For many parents, play is something of a mystery. Researchers continually churn out research showing that play is good for the developing brain, and yet, from a parental perspective, it just looks like kids running around like headless chickens. How is any of what they’re doing good for their development?
Parents with a sceptical attitude towards play are in for something of a shock. Not only does it help the mind develop so that the child can deal with the pressure of adolescence, but it also determines the kind of jobs that they will be able to get in the economy of the future.
Yes, that’s right: your kid playing around in the mud might help him become a business leader, scientists, or creative genius.
How Building With Toys Helps Creativity
Many commentators and companies believe that the skills demanded by employers are going to change considerably over the next twenty years. The old model of developing specific skills may soon be going out the window, with the emphasis increasingly on ad hoc problem-solving and creativity.
The way that kids were brought up in the twentieth century is no longer a good model. It doesn’t make sense to bark instructions at children, subdue their instincts, and prepare them for a dreary life as an accountant or factory line worker. Those jobs won’t be around in two decades from now.
Instead, kids need to master the world around them, bobbing and weaving with its demands, and changing where appropriate.
But how do you do this? How can you create a generation of children able to slot into the workplace of the future?
Many toy companies are looking into this, including Lego. The company recently commissioned research to see whether toys helped to cultivate creativity. The findings revealed that kids who attempted to build toy cities developed both creativity and emotional intelligence in a way kids who weren’t allowed to play didn’t.
Wooden play food could be a useful tool too. It allows children to play around with the concept of food, without actually going to the hassle of cooking or eating it.
Toys, it turns out, facilitate play. And play, as we’ve discussed, is vital for building skills.
What’s interesting about play, though, is that the skills that it builds are precisely those that robots and machines probably won’t be able to do in the future. A mechanical, software-driven device will never be able to found a company or develop a brand new product for human consumption (as far as we know). Nor will they be able to conduct sceptic research or develop creative new digital tools. Play, however, builds skills of empathy and creativity: the exact things that consulting firms like McKinsey believe will be important by the time they’re ready for the job market in the 2030s.
Different Types Of Play To Encourage
So, as a parent, what does all this mean? Sure, you want to encourage play where possible. But which types are best?
- Dramatic play. Dramatic play is a type of play that involves dressing up or impersonating other characters. It uses creativity at every level, from the delivery of the dialogue to the writing of the script. Puppets, role play, and storytelling all help children master skills like empathy, negotiation, and cooperation.
- Building play. The modern world depends on people who understand intricate systems. Air traffic controller, chip developers, and biologists all have to know how many small pieces fit together to create a larger whole. That process, arguably, gets underway in childhood. Children use play blocks to disassemble and reassemble complex systems. This crucial learning period teaches the conceptual tools to do the same with more complicated structures as they get older.
- Imaginative play. Imaginative play is a type of play that helps children express their feelings and emotions. It is essential for building robust characters who can communicate effectively with those around them. It’s ideal for prepping kids for management and leadership roles.
- Chasing, hiding, and jumping play. This type of play allows children to gain mastery over their bodies. While being in full control of your body isn’t as important as it used to be, it helps to build confidence, which is vital in the modern economy.
Screen time is, unfortunately, getting in the way of genuine play, and it could be having adverse consequences on the developing minds of children. As a parent, you need to be aware of this and find ways to include more play in your kids’ daily itinerary.