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Childhood: Creativity, Imagination, and Unstructured Time

Unstructured time is key to developing creativity and imagination in children.

Click to read also: Children Need Free Time

four-year-old drawings: people

Why Children Need Unstructured Time

As parents, we want the best for our children. Often, this means finding enriching activities for them. But giving them unstructured time may be the best gift we can offer! Here’s an example of why free time is so important for children.

Yesterday Johnny (4) and Lily (2) spent an unprecedented three hours creating an imaginary world while Emma was in Kindergarten – with paper, tape, and pens. Here are two of Johnny’s people – I think they are him and his dad (Mike).

The power of imagination: construction paper house

This is Johnny’s construction paper house. I love that he cut the people out of their own homes…

four-year-old drawings, including Tow Mater and Angry Birds

A few accessories for his house. Can you spot Tow Mater (two different angles) and two angry birds? Johnny is a marketer’s dream. Show him a product with a character, and he loves the product – regardless of whether or not he knows ANYTHING about the character.

Click to read also: Art and Craft Supplies for Kids

two-year-old people and house from construction paper

Lily made some guys and a house as well. I am fascinated by how Lily’s drawings range from typical two-year-old (below) to her sophisticated bear and tree. It reminds me of the way Emma’s handwriting ranges from looking as nice as mine to barely legible (usually reserved for homework).

abstract two-year-old drawings

Johnny did some more abstract work, as well:

cutting and drawing - creativity at work

It’s amazing what kids can do, given the space, interest, and resources!

How do you see unstructured time developing creativity and imagination for your children?

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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

16 thoughts on “Childhood: Creativity, Imagination, and Unstructured Time”

  1. Sometimes it surprises me when I see my kids’ work. Their creativity should be developed by letting them feel that we are there to support them.

  2. jeannine: waddlee-ah-chaa

    I’m always surprised how alike our homes appear to be! This definitely looks like something that often happens in our home. Miss Enigma is big into drawing and cutting out characters (often animals). I love the way your kids had free time to explore their own creativity!

  3. Those free times are SO precious. My daughter prefers to spend all her free time reading despite our encouragement to do something more “artsy”, but it’s just who she is and who she is not.

  4. Elisa | blissfulE

    So great to see their unique creations. What a wonderful, peaceful way to spend time together!

  5. 18 months… 18 months – I’m just going to keep repeating that to myself when I see your posts. These are incredible and I can’t wait until J and T will do something like this together – I know it will happen it’s just a case of when

    1. It will be a magical moment when it happens, Cerys – I felt like my life was transformed when Johnny and Emma started playing like this! :)

  6. I love all the details. Very sweet and can’t believe they stayed with it for so long.

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