Games and toys that promote creativity and thinking (Part 1)

I have thought for a while now that I would like to write a series of posts looking at commercially available toys and games that can promote creativity and thinking in our kids, at home and at school. When I refer to creativity and thinking, I mean that children (and adults) have the opportunity to approach these toys in a variety of ways, not necessarily just the way described on the box. Creativity may involve changing rules, or allow a ‘free playing’ imaginative space for children to explore. Thinking, and expectations around thinking, will vary depending on the child and adult playing, for example it may be thinking about turn taking, sharing, language development, rule making or even just having a fun and relaxing space to talk in.

This week I want to start with some simple, easy to access items that can be used across age groups in a variety of ways. All three items this week would make welcome presents for children, as they can be used in so many ways for a number of years.

Wooden blocks (and indeed lego/megablocks/duplo etc) are a staple in most homes with young children present. I have hung onto these blocks given to LT when he was 1. They get brought out when we have little visitors, and often take a while to go back in the cupboard as LT, WH and I play with them again too. From tipping them onto the floor, building towers, cities and other things, to knocking down and counting back in the box,  play is all about developing co-ordination and imaginative play opportunities. We can use blocks to explore colours, shapes and counting with any age group. We can also use them for talking with children about building and balance (eg: How high can you build a tower on the carpet? On a solid surface? What happens when you put a semi circle shape in? How can we make a see-saw?), exploring movement with the semi-circle and cylinder shapes, or even drawing and talking about 3D shapes and fractions as children get bigger. Adults and children alike (from my observations) enjoy building and playing with these blocks, and the bonding moments through any play situation are priceless.

Playing cards are in most homes, and are cheap and easy to locate at $2 shops. We have many sets and have ‘played’ with these in varied ways depending on the age of the child we are playing with. Social skills, like sharing and turn taking can be practiced by playing concentration, matching games (numbers, colours, or shapes), snap and fish. Rule following and changing for these games also allow opportunities for children to take ownership of developing games and articulating differences they have applied to existing games. Again, the opportunity for developing language and bonds with others is a bonus of any type of game played. When I suggested this post on the facebook page, other uses of cards included building card houses (avoid plastic coated cards here as they can be too thin and slippery for this to progress vary far), and introducing the element of ‘luck’ into the games played, so that winning is not just reliant on skill or speed.  Games like ‘gin rummy’ and ‘solitaire’ offer older children and adults more complex rules, and the element of luck, to consider and respond to using a variety of strategic playing options. 

A commercial card game that can be fun at many ages is ‘Uno’, I have had the pack above since I was 10, and drove my family mad wanting to play it. The basic rules require strategy and memory (to shout ‘uno’ at the right time) to use the cards you are dealt, to win. When I was involved in teaching in a summer school program ‘Uno’ was played often with tutors and students in break times (using 2 packs of cards and up to 20 people playing at a time), but the rules were known as ‘summer school rules’, including changes like everyone passing their hand of cards to the left when a ‘draw four’ was put down…heaps of fun and lots of thinking/strategy/luck required too.

Do you have card games you like to play with children or family? What are they, and what specific opportunities for creativity and thinking are available? Please share them in the comments below.

Until next time, keep playing

Fiona T

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nicole
    Apr 07, 2013 @ 12:01:29

    The two year old terror had a great time playing with the blocks. They also make great musical instruments when you bang them together/on other things 🙂

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  2. Shar
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 14:25:18

    My hubby loves playing games, and has passed that on to myself and the kids. Common games to find us playing in our house are cribbage, frustration and Uno (card games) and mastermind, scrabble, upwords and gemlock (board games). Lots of creativity goes into trying to beat dad/hubby, and heaps of discussion + thinking and planning ahead.

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    • Fiona T
      Apr 21, 2013 @ 14:29:20

      Mastermind is one I had forgotten about. There is a lego game ‘pirate code’ which is similar and a little easier for younger kids to figure out. Good luck beating Dad next time!

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