Academic journal article American Journal of Play

Imagination, Playfulness, and Creativity in Children's Play with Different Toys

Academic journal article American Journal of Play

Imagination, Playfulness, and Creativity in Children's Play with Different Toys

Article excerpt

Based on a four-month experimental study of preschool children's play with creative-construction and social-fantasy toys, the author examines the influence of both types of toys on the play of preschool children. Her comparative analysis considers the impact of transformative play on the development of imagination during play activities and explores ways to support children's playful initiatives. She argues that, by transgressing play scenarios, children often develop a more playful attitude. Toys, imagination, and the setting are important factors in the play children initiate, and transgressing the immediate play scenario affects each of these factors. Key words: creative construction; social fantasy; negotiation in play; transgression and childhood development

An Inquiry into Play

It is often said that only a fine line separates genius from madness, implying that a limit exists to how far we can transgress rules and norms. Today we understand this old saying as expressing the closeness of creativity to deviation. By adopting Lev S. Vygotsky's concept of creativity as combining in new ways, we might bracket the discussion of deviation and turn our attention to transgression, creativity, and the effects of toys on the development of the creative mind.

Many kinds of work require creative skills and innovation. However, one might argue that, for children, creativity produces a feeling that they can contribute to their surroundings and gives them a sense of control, of being the co-creators of their world. In this article, I discuss how the young develop creative skills during the various unstructured social situations of childhood. More broadly, I focus on the role-positive, negative, or neutral-that play with different types of materials has in producing transgressive acts. By transgression, I mean the novel acts children bring into a play, and I argue that children need to transgress the limits of existing play scenarios. In other words, this study considers the way children use particular materials to explore their creative imaginations. I understand creative imagination in children's play to mean the production of rich combinations we observe when they are externalized.

In Scandinavian kindergartens, which in Denmark involves kids aged three to six and includes 97 percent of them (DST 2013), children commonly play with toys everyday. I designed this study to capture the development of children's play over time and to help analyze the way imagination is linked to the development of children's creativity. The research aims to provide a better understanding of the relationship between children's imagination and their creativity by studying their play with two types of play materials-social-fantasy objects and creativeconstruction toys. The study is both theoretical and experimental. To show how play externalizes imagination, I link the concept of imagination to the motives children have to play, and I establish the link as the basis for understanding the way children create motives during play. Imagination is related to playfulness, which this study defines as a child's attitude towards change during play. The study draws on the analytical distinction of children's focus during play that Ivy Schousboe (2013) introduced as part of her theory of the spheres of reality, which I integrate into a model of transformative play.

The experimental part this project involved children playing over two months with a specific type of toy, lending support to the notion that children both challenge and build on collective scenarios during play. I examined whether different types of toys encourage an increase in suggestions about play over time, and I considered the how toys influence the way children play.

This study looks at how children display their creative imaginations so that we might better understand their motives and activities in relation to specific types of toys. The study showed that children's tendency to develop play scenarios correlates with the growth of playful attitudes. …

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