Touch is primal, and there is inherent joy in playing with objects, physical or digital: this is a deep-rooted, innate play pattern. Manipulating, experimenting with, collecting, sorting, organizing, and making things with objects comes naturally to our species, and kids invent this kind of play with whatever is at hand. For older babies and toddlers, banging on pots and pans with a wooden spoon is one way they learn about the physical world around them. As children develop, playing with objects becomes more personalized because toys are often imbued with human qualities and become the vehicles for imaginative Storytelling Play and Fantasy Play. Different objects lead to different explorations, connections, and expressions. Play with toy cars is going to offer different opportunities for exploration than a coloring book or action figures and dolls.One form of Object Play is collecting, sorting, and categorizing objects. Games naturally arise out of manipulating sets of objects. Object Play can take the form of creative Expressive or Maker-Builder-Creator Play, where something new is made from the pieces available. It can also consist of Sorting Play, which can be about finding relationships between the objects just for the joy of it. Look at the popularity of games like Te t r i s (fitting shapes together), Bejeweled ( finding three in a row), Solitaire (finding a sequence of numbers), or word games like Wurtland Words with Friends (finding words in a jumble of letters). They’re all based on the challenge of finding and organizing objects into patterns, often with the added motivator of a time limit.Subsets of Object Play, Collecting Play and Classification Play, involve the assembling, sorting, organizing, classifying, and displaying of objects. Children love playing on playground equipment - didn't you when you were younger?
Younger kids seem to be collectors because they like accumulating lots of stuff, but at around seven or eight years of age, collecting becomes more earnest, and kids become more discriminating accumulators. They become very focused on discerning all the various and different properties of their collection pieces (and they are happy to tell you all about them if you ask). Baseball cards were popular collectibles for decades, but these days Pokémon cards speak to this same desire to collect along with the added bonus of being usable in game play as well. While collecting and organizing are more intellectual than physical, the physical manipulation of objects has an important impact on the development of the brain. As children’s skills in manipulating objects (through play) develop, the related circuitry of the brain becomes richer in ways that go beyond motor skills. Neural connections used regularly become stronger and more complex. Dr. Stuart Brown (founder of the National Institute for Play, a nonprofit dedicated to the science of play) and renowned neurologist Dr. Frank Wilson has noted this relationship in their research, and it is a crucial connection to keep in mind when designing games for children: involving the body and motor skills means developing the mind. One way this idea of kin esthetic learning is being used successfully in the classroom is with Body Phonics, a way of teaching spelling with hand gestures and other motions. Calling a category “creative play” is somewhat redundant because all play is creative in its own way, but in Creative Play, something new is being made during the process of playing (the exploitative and expressive process being the important part). Creative Play happens spontaneously and effortlessly wherever and whenever kids are given the opportunity. Examples include arranging shells on a freshly built sandcastle, painting digitally or building any-thing in Minecraft. Any outdoor area would be made more child friendly with monkey bars such as these.
But creativity happens best in an environment without pressure to be creative. High incentives, deadlines, evaluations, and other pressure to perform well all interfere with creativity. What’s im-ortant is to let kids focus on what is being created, and to create for its own sake.Creativity is an outcome of curiosity and playful exploration. Creative Play opens the door for improvisation, serendipity, and innovation by recombining elements of the known in new ways. It allows the mixing together of different ideas, fields of knowledge, points of view, techniques, and technologies into new, imaginative expressions. Because kids love this kind of play, designers should include opportunities for creative exploration and play in every program and game they design.In learning, it is more powerful to make a playful and engaged connection to content than to have it presented as a predigested fact or equation. One method is inviting and stimulating; the other is just memorization without personal ownership.Play, by definition, is self-controlled and self-directed. With exercise being so important nowadays, products such as outdoor fitness equipment would be a welcome find in any Christmas stocking, providing you could fit them in!