Creative Play

Creative play follows on from exploring play and developing skills. A child takes such materials as he can find and uses what skill he has developed to try to make something of his own devising. His first ideas may come as a result of seeing another child or adult do something or may be the result of an accident. The wider the range of materials available to a child the more scope there is for using and combining them to create something different which, although it may have no significance for an adult, can be something quite specific for a child. One of the most difficult and yet most important things adults should do is to let the child get on with it without interfering too much or imposing adult ideas on him. We are less likely to do this when he is ‘ creating’ a building with bricks and blocks or a car layout in the sandpit since these are perhaps subconsciously accepted as a children-only games. It is creative activities such as drawing, painting, sticking junk together or joining pieces of wood with glue and nails where our greater experience and pre-conceived ideas can tempt us to say ‘ You have drawn that man’s arms in the wrong place’; ‘The sun is yellow and you have painted it blue’; ‘If you stick that piece here it will look more like the ship you said you were making.’ There is a very fine line to be drawn between giving tactful help which enables a child to carry out his own ideas to his satisfaction and the help which leads a child to depend too much on an adult.

There can also be a very fine distinction between creating and destroying. Is painting a picture creative or is it destroying a perfectly good piece of paper and using up paint? Is playing mud pies on the path achieving anything but a mess? Parents always know which is which but children do not. All mothers can think of instances of this. I remember vividly one of my children asking if he could have the baby’s pushchair to play with; this seemed reasonable so I agreed. Some time later he came in to ask for help because the saw had broken. Rather puzzled I went out to look and found one wheel half off and the hacksaw which had been used to saw the axle had a broken blade. Apparently he needed the wheels to put on an old wooden box. During the inevitable recriminations he could only go on repeating ‘ But you said I could.’ There was a total lack of understanding on both our parts as to what the other meant by ‘playing with’. A child’s simplicity of vision which can so easily lead him into trouble is due to lack of knowledge, being able to think of only one thing at a time, not yet having developed a sense of property and tidiness and not knowing enough about cause and effect.