I had the privilege of watching two 3 year old girls playing yesterday. I visited a friend’s house and we chatted as her granddaughter and granddaughter’s friend played together. The children amused themselves without any toys. At one point they removed the pillows and cushions from the sofa and happily went on a journey collecting items of treasure along the way. One of the girls retrieved a small piece of paper from a shelf, and this had to be thrown into the cushions and then collected by jumping from one cushion to the next. It was obviously an important part of the game, and not something adults could fully understand or take part in.
It was so much fun watching the girls move around the house and garden and listening to their joyful chatter and giggles along with some interesting dialogue as they navigated through their imaginative play. It was a real reminder for me as to how over programmed our young children can become. These girls needed nothing more than supervision and space as they were allowed to explore their environment and participate in their own secret games. Sometimes we’d over hear that one of them had to build a car to take them to work, or it felt like they were flying when they jumped on the pillows.
Creative play, where the children get to explore their imagination, emotions, role playing and making play activities out of inanimate objects, is an important part of their development. Not having to use a toy or play equipment in a certain way, but having the freedom to explore with their own agenda allows the child to create an environment that fulfills their own needs.
In their cooperative play the two girls had to sort out any conflict of ideas or emotional outbursts, and therefore make sense of their world.
Children don’t need expensive toys and equipment to let their imaginations run wild. Hang a sheet over a tree or table, it can become a cave, house, tent, school, hospital, ship, the ideas are endless. A large cardboard box can be a truck, a car, a spaceship, a bed. A box of old pans and spoons, a pile of cushions, a bucket of wooden blocks, and then the space to play and discover. As long as the children are being respectful of the space and each other they can create their own ideas for their play and the props they’re using.
If your child doesn’t have a playmate or sibling to play with you can become their playmate. Allow the child to lead the game and try to let your child come up with their own ideas. Your role is to be the follower rather than the leader. Following them will give them freedom to explore the game and confidence to lead.
Creative play is about the exploration and experience rather than the end result. It’s an opportunity for your child to journey through their imagination. These activities promote curiosity and discovery along with confidence and social skills, all very important aspects for your growing child.