We already know that showing imagination in pretend play is a sign of creativity, but is there an added layer of creativity if the astronaut that is taking a rocket ride to the moon acts “scared” at what he/she finds there? Studies show that indeed it does. It has been found that the feelings expressed in play are important in creative thinking. In fact, the feelings children show in their pretend play have been linked to more divergent thinking, higher teacher ratings of children’s make-believe, and greater creativity in stories.
So, how you can you help your child incorporate more emotion into their pretend play? According to the Creativity Trend Report (2017) by the Center for Childhood Creativity, adults can help children incorporate feelings into their play by using play prompts that include emotion. For example, play out a story with your child of a lonely princess walking into a surprise birthday party thrown for her. Show your child how the princess shows she is sad at the beginning, shows she is surprised when she walks through the door, and then shows she is happy when she realizes she has friends.
This activity works even better when facilitated within a small group. According to a recent study with elementary school girls, by Hoffman and Russ (2016), children’s imagination and showing emotion during play increased more after participating in small group play sessions facilitated by an adult, than compared to a control group. Children’s divergent thinking scores, that show creativity, increased even for the below average players (e.g., those who initially didn’t show that much emotion in play) after participating in the group play sessions.
So, curtain’s up – have your child go ahead a pretend to laugh, pout, and cry – and let their creativity scores rise.