"Mommy, can you play with me?" asks the little one as I was putting dishes into the dishwasher. Aside from "May I please have a snack?" (I'm not exaggerating when I tell you this tiny six-year-old can nibble faster than a Pac Man!), the question about play is one of the most recurring questions in our home. Understandably, as an only child, the little one turns to us for playtime—so we often happily oblige and take on the role of a playmate.
It's funny how mine and the hubby's idea of playtime are often in polar opposites. I tend to favor low-key activities, like playing house with dolls or doing crafts. The hubby's playtime is often more physical and leaves the house in chaos like it has just been hit by a roaring tornado! Often, it involves chasing each other around the house and wrestling on the bed. Ugh, the sight of the mess still haunts me!
But why is playtime so important in our home? For kids, playtime is actually learning time. There's an overwhelming number of scientific evidence that supports the idea of play encouraging learning and creativity at an early age. In fact, one of the play facts compiled by thegeniusofplay.org states "through imaginative play, children become more creative, perform better at school and develop a problem-solving approach to learning."
So, as a parent, I don't frown upon the idea of a child playing all day. If the goal is to raise a creative child, play should have a room in our home.
What are some ways to encourage creative play? Here are a few mommy-tested tips:
Set up a safe space for play.
Apartment-living is often a challenge in terms of finding space. We don't have the extra room to turn into a play room, so we have to compromise and create a play area in the little one's bedroom where she can safely play with her toys. She loves setting up pretend house for her dolls inside her walk-in closet, so I've allocated some space for her do this. One thing I keep in mind is to make sure cabinets are securely bolted into the wall as children like to climb on furniture, posing a safety issue.
Invest in toys that allow a child to use both hands and imagination.
Construction toys, or those that require assembly, often challenge a child's ability to be inventive. Among all her toys, the little one is recently obsessed of Magformer's Shimmer and Shine Carnival set.
Magformers toys are magnetic so that, when pieced together, they can be built into different geometric shapes. The Magformers Shimmer and Shine Carnival set comes in 64 pieces with double-sided character cards of cartoon show favorites like Shimmer, Shine, Tala and Leah. Each card can be inserted into the magnetic square pieces to add a fun sparkle to any creation.
Magformers is such a fun toy to play, the little one could spend hours on the floor creating any of the eight design ideas shown on a fold-out idea mat that comes inside the box. Perhaps one of the reasons why Magformers is a big hit among children (even winning Creative Child Magazine's 2017 Top Toy of the Year Award), the concept of a construction magnetic toy is both challenging and rewarding. The little one sometimes find herself having to solve problems while figuring out how each piece connects when assembled, but also takes a tremendous amount of pride after completing a design.
"Mommy, mommy, I made a Shimmer and Shine genie ball by myself!" she once proudly announced. Her favorite to create, however, is the ferris wheel ride as she pulls her dolls out and pretend to get them into a carnival fair! How adorable is that?
There is no doubt that finding the right toy that challenges a child's imagination creates more opportunities for the little one to be more creative.
Supervise, but don't be intrusive.
I sometimes am guilty of this. In an attempt to help the little one, I'd catch myself instructing her how to do things, rather than letting her explore and discover for herself. If we are to ignite creativity, we need to learn to step back as parents and simply give our children the opportunity to make mistakes, figure out what they did wrong and correct their own mistakes.
I understand other parent's frustrations and eagerness to step in to show kids how things should be done, but I've discovered early that kids will surprise you with their creativity and resourcefulness if you allow them.
Learn to say "yes".
Ugh, this is tough, even for me! As parents, we often say "no" more than we say "yes." But by learning not to be extremely restrictive, I learned that I am giving the little one the freedom to imagine things and see the world from her point of view.
For instance, when the little one asked to keep paper rolls and boxes so she could build a mini house for her dolls, my first instinct was to say "no" to more mess in the house. But I decided to go against my knee-jerk reaction and allowed her to keep them and build her "masterpiece." What a milestone accomplishment it was after she finished her creation!
As parents, I realize it is not our duty to teach our children how things are done in the past. Instead, it is our duty to protect their natural curiosity and love of discovery. If we manage to do this, then we have done our job in raising creative children who will soon move the world.
Disclosure: *This post is sponsored by Magformers Magnetic Toys. We work only with brands we love, so we offer only honest opinions and reviews.