding Dong” (I pretended to use one character to ring the door bell. I picked up another character and opened the door.)

“Well, hello Sally. Do you want to come in?”

“Yes, thank you!”

“We are having lunch would you like some?”

“What are you having?”

“Chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.”

“Oh YUM! that is my favorite!”

I bounced and pretended to walk both characters over to the table.  (Notice that I didn’t force or instruct my Sweet Pea to play – I allowed her to watch me play)

You get the idea. This continued for a while and again on many occasions. Now Sweet Pea (just 10 months old) picks up the characters and tries to place them in different parts of the house. While she may not have the full idea and of course is not able to talk – she is learning.  I’ll continue to have these play sessions for years to come and in the process we both will become more creative. I love watching her develop her “Child’s Play” technique.

I use this method with each new toy she is given so that she knows how to sort, manipulate and imagine using her toys as guides.

You can start at any age. DON’T WAIT!! Your children will love the time you spend together.  You will help your child develop a skill that will last a lifetime. Think about how thankful your child will be when they are presented with a question in school that says: Write a paragraph about a place you would like to visit. They won’t have a problem being creative or forming their thoughts because they have practiced this very idea many times in play.

One of my favorites!


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