Opportunities for the next generation of sports stars, business leaders and innovators are dwindling as a result of a lack of imaginative playtime, experts have claimed.
Futurist Mark Stevenson has predicted children might find themselves unable to develop certain aspects of innovative thinking and creativity because of an absence of ‘free play’, which he identifies as unscheduled playtime.
He predicts the next generation will be deprived of radical innovators as scheduled and structured playtime doesn’t allow little ones to unleash their creativity and full potential.
Mark spoke after a study of 2,000 parents, by Petits Filous, found one in five kids’ schedules are brimming with activities and clubs, leaving little time for imaginative play.
The research also revealed eight in 10 parents recognise the benefits of imaginative play.
Six in 10 said ‘free play’ inspires creativity, with a quarter agreeing it improves focus, and more than a third saying it improved children’s cognitive ability.
This is about reclaiming one of the bedrocks of creativity and innovation – free play.
From our neurological development through to our ability to handle complexity and change, play is a foundation that, if taken away, severely limits our abilities and potential.
We need a generation of radical innovators and we won’t get them if we curtail their creativity from childhood.
Reclaiming play, therefore, is one of the most crucial steps we can take in re-imagining ourselves for the future.
Despite nearly a fifth of children preferring to sit down with a tablet over playing freely, the study also found modern children are still content to use everyday household objects as toys.
Millions of youngsters still find pleasure in playing with packaging, pipe cleaners and empty, clean yoghurt pots.
In fact, parents reported nearly half of children would say the humble cardboard box is their favourite playtime object from around the house.
To help give children more opportunity for free play, Petits Filous has partnered with Amazon Pantry to turn 200,000 boxes into a chance to make believe this summer, which you can read more about here.
The collaboration aims to inspire UK parents and caregivers to pause before recycling what could be a crucial aid to their children’s imaginative play and development; the humble cardboard box.
Children (like most of us) learn best within a social context.
A couple of kids creating a rocket out of a cardboard box is far healthier developmentally than any ‘learning game’ on a tablet.
Mark Brown, UK&I Marketing Director for General Mills & Yoplait, said:
At Petits Filous we believe a little less structure and a lot more play is crucial for helping kids learn more about the world, and themselves.
The benefits of imaginative play see 88 per cent of mums and dads joining in when their child extends an invitation.
These requests are often to be part of a game, to play a character in a fantastical, imaginary world or to build something.
One quarter of lucky parents also find themselves being transformed into their child’s noble steed or some other mode of transport during playtime.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.