Watching my 4-year-old niece reminds me of the enormous benefits that playfulness brings as a way to learn and approach life. When children play, they invent and explore. There are no boundaries or barriers between the real and the imaginary for them. I watched my niece turn an abacus into a rocket control panel and a toy wooden screwdriver into a magic wand.
Given the opportunity for free, playful reign, a young child's ability to imagine is not closed to nor held back by rules - they enjoy asking questions. They can see things for what they are, or differently.
The father of my niece bought her a complete set of wooden replicas of carpentry tools with a carpentry bench. On initiative alone, she soon discovered many uses for a hammer and saw. Her father showed her how to use a screwdriver and wrench - that was enough for her to let the door of her imagination open. She started applying these tools around the home and creating imaginary things. Her LEGO games played a significant part in her development. She started building things that only her imagination would conceive.
This natural behaviour in every normal and healthy child is an opportunity available to us as parents and adults: a quality to nurture in the child and in ourselves. If we can keep an open mind, like an empty vessel that will receive anything that is put into it, then life remains full of possibilities, responsive, fluid. A new baby is willing to learn anything that we teach. As parents or tutors, we have the chance not only to carefully select what we put into a child’s mind and how we allow them to learn, but to learn from their playfulness too.
Children acquire long-term learning qualities when a parent keeps a balance between watching and participating. Allowing children to discover something for themselves, to work through frustrations will serve them better than having a completed, perfect LEGO object.
Solving problems for a child to avoid them experiencing frustration is tempting. We want to avoid a meltdown (and at the time it feels a more attractive option), but bracing for potentially challenging times to let children go through a problem-solving pain barrier themselves will eventually build their creative confidence and hopefully impact positively on their learning behaviour for the longer term.
Laurel Hummel wrote:
‘Creativity is the freest form of self-expression, and there is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling for children than to be able to express themselves openly and without judgment. The ability to be creative, to create something from personal feelings and experiences, can reflect and nurture children's emotional health.’
This comment shows how a child’s emotional health can be linked to the level of freedom they’re allowed to develop to express themselves. As a rule, playfulness and a creative spirit help build social and personal skills. For example, creative play encourages a sense of freedom and confidence that it’s okay to transform an abacus to a rocket control panel or a cardboard box into a castle - with no limitations or sense of judgement.
Observing a child's creativity unleashed is a beautiful reminder to our adult self to continue to explore ideas and nurture our ow dreams with a playful and less judgemental approach. This way we can empower ourselves by seeing things how they are - or by seeing them differently.
Learn more about how to promote creative thinking with your child at Scribeasy.