Helping Children Imagine More
March 12, 2014

Helping Children Imagine More

Teaching children how to be creative is on many parent’s to-do lessons list. Almost all good parents are interested in increasing their kids’ imagination, social skills, and problem-solving abilities while simultaneously minimizing their sedentary time. A recent study done by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, shows just how parents can do all of this. The best news is that it is incredibly affordable. In fact, one might argue that improving creativity, social skills, and problem-solving abilities can be done on the cheap as redOrbit reports about the study.

How is this? Well, according to the redOrbit article, researchers focused on 120 students aged 5 to 12. They placed buckets, pipes, exercise mats, hay bales, and swimming pool noodles in the study play area and then recorded the students’ behaviors and compared them to children with conventional play equipment like monkey bars and slides.

“The researchers found that sedentary behavior, considered sitting or standing around, dropped from nearly 62 percent to just over 30 percent of children when the kids were provided with the additional items by the researchers. The study team also found that students who played with the common objects took 13 more steps per minute and played more vigorously compared to those in the conventional playground.”

So, the cheaper toys provided children more active time including less sitting or standing and more moving. Moreover, children were able to really engage their imaginations because they had to due to the simpler nature of the impromptu toys. This makes complete sense. If toys provide all the creativity, then children do not have to commit any of their own. If one only has a bucket, then she must find the fun in the bucket.

As I read through this, I thought of my own experiences with children and toys. My nieces and nephews absolutely adore playing in boxes. Sometimes they leave the boxes as they are to play with them while other times they create something out of the boxes. Beyond this, sometimes they create artwork on the boxes or with the boxes. It is absolutely incredible how they will enjoy the box, large or small, before the toy. Similarly, a $2 ball from the grocery store provides hours of fun entertainment.

I am not really surprised by this study because as a child I absolutely adored playing with the makeshift toys like boxes and balls and pots and pans. I appreciated the more expensive toys given to me, but really my fondest memories come from playing with boxes and creating forts that I then painted or colored on. I sometimes even glued things. And all of my adult friends and loved ones have similar memories. It is no wonder that today’s children also find fun and inspiration in the impromptu toys.

In an era when we buy children the newest gadgets and toys, it is nice to know that the simpler toys, even things not really thought of as toys, still provide children with fun. I believe the study’s findings not only about children being more active but also more creative with makeshift toys than with more expensive ones. Does this mean to stop giving more expensive gifts? Probably not, but it does mean to incorporate more makeshift toys and toys that require children to use their imaginations, move around, and figure things out.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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