Recently, The Maker’s Clubhouse hosted an informational table at the Pittsburgh Public School District-Wide Back-to-School event. A small water play station was used to make the table an interactive creative play opportunity for students. Creative play involves the use of toys and supplies without instructions or demonstrations and gives children an opportunity to use their creativity to build, test or learn something new.
Many of our young visitors spent their time predicting and testing the buoyancy of random items and toys. Others were more attracted to our water-powered boat made of recycled materials. A third grade boy hesitantly asked if the station was only for girls after observing a huddle of six girls at the station. I assured him that all boys are welcomed and he eagerly began his play session with our water-powered boat. Repeatedly, he filled the water reservoir and watched the water level fall as the water flowed from the attached straw. He began to play a race-the-clock type game by filling the reservoir as fast as he could before it emptied.
Unknowingly, the young boy learned a water-physics phenomenon by transforming the water boat into a water fountain. He noticed that the water only flowed out of the raised straw once the water level was as high as the height of the straw. This is a brilliant example of young children’s ability to learn through creative play. After only ten minutes of play, the boy had covered all steps of the Scientific Method and made a key observation around water physics.
The benefits of creative play are plentiful. It assists in the development of problem solving and critical thinking skills. For example, many of our table visitors discovered not all small objects float as they suspected. Creative play also strengthens math skills such as measurement and simple addition and subtraction. Creativity, social and physical skills can also be improved through creative play. Children are able to feel comfortable and thrive in an unstructured environment. They learn not to rely on instructions and demonstrations and instead discover the instructions. They face failure more optimistically and continue to learn by trial and error. Our water play station visitors are well on their way to becoming creative critical thinkers. Imagine if they had the opportunity to be engaged in creative play on a weekly basis. Each play session would result in a different learning experience, providing weekly skill building in critical areas. Contribute to a child’s successful future, let them play.