5 Ways to Encourage Creativity Through Play

by Rebecca Eanes

Creativity is on the decline, and the reduction of free play is at least partly to blame. According to American psychologist, Peter Gray, free play has declined sharply over the last century, and with it the mental health of children and adolescents has also declined.¹ To add to this sobering news, Kyung Hee Kim's research has concluded that “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.” According to Kim’s research, all aspects of creativity have declined.²

Each of us can make a positive difference in reversing this disturbing trend by providing free play and encouraging creativity. Here are 5 ways you can encourage creativity in the children in your life.

1.    Provide free, unstructured, child-directed play on a regular basis. Directed play, such as sports, isn't nearly as beneficial as when adults step back and let children take the lead. Allowing outdoor play as much as possible with other children will help them learn social, cognitive, creative, and physical skills that will be highly beneficial throughout their lives.

2.    Make creative spaces in your home. An art corner, a reading or writing nook, and a block station are a few ideas that will invite your child to be freely creative.

3.    Set up play invitations. Invitations to play can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make them, but the trick is to invite – not force – the child to engage in the activity. Allow the child to explore the materials freely and to create without adult direction. An example of a play invitation is play dough, googly eyes, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, and gems laid out attractively for easy access. 

4.    Encourage safe exploration and provide a myriad of objects and places to explore which engage all of your child's senses. Allow them to take reasonable risks and make discoveries. Say “yes” more. Invite children to dance in the rain, jump in puddles, play in the mud, and paint with their hands. The mess is worth the benefits. 

5.    Dramatic play lets children express their feelings. This often occurs naturally as children imitate adults, animals, and things around them. This helps them understand their world and how to deal with situations and problems. Stimulate their natural need for dramatic play with costumes and simple props.

¹ Gray, Peter. "The Decline of Play and the Rise of." 3.4 (2011): n. page. Web. 20 Jul. 2014.
² Kyung Hee Kim (2011). The creativity crisis: The decrease in creative thinking scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Creativity Research Journal, 23, 285-295.

Posted on Jul 28, 2014

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