You may have heard the term creative play and wondered why exactly it's deemed so important. Creative play, in which children use their imagination rather than direct instructions, has a key role in many aspects of development. Children can explore the world safely, practising decision-making, problem solving, self-expression and increasing their social skills.
It can often be hard to find new and exciting ways to engage your children in creative play, beyond the iPad and television! One of the simplest (and most rewarding) ways for parents to nurture a child's creativity is simply involving themselves in roleplay scenarios with them on a regular basis. Of course it's a bonus that using your imagination is free and not reliant on the weather!
The rewards of investing in quality time together are endless, so my family has committed to having a 'Family Date Night' once a month, enjoying creative play and getting back to basics. On a monthly basis we look at the diary and see what's coming up. We work out how much time we can set aside, pick an activity (or two!), agree a date and (most importantly) stick to it.
If you worry you aren't naturally comfortable letting go and exercising your own imagination, don't beat yourself up! Try to remember that your role should be to facilitate imaginative play rather than dictating it, as this may reduce some of the pressure you feel. Perhaps try to incorporate an activity that you are comfortable with while you are finding your feet - if you're a foodie then you could try roleplaying being cooking channel presenters while you bake some tasty treats with your little ones, or if you love gardening then you could role play an adventure outside.
Encourage your children to ask lots of questions during creative play, as this will help you to keep the experience flexible and fun. You'll probably find that the questions they ask and the answers that you give create opportunities to express their creativity in ways you hadn't even thought of, as children's imaginations have such an impressive capacity to delight and surprise!
If you'd like to start a regular Family Date Night, here are three of my favourite creative play ideas to get you started!
Camping Club: If you already have a Kiddiewinkles Playhouse, use it as a fort and bundle in grown-ups and children, then role play a night under the stars camping. Alternatively, work as a team to build a make-believe tent using chairs and blankets.
Pretend Popstars: If you don't own a karaoke machine, sorry but you still aren't off the hook! Ask every member of the family to suggest a song then create a playlist including them all. Sing solo or as a group if you have some shy singers.
Silly Storytime: Pick a book that your little ones love, but instead of reading it, work together as a family to act it out from memory. It is so much fun to dress up as the characters, use funny voices and enjoy your family's favourite book in a new way.