Some are entertaining – soft toys, animals that move and make sounds. And, of course, there are many more categories. We marvel at the toys, but we can’t bring all of that wonder home. Yet, when we do buy some of these toys, we find that the child engages with them briefly, before giving us an indication of boredom. We then nudge and push the child saying ‘go play with your toys’.
Do we wonder why children get bored with toys especially as they are designed with them in mind? Every child is born intelligent – with the ability to create a new response to a new situation, and this is what we know as creativity. We see this very intelligence in children thriving when they direct their own play.
They might feel limited when their intelligence and creativity is directed by an adult. For growing children, exposure to a new environment, and every new person they meet sparks imagination and enthusiasm. This helps them make sense of their environment and impacts the way they interact with situations and people around. Adults design building blocks. Children use it as pretend food, straw, or even rain! Adults design beads that can be woven into shoe laces to improve hand eye coordination. Children make currency, dog biscuits or even gravel out of it. Even crayons sometimes get used as injections.
As they grow older and we get them more complex toys or games like a carrom board, it is also put to different uses before being ready to be used for what it is. I caught myself getting impatient with my daughter, wanting to show her ‘the right way to do it’, before realising that the carrom board is for her to play with. Why do I need to sap the joy out of it for her with my instructions? I observed that whenever I sought to correct her, she lost all interest in playing the game. The next time, I would be tested again, till the time I learnt to tune in to her creativity. Of course, I wouldn’t let her use the board as a trampoline! After almost a year, now my four year-old is ready to play carrom the way it’s usually played. Though after five minutes into it, we do find ourselves playing her own version of the game. How natural it is for children to find creative ways to use things when given unstructured play time!
As the children grow up, they will eventually learn to play a game by the rules. Until then, can we create the space to keep this creativity alive in them? It is important to promote unstructured play as it fuels their imagination.
As an adult, the things we see as waste are often used by our children in many different ways. Cardboard flaps are used as tickets, to make masks, skateboard etc.
Empty water bottles are used to make music, as props to use with play doh/ sand.
Apple/ fruit covers are used as mittens. Drinking straws are used make shapes by inserting one into the other. Shoe laces are used as a leash for a soft toy or even a pretend snake!
We parents can nurture this creativity in our children. Even at personality development workshops for grownups, this very technique is used to fire their imagination. For example, they could be given a pen or any other object and asked to use it in ten different ways.
After all, creative solutions are needed to turn things around in the world
— The author is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.