Creativity is the backbone of society and we need to foster it as early as possible. Kids don’t need one more developmental milestone to hit or one more skill to master, they need to freedom to express their natural creativity and the tools to stretch their imaginations. This cannot be taught in schools, this cannot be measured with a test, this is the real work of childhood. And open ended toys are the tools.
On a personal level, I feel this because as an architect I had the benefit of a formal education in creativity. I was trained to look at the world from every angle and gather all the little pieces of information together and then come up with a new solution that no one else had thought of before. And then, when I had kids, I started to see that they naturally do that every day.
Their play is not bound by toys or times or neatly organized boxes. To a child everything is a tool for play. And I realized that somewhere along the path to growing up, I had lost that innate skill of creativity and I had to relearn it (with a very expensive education). I didn’t realize how important my imagination was until I tried to make a living off of it.
And then I saw that imagination and creativity are the driving forces behind almost ALL of the great inventions in the world.
Who would have ever imagined that passing electricity through a metal wire would produce enough light to light up the dark night sky? Edison. I guarantee you, he knew the power of creative thinking.
Our kids need to be encouraged to connect seemingly unrelated dots. They need to be encouraged that their thoughts are valid and that all of their silly stories and games that they play are important. Because one day, those silly stories and games will transform into innovation and job creation. We don’t need more cogs in the machine of commerce in this world….. we need more people to dream up a better machine. And they won’t do that if they lose their creativity or if they think that the only usefulness in play is to reach the next milestone for praise.
Play is useful just for the sake of play. Play is necessary for connecting neural pathways in ways that are new and different all the time.
You cannot teach play.
But you can teach them that their play has value.
I make toys to show children that their play is valuable and worth high quality tools (also known as toys).