Imagination & Creativity in Children’s Development
It doesn’t take too much to understand why children love their smartphones and why they want to have them as soon as they learn to talk (more or less). Smartphones can be fun. I know this may sound frivolous or even careless, but if we had smartphones when I was 10, I would have wanted one just as badly as 10 year-olds want them now.
When it comes to using smartphones as toys, it is, once again, not difficult to see why children enjoy playing video games. Video games have become so exciting and detailed that we as parents often find ourselves in a situation where trying to sell the game of hide-and-seek over the latest mobile video game feels like a lost cause.
But, what about traditional toys? (I include certain “modern” toys such as LEGO in the traditional category, by the way.) Do traditional toys stand a chance? Should we try and encourage our children to play with traditional toys over smartphones?
The Case for Traditional Toys
You can call me too traditional, unhip or anything else, but I really do believe that old-school toys still have a place in the modern world and for a number of reasons.
For one, traditional toys will often illicit a social aspect in order to be as great as they can. A girl can play with her toys alone, but her play will reach a whole other level if other girls (or boys, why not?) join in on the fun. A boy can have a ton of fun with his Legos on his own, but invite a buddy or two and it becomes something entirely else. And this is not even mentioning board games and other toys that are inherently social in nature.
Moreover, traditional toys often ask of a child to exercise his or her imagination. An inanimate doll will require a bit of imagination to come to life and start leading a life of its own. The same goes for the majority of other traditional toys.
In other cases, toys will help your child practice their social skills, learn about competition and even conflicts. These are all lessons that will serve them well later in life.
Once again, you can call me too traditional or unhip; but I have a feeling that smartphones do not do all of this to the same extent as traditional toys and games.
How to “Sell” Traditional Toys
The most obvious way to promote traditional toys in your family, and one that is often taken, is to outright prohibit the use of smartphones in early childhood and to put very strict limitations on the devices once your children reach an age when they “have to” get a smartphone.
I am all for imposing rules for the use of smartphones, especially in certain situations and at certain times, but I also do not believe that an outright ban will be the best solution. When things are banned, they get a special aura of the “forbidden fruit” and they become even more alluring.
The good thing is that traditional toys and games do not really need “selling”. They are fun and they are exciting. Also, once your children get a taste of what their own minds are capable of, it is a feeling that does not go away soon.
You might also want to look into child care centers where children are encouraged to play with traditional toys and engage in games that will involve other children, boosting their social skills and turning smartphones into nothing but communication devices (which they should have remained in the first place).
I am definitely in the “traditional” camp when it comes to toys and smartphones. That being said, I understand very well that my kids will feel left out and even ostracized without these infernal devices.
It is all about finding the right balance. How can you encourage your children to develop their imagination and creativity?
What better way to develop your children’s imagination skills than by reading books. A picture in a book can be a source of inspiration to create your own story or add to the one you are reading, and children’s books are full of colorful illustrations. Your children will become interested in different subjects as they grow, and interactive books will not only capture their attention but will set the foundation for reading and learning skills. You can find a variety of books at your local library.
Make up stories
Creating your own stories is a great way to spark your children’s imagination and enjoy a family activity, similar to reading a book. Start crafting a story and ask your children to fill in the details. Why not encourage them to become the main characters and create their own adventures?
Use props and toys to make it more interesting.
There are so many household items that can be used to create a story. From empty boxes that can become cars and airplanes to dressing up like superheroes, all you need to do is foster creativity in your children to help them grow emotionally and socially. Even small items that can be found in kitchen cupboards or around the house can fuel your children’s fantasy and motivate them to create their own story.
Still life kitchen toys
Open-ended toys like wooden blocks or water tables are among the best options as they can be used in many different ways based on your children’s imagination to create castles or entire cities. Our approach is inspired by Reggio Emilia and our program includes activities with open-ended materials to support children’s cognitive and social development. Click here for more information.
Visit a museum or gallery
You might think that galleries and museums are adult-oriented, but a painting or a photo can be the beginning of a story for your children. Observe them and find out what captures their attention. Images are a form of visual storytelling so you can build a story around the artwork and fill in the gaps with your children.
Arts and crafts are not only for the super creative! Challenge yourself and learn a new art like origami or paper cutting. You will be able to find different shapes that are appropriate for your children’s age and have fun while enhancing your children’s and your imagination at the same time. Learning the basic Origami techniques will allow your children to improve coordination and concentration skills.
Limit screen time
Children have now access to a wealth of information and images online. They can see pictures of extinct animals and watch documentaries recorded in distant counties with different cultures. There are also a variety of quality TV program. But since videos are already visualized stories, it’s best to use these resources as a starting point for your own story and always spend time discussing the content of the video with your children.
Scientists suggest that since this is the first generation of children that grow up with mobile devices it’s difficult to predict the effects of screen time on their brain, but most of them advice parents to use technology thoughtfully and set limits to screen time.