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What Does Creative Play Mean?

By Cara Batema ; Updated April 18, 2017
Group of young girls playing instruments

When children engage in creative play, they make up the rules rather than adults. Not only are they are free to use their imaginations, create stories, act out scenes or invent a new game, but this unstructured, self-directed play encourages mental development and allows a child to express his emotions. According to Today’s Parent, children need at least 45 minutes of creative play every day, so create an environment that encourages them to use their imaginations.

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Providing for Creative Play

Creative play involves providing open-ended toys or supplies, meaning they don’t need instructions or even adult demonstration, according to Today’s Parent. Building blocks are classic examples of open-ended toys, and they give children the opportunity to use their imagination to build whatever they want. Offer crayons, markers, paper and other art supplies; dress-up clothes, props and mirrors for dramatic play; hand-held musical instruments such as shakers, tambourines or drums; and imagination toys, such as dolls, stuffed animals or molding clay. Supervise as needed, but keep interventions to a minimum so kids feel free to express themselves.

Benefits of Creative Play

According to PBS.org, creative play is important because it enhances abilities, including problem-solving, critical and abstract thinking, and verbal and social skills. For example, through playing with blocks, children are challenged to handle issues such as balance and shape, so they have to use thinking and problem-solving skills to figure out how to build a tower, for instance, without it falling over. Creating a work of visual art or a musical composition could help relieve stress by establishing an emotional outlet. Creative play with other children encourages the development of social skills by urging children to take their peers’ ideas and feelings into account.

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About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

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