We live in a magical* world in which a child is never far from another reason to receive presents from loved ones.
*There really should be a sarcasm font.
Opportunities abound for parents, aunts/uncles, and grandparents: birthdays, special occasions; even previously minor gifting holidays like Valentine’s Day and Easter have become ubiquitous for gifts in a child’s life. And, of course, let us not forget The Colossus Event of Gift Giving, Christmas.
For parents, what results is a wasteland of abandoned toys littering every nook and cranny of our homes, and children who have already moved on to requesting the next object of desire on a never-ending list.
Sounds bleak, doesn’t it? Well, let me tell you, as a parent, it can feel pretty bleak. Looking around at a home that is overtaken by children’s play things and realizing that you don’t remember seeing your child actually playing with most of the items.
The problem is, children don’t see the problem in this scenario. They will continue asking for the hot new toys, and the cycle.will.never.end. Whew, sorry, I started to black out there for a minute.
Friends, let’s break this cycle. Let’s stop buying fixed and rigid toys and electronics that offer no room for imagination and creativity. These types of toys are one-trick ponies; they’re often electronic in some way, such as a robotic or singing creature. They require pushing a button and watching.
Those are fun at first, but children quickly tire of these types of toys, which explains the ever-expanding piles of untouched toys.
Our goal here is not to parent-shame your choice of gifts for your children, but to encourage you to think about creativity when buying for your children. Feeling stuck? Here are some ideas for open-ended gifts that promote creativity in kids:
Research shows that playing an instrument can benefit a child’s language and math skills, enhance brain function, and improve memory and concentration. Also, learning an instrument can boost confidence, promote a feeling of achievement, and improve discipline. Not to mention, playing an instrument is fun!
Even if your child doesn’t take formal lessons, just jamming with whatever instruments are around is good for creativity, and a good time. Grab some maracas and join in!
2- Building Toys
What parent hasn’t cursed the Lego gods after stepping on one of those devilish little guys? However, we all keep bringing them into our homes and spending exorbitant amounts on those tiny blocks because building is so creative and the possibilities are endless. Blocks of any kind are great for exercising those creative muscles; our favorites are Legos, wood blocks, and the big cardboard blocks.
Fort-building is also fun and beneficial for creativity and problem-solving. There are fort-building kits, or your could just go old-school with chairs, couch cushions, and sheets.
3- Imaginative Play
Imaginative play toys are vast in number, and offer even more possibilities: dress-up clothes, pretend tools and household items, tents, animal figurines – truly, the prospects are endless and there is something out there for every possible interest. Anything to spark their imaginations and encourage pretending.
4- Art Supplies
Is there anything more quintessentially creative than making art? Invest in your art supply stash and encourage your child’s creativity. Some options are paints, brushes, markers, pencils, pastels, canvases, play-doh, and clay, which is a favorite at our house. You could even go the sewing or knitting route.
You’ll never regret giving your child the capability to make their next great work of art. Personally, I would rather have a bigger art supply collection and fewer Shopkins.
Games can be insidious because they’re so fun, you’re child won’t even realize he’s learning and growing his creativity. Some great options are Rory’s Story Cubes, Pictionary, and Kids on Stage. There are myriad options of games that promote creativity and, if you join in, togetherness.
6- Experiential Gifts
Giving your child the gift of experience is a win/win situation: you get to spend time together and you’re not adding to the toy mountains in your home. Also, you’re child is getting a fun, and often new, experience. So, I guess that’s a win/win/win.
Some great options are visiting your local children’s museum, zoo, or historical locale, or taking some fun lessons like rock-climbing or an art class. New experiences open a sea of possibilities.
Play is a wide-open world for children – the possibilities are vast and creativity is perpetually expanded and encouraged. In this expansive universe, anything can be a plaything. My hope for my children is that they are never limited by reality; that they can look at anything and see the possibilities that their imaginations offer. Giving them gifts that promote creativity puts them on the right path.
What is your favorite creativity-promoting gift that you received as a child, or have given to a child in your life? Share in the comments below.
Jessica Beresh is a blogger and co-founder of MossyBrain. Along with her husband Ben, their 4 kids and their sweet puppy Charlie she resides in Broken Arrow OK. She is a 9 on the Enneagram, loves rainy days and can often be found sipping loves Chai (hot or iced).
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