Kids and parents alike are in danger of developing “tech neck,” with their heads bent forward, staring intently into their screens so much of the time. When smartphones or tablets are glowing constantly, kids may be missing developing creative skills that will help them in the future with problem-solving and navigating interpersonal relationships. Help the kids come out of their screens with these ways to encourage creative play.
Tried and True
Remember how much fun cardboard boxes can be? They can become racecars, sailboats, and fairy coaches. Rummage around for a few clean, large boxes, and watch the kids find amazing things to imagine with them. Right up there with cardboard boxes are pillow forts—pull the couch cushions off and create a lean-to with some sheets and blankets. Suddenly, the living room becomes a wilderness camp, and everyone is going on a bear hunt!
Tea parties, dress-ups, and teddy bear picnics with the kids taking the conversational lead are great ways for kids to pretend their way toward sharing, caring, and teamwork.
Let Boredom Be Their Motivation
A bored kid is a soon-to-be creative kid. Yes, there may be some whining, especially if you put an official limit on screen time. However, soon, kids learn how to look around and find fun things to do. Sometimes the simplest toys are the best encouragement. Dolls can be “re-scripted” over and over again with different stories and scenarios. Even infants and toddlers benefit from the chance to make friends with a plush toy (just never put one in a crib). Leave a ball, some blocks, or some art materials lying around within reach, and you’ll see imagination blossom.
A closet full of bright toys that move and make noise easily overwhelms young children. When it comes to creative play and toys, less can very much be more. A few cherished toys that capture a child’s attention are better than shelves full of distractions that ultimately prove confusing and exhausting.
Build Stories in the Backyard
Birds, flowers, and bushes right in your own backyard can become enchanted lands with a little imagination. Take the time to sit quietly outside with your child, and offer a few prompts like, “I wonder what Mr. Robin is up to today?” A stick becomes a magic wand, and leaves are fairy dresses. Say “yes” to your child’s creative ideas, and add to them to help them build their story.
There are so many ways to encourage creative play, but one of the most important is to simply get out of their way. Hang around and watch your child doing nothing, and you’ll notice how creative they become.