How do you encourage creative play and imagination in your kids?
First, ask yourself: Is there a difference between building a Lego structure according to the instruction booklet, and creating an original design? Turns out there is.
The latter is an open-ended play experience – one that is not led or directed by adults. It’s the type of play children should be engaged in to grow and learn, say experts.
But the problem is, kids are doing less of it than ever before.
Sumitra Pasupathy, co-founder of Playeum and mum of three boys, shares her favourite open-ended play ideas.
1. THE SANDBOX always keeps my children busy for hours. We add different supplementary elements to allow for different play ideas. Sometimes, it includes providing mini animal toys, or sticks and branches.
2. PLAYING OUTDOORS in the park, collecting sticks and branches as well as stones, is one of my youngest son’s favourite activities to do together. Finding branches of different sizes allows for various play activities. Once, he collected over 50 sticks and stones and arranged them in a particular order that he wanted to display them. Soon, he had quite a few friends join him to find sticks and they played for a very long time.
3. “MINI MAKER” SPACES are where we collect a range of used materials for children to play and make things. This involves toilet rolls, milk bottles and obscure things like buttons, old small fabric scraps, and old T-shirts cut into strips. As a family, we can play together to make and create things; with some fun tools such as fabric-cutting scissors and a hot-glue gun. Sometimes, we have more directed outcomes like making a birthday card. This can even become a larger play activity if we collect boxes of different sizes.
4. MUSIC JAMMING The older boys like their guitar, drum and piano and often, with their dad, they tinker with the instruments and play music in different ways, as opposed to playing according to the musical scores. Sometimes, we just play different tunes to make music together.
5. WATER PLAY is our simplest family playtime and does not necessarily involve a lot of water wastage. We used to have small pails of water which the kids spent hours scooping and pouring through different things, or creating a bath for their little toy animals for pretend play session. We often involve a lot of free painting alongside water play, too. As they get older, they enjoy running around with water sprays and fountains while playing outdoors.
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