Inspiring Creative Play in Our Children

I am an advocate of rebuilding and inspiring creative play in our children. There is no doubt that many children simply do not know how to use the creative portion of their brain. Creative play can be encouraged by us in a variety of different ways.
1.) Mental stimulation through stories and games. When reading a story, I pause occasionally to give the children an opportunity to answer questions on what we just read. This encourages listening skills and reinforces what was just read. You may have to define words they do not understand and give “simple version” examples of concepts being taught. Ask them to retell the story after you are finished.
Read stories in different voices depending on the character. Act out parts of stories. Make books become alive.
My father and grandfather were great story tellers. My husband and I sometimes make up stories to illustrate points to our children or to tell a creative story just for the fun of it. Story telling is a unique way to entertain and expand the mind at the same time. They in turn learn to tell stories, as well as write and play creatively
My children love to play a variety of mental games. One example would be, “What animal is this….” One child will describe the characteristics or description of a certain animal while the other children attempt to guess what animal. The person who guesses the animal wins the turn of describing an animal he thinks up. This game is very popular while we are riding in the car. Currently, the 3 year old and up enjoy this mind game. The older children can come up with some really perplexing hard to guess animals, while the 3 year old is still at this point very predictable. 90% of the time he describes a turtle.
2.) Blank paper, crayons, paint, drawing utensils. Drawing is something that can be taught. We highly enjoy the “How to Draw” type books and find that even a 5 year old can begin to learn to draw interesting pictures with simple instructions. Painting is also a great way to stimulate creativity. We paint on everything from large cardboard boxes to painting small beans different colors just for the fun of it. Painting a bean may not sound like much of anything, but I find that it encourages focus, patience and problem solving. Some of the children will pick the bean up to paint it, others will not, others will wait until one side dries before they attempt to paint the other side. Some will dip it in the paint cup. Art, as well as playing music, exercises the brain.
3.) Use “raw” materials for creative play. Children do not need a “play diet” on loud attention-getting, mind dazzling toys. Although we do have a limited share of noise toys (most missing the batteries), children can be content with non-toy items to play. A sheet, clothes pins, couch cushions, and chairs make interesting forts. Not that I am anti-toy, I just believe incorporating boxes, dirt, mud are better than spending massive amounts of money on the latest attention-disorder-causing piece of battery draining plastic.
Last week, we were deep cleaning the the house. I removed all of the dining room chairs and put them in the entry way and told the little children that they were going to play in the entry way while the rest of us finished up cleaning the house. One of my sons gave the little boys a ball of yarn. In no time, the little boys had the chairs arranged into a “fort” and had secured their fort by wrapping it with profuse amounts of yarn. They had placed a sheet on top as a roof and called me to come inspect their “spider web fort”. It was a sore sight for a mom who was trying to get the house cleaned however, I saw this masterpiece as a very creative piece of artwork that had kept two young boys busy for more than an hour in a single location. I regret that I did not take a picture, but in an effort to put the house back together, the spider web had to be dismantled.
One piece of art work I did get a picture of was a tent the boys built outside one day. This project kept them busy for a full day. It is a tent built out of stray sticks for stakes, a piece torn piece of a tarp and yarn to tie the sticks to the tarp.
The sticks were hammered into the ground with a primitive hammer they built out of a brick and a stick. (seen here below)
Boys Tent
They continued to play in this tent for several days until I made them take it down to spare the neighbor further eye soreness upon looking at yet another interesting piece of unconventional yard decor.
4.) Invest in toys that promote creativity. We love Lincoln logs, legos, wooden blocks, trains and tracks, puzzles.
Just a few of our ideas to promote healthy creative play.

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