Encouraging Creativity...in a Tech World'Mum where’s my tablet?!’,‘Dad can I use your phone?’ There’s no doubt about it, technological devices are quickly replacing children’s toys these days...

However, the negative impact of technology is starting to show in children’s development recently – particularly with regards to their imaginative thinking and creativity.

With the new world we are living in, it’s important for children to be technologically aware. Yet we do need to strike a balance. Along with time spent on technology, children also need to be given the opportunity to engage in more traditional forms of play.

Imaginative play is central to many areas of child development such as creativity, self-esteem, social skills, emotional wellbeing and language development. Therefore the level to which a child develops his/her imagination will have a big impact on their future education. Problem solving requires creativity so it’s essential that children develop this aspect of their intelligence. This is as important,  if not more so, as their knowledge of technology. However, with young people averaging nearly seven hours a day in front of screens at present, this type of play is becoming increasingly less frequent in their everyday lives.

While that’s a scary statistic, prying your child away from their beloved tablet or favourite iPhone game can be no easy task! With the long Easter break soon approaching, children will have lots of free time ‘on their hands’ very soon. So here are five ideas to entice them away from the virtual world…and into one filled with imagination!

1 – Give Them a Prop Box.

Filling a shoebox with a number of interesting items is a perfect way to inspire some imaginative role play. For example, you could make a ‘doctors box’ by providing some gauze, a bandage, a stethoscope, and a ‘prescription pad’ (AKA a notebook!) Budding bakers might prefer a baking box and mini explorers would love some items like binoculars, a compass and a magnifying glass. Take your child’s interests and developmental level into account when creating the box and think safety when sourcing the items so that children are free to explore without any dangers!

2 – Make Your Own Board Game.

Board games have become nearly obsolete in recent years but they are valuable for family bonding. They are also a very useful way to teach children how to cope with losing. A fun imaginative activity is to make your very own board game which can be played afterwards with the family or friends. You can guide your child in this by suggesting some themes (such as a space or jungle themed game) and encouraging them to think up ways to make it interesting. For example, in a jungle themed game a ‘snake alert’ space might mean taking two steps back or landing in the ‘quicksand pit’ could mean you miss a turn! Once children get into this, they will love coming up with ideas and designing their board. This type of activity allows them to explore their creative side, through brainstorming for ideas and drawing/colouring with various materials.

3 – Set a Scene

Most children now have lots of toys - but they often get bored because they don’t know what to do with them! Encourage your children to expand their play with favourite toys, for example by setting a scene for their action figures to become involved in. A medieval theme might require a place for a dragon to hide out in, so a cave/castle could be made out of cardboard boxes and tubes. Likewise a large sheet of blue paper can become ‘the sea’ for a pirate theme. Once the scene is set children will get hours of fun acting out various scenarios. Just be prepared for the possibility of a slightly untidy house!

4 - Build Your Own Obstacle Course

The popularity of technology has also resulted in children are becoming less active in recent years.  Therefore imaginative games that promote some sort of movement are also great for a child’s physical health and development. On a nice sunny days it’s fun to set up and complete your very own obstacle course, especially if there is more than one child present to take part. Again a parent’s guidance will be required at the start, but once it’s all set up you can just supervise from your kitchen window. Or from your deckchair if you’re very lucky! Items like hula hoops and paddling pools will be very useful for this but remember that the goal here is to develop imagination. Encourage your children to incorporate everyday household items like wheelbarrows and plant pots also - you may just be surprised at what they come up with!

5 - Become an Author for a Day!

For children who enjoy storytelling, creating their very own storybook is a great way to encourage imagination.  Helping them to brainstorm topics or characters will peak their interest and get their creative juices flowing. There are good resources online which allow you to print off pages as templates which can then be stapled together. Making a story for a younger sibling can be a nice motivator, as can creating a comic strip that features some favourite action figures. Once the story is finished a cover can then be designed and the book can be ‘published’ for family viewings.

We hope that this article has given you some inspiration for developing your child’s imagination. By giving children even a couple more hours of ‘free play’ time a week, you will enable them to explore and build on their natural creativity.

However as most of us parents know, entertaining children for long periods of time can be a challenge. Also with many parents working nowadays, there is not always the option of staying at home with your children for the holidays. In these cases, local summer camps can be a great solution to keep children happy and stimulated during this time.

Park Academy Childcare run summer camps for children during the full months of July and August. Every week will have a special theme and there are a range of activities planned. From construction to cookery, sports to science, we can ensure that your child’s imagination will be stimulated – while they also have heaps of fun!

So why not give yourself a break – and help them break away from technology for a while!

To enquire about our summer camps just phone our enquiries team on 1890 273 243 or email us at enquiries@parkchildcare.ie.  Also don’t forget to keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for regular news and updates

www.parkchildcare.ie. www.facebook.com/ParkChildcare