Working at the North Pole and seeing the magical power of our Elf for Christmas toys every day, we know just how important creative toys, imaginative play and creative play are to child development.
And it’s not just our opinion – countless studies have shown that enabling and encouraging children to enjoy creative play is beneficial to their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being.
What is creative play?
Creative play involves any object that sparks the imagination and promotes creative expression. In its most effective form it is self-initiated and self-directed, i.e. the child decides what they’ll play with and how they’ll play with it.
This enables children to choose and develop their own rules of play, without having to depend on the criticism and evaluation of their parent. This doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in your child’s creative play though – just that they themselves should be leading it!
Child psychologists agree that there are far more developmental benefits to playing with ‘true toys’, such as blocks, dolls and cuddly toys, as opposed to ‘passive toys’, such as computer games, TVs, tablets or smartphones, which encourage a limited use of imagination.
Creative play includes such a wide range of activities, just about every child will enjoy some form of it. Whether it’s drawing and painting, building with wooden blocks or Lego, creating an imaginary world with dolls and cuddly toys, or dressing up and playing make-believe, anything that encourages a child to use their imagination and develop their own ideas is beneficial.
What are the benefits of creative play?
This study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that including opportunities for free play, alongside academic and social-enrichment opportunities, was essential for healthy child development.
There are a range of recognised benefits of creative play, which can be broken into the following groups:
Emotional and social benefits: Creative play can provide an outlet for children to express their emotions, which can be beneficial to strengthening their ego, releasing pent-up emotions, building resilience, and enabling impulse control. Creative play can also enhance social skills, as children play together, negotiating the rules of play, resolving conflict, enjoying each other’s company and augmenting communication skills.
Cognitive benefits: Basic maths skills, problem solving, concentration and even scientific thinking can all be enhanced through creative play, as children find ways to achieve the outcome they want through their game or activity.
Physical benefits: Creative toys can be one of the best tools for boosting motor and fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, as children become adept at handling small objects like building blocks or Lego, or controlling a paintbrush or pencil while drawing. Creative play by its nature also tends to be more generally physical than passive play.
Of course, passive play involving computer games or screen time has its place – I for one would never be able to take a shower in peace or finish cooking dinner without the blessing of the goggle box!
But embracing our downtime as much as possible by encouraging creative play can only be a good thing. This is precisely why the Elf for Christmas range has been designed to actively discourage the use of passive entertainment and inspire young minds to embrace imaginative play whenever possible.
Taking time away from our all-too busy and hurried lifestyles for some creative play is not only something the whole family will benefit from, but is also an opportunity to create happy childhood memories that will last a lifetime. And we’re certainly all for that!