Enhancing Creativity Through Play
© Beverley Paine
Many homeschooling parents are frightened to let their children "play all day" - they feel the need to introduce structured activities which lead their children in the pursuit of knowledge of skills. For many this is the definition of education. Children have a vary different view of what learning is and how it happens.
Play is a very important aspect of it and as a parent you can capitalise on your children's natural tendency toward play in many ways by becoming more involved in the play process. A natural spin off derived from doing this in a conscious way is to increase the creative potential of your children. It also can lead to gains in mental age, ideational fluency and intelligence.
Definitions of creativity are many and varied, and relate either to personal traits and characteristics of the creative person, the creative process itself, or in terms of the product or outcome of the creativity. The creatively gifted child has been described as "the child who comes up with many, different, unusual, or detailed solutions to conventional tasks", indicating an ability to engage fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration in the thought process. Playfulness has been characterised by freedom, spontaneity, joy, and exploratory actions, with motives and processes involved in play similar to those attributed to the creative process.
Becoming involved in the play process includes direct and deliberate participation in all facets of play. It means considering evaluating your present attitudes, rules and other controls you place on play, and those of other adults who have access to your children. It also means looking critically at the physical environment. Do all those things foster and nurture creativity in your children?
Research into play and creativity have revealed that parents who foster creativity within their children tend to:
The nature of the play environment is also very important, and a less restrictive environment increases not only the range of your children's potential responses, but also their later motivation to respond to novelty. Such environments are:
Which toys you select for your children can help enhance creativity too. Toys and equipment which are especially useful are those which encourage exploration and discovery and include;
The research also found that too much emphasis on academics and test performance, and a discouraging of free play tends to result in a squelching of creativity. So it is important to balance such activities with structured play episodes, both with and without your involvement, and to allow lots of opportunity for free play and times where individual children can be alone, either in play or contemplation.
Increased opportunities for play has been shown to reduce frustration and boredom in learners in classroom situations. When parents actively promote and value children's playing, and integrate play with learning opportunities, children are able to develop more fully their creative potential, and the benefits are felt across all areas of growth and development, especially academic.
Reference: D. Ellermeyer "Enhancing creativity through play: a discussion of parental and environmental factors", 1993, published in Early Child Development and Care.)
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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