Fantasy play may boost creativity in children: study

London: Parents, take note! Engaging in fantasy play could boost creative thinking in your children, a new study suggests.

“We wanted to test whether children who engage in fantasy play are more creative,” said lead researcher Dr Louise Bunce of Oxford Brookes University in the UK.

“This is because, theoretically, playing in make-believe worlds requires imagination to conceive of the world differently to its current reality, which is also necessary to think creatively,” said Bunce.

Bunce and her team interviewed 70 children aged four to eight years old to assess the extent to which their fantas
play involved pretending in a way that mirrored real-life, pretending in a way that involved events that were improbable in reality or pretending in a way that involved impossible events.

The children also completed three creativity tasks. In the first task, children had to think of as many things as possible that were red, in the second task they had to demonstrate as many ways as possible of moving across the room from A-B, then the third task asked them to draw a real and pretend person.

In the first two tasks children received points for the number of responses they gave and how unique those responses were. Their drawings were rated for their level of creativity according to two judges.

As the researchers expected, analysis showed that children who reported higher levels of fantastical play also received higher creativity scores across all three tasks, although the findings were stronger on the first two tasks than on the drawing task.

“The results provide evidence that engaging in play that involves imagining increasingly unrealistic scenarios is associated with thinking more creatively, although at the moment we don’t know the direction of this relationship,” Bunce said.

“It is possible that children who enjoy fantasy play are subsequently more creative, and it is equally possible that children who are more creative subsequently engage in more fantasy play,” she said.

The results provide encouraging evidence for parents and teachers who could consider encouraging children to engage in fantasy play as one way to develop their creative thinking skills, researchers said. The study was presented at the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section annual conference in Belfast, Ireland.