In today’s world, almost every product created for children is just that, already created. The place to grow, imagine and be creative is hard to do when an opportunity isn’t available. A paint by numbers coloring book tells you exactly where to paint and with what colors. Step by step instructions on how you should paint. A doll is already dressed in perfectly matched clothes with matching accessories. A building is already created, all is left is to add your men. The baby toy is complete with flashing lights and songs, colorful ribbons and accessories.
Nothing is wrong with those toys. They are fun and interesting to children and will provide entertainment. But, with those kinds of toys, where is a child allowed to be creative? Is there even an opportunity to be creative? Sure, there might be, but really- look deeper. Look beyond the border. Is it a toy that will create an environment where your child can explore their thinking? Where he can be creative and imaginative?
If you give a child a black sheet of paper and paint, she will be using creativity to figure out where she wants to paint. How she wants to paint. With what colors she wants to paint. She will use her imagination to paint how she feels. Maybe the grass will be purple and the sky will be orange. With a doll that is bare, a child will decide what the doll shall wear. Maybe she wants to wear heels and a swimsuit with a baseball cap. Or perhaps she’ll dress her in a prom dress and make her go swimming.
A doll house you buy tells you how many rooms you will have, the layout of them, and how big they will be. What if you don’t want 7 rooms and two bathrooms? By using wooden blocks your child can create however many rooms she wishes! 12 rooms all on the left with a huge yard in the front. A bathroom outside the house! By presenting an opportunity, you’re allowing creativity and imagination.
As parents, we might see these things as being wrong or out of place. Surely the grass is not purple and a prom dress does not belong in a swimming pool. But that’s okay. Allowing your child to use his or her imagination and explore and create new colors, new wardrobes, new buildings, new games and ideas, is allowing your child to be creative. To figure things out on their own and use their thoughts and imaginations to create, they’re learning and growing in more ways than one.
As far as toys go, I really believe that less is more. Lucas is only 6 months old, but he has already accumulated a collection of colorful plastic toys. For a while he enjoyed them, but now he’s bored with them. What was exciting to him last week is now as old as dirt. So, I found myself at the toy store looking at ten different toys, all plastic, all $10 and up. These toys are virtually all the same. The same toy over and over, just presented in a new way.
That day, I realized I had toys already in my house! I got out a few different sizes and shapes of tupperware. I filled one with pasta for a “rattle” like toy, and one with water. New toys were born! He loved the new shapes, textures and noises they made. He loved figuring out how they worked, what they tasted liked, how to grab them, and what they could do.
Creativity is a gift that every child should be able to embrace. To feel and be creative allows growth, self confidence and exploration. You discover things and learn about yourself and the world around you. What would happen if one day, you took out every “fancy,” high geared electronic toy out of your home? If you presented paper, art supplies as is, blocks and legos. If you told them to just, “figure it out.” What would they do? What would they create?
I bet a whole lot. The possibilities are endless.
Sometimes, the most basic and ordinary toy or object can become your child’s most loved possession. All you have to do is let them figure it out.