Importance Of Play In Developing Creativity In Three Years Olds

What is the importance of play at three years old?

Play is a very important growth and developmental milestone throughout childhood. This is especially true at age three, when fantasy or pretend play capitalizes on the child’s imagination.

There are other characteristics of play which will be explored in this article. We will also share ways in which parents and caregivers can help the child to develop through play at this important time of life.

This article explores the importance of play in child development.It focuses on three-year-olds and how parents can develop creativity through play.

What are six important milestones of play in a three-year-old child?

Three-year-old play is marked by several milestones:

1. It is very social in nature and the child pays attention to relationships with his or her peers.

2. The child replaces parallel play with group play and shows interest in friendships.

3. The child is now able to share because he or she better understands the meaning of ‘mine’ and ‘his/hers.’

4. Three-year-old children engage in imaginative play. They play “pretend” games. Some of these games may include imaginary friends and toys.

The child might pretend to have a tea party with toys. They could also play roles such as being a doctor, policeman, or parent.

5. ​Play activities are engaging and include circle time, singing and dancing games, and art.

6. Play helps the three-year-old child to express emotions like excitement, anger, joy, or fear.

Fantasy or pretend play develops creative thinking in children

We are often amused as we observe and participate in three year old play. Their imaginations have no limit and fantasy or pretend is the order of the day.

One research study found, however, that fantasy or pretend play is helpful in the development of creativity. Children scored higher on creativity when they engaged in higher levels of fantasy play (British Psychological Society, 2016).

How the study was conducted

The researchers studied seventy children aged 4-8 years. The aim of the study was to assess the extent to which their fantasy play involved:

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– play involving pretend in a manner that mirrored real-life. Examples included having a tea party or pretending to be a teacher.

– play involving pretend in a manner way that involved events that were improbable in reality. Examples included fighting with a lion and being unharmed or going to school in a helicopter.

* play involving pretending impossible events. Examples included playing with an elf.

The children also completed three creativity tasks:

1. They had to think of many things that were red.

2. They had to demonstrate as many ways as possible of moving across the room from point A to point B.

3. They had to draw a real person and a pretend person.

The children were scored in the first two tasks children received points for the number and uniqueness of their responses. The researchers rated the drawings for their level of creativity.

Results of the study

Study results showed that children with higher levels of fantasy or pretend play scored higher on creativity in the three tasks. Creativity scores were stronger on the first two tasks than on the drawing task.

According to Dr. Bunce, researcher:

“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.

It is possible that children who enjoy fantasy play are subsequently more creative, and it’s equally possible that children who are more creative subsequently engage in more fantasy play.

“Nonetheless, these 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.”

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct” – Carl Jung.

Examples of play-based activities for a three year old child

We’ve seen that play is very important for development. We’ve therefore provided a list that contains examples of play activities for three-year-olds.

Parents and caregivers should not be restricted as children invent their own games. Your own toys and tools can be used. It is also important to play games that the child invents.

Examples include:

Playing outdoors.
Playing in a box.
Playing Eye Spy.
Pretending to cook.
Playing Simon Says.
Eating lunch outdoors.
Playing with stickers
Playing with puzzles.
Reading through catalogs.
Painting with watercolors.
Looking at family photos together.
Making playdough with dry spaghetti, flour.
Doodling with markers on cardboard or paper.
Building things – a fort, house, sandcastles.
Playing doctor and other roles with dolls, stuffed toys.
Reading with the child – place books on a table for easy and quick access.
Taking a walk to hunt for colors or anything that you want the child to learn about.

Importance of playing with your child

Parents and caregivers should play with children in order to facilitate their growth and development. Here are things that can be done to that effect:

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1. Provide a lot of playtime for the three-year-old child.

2. Allow the child to engage in play like playing in sand or mud; pretend to play with puppets or other toys.

3. Allow for outdoor play and allow the child to run, roll and tumble.

4. Provide time for the child to become creative and artistic. Play activity examples include dress up games, painting, and drawing

5. Provide for musical play as it allows the child to is dance, jump around or make music with simple instruments.

4. Read and sing with your three-year-old child to encourage the development of speech, thinking, and imagination. Examples include reading together, telling stories, singing songs, and reciting nursery rhymes all.

5. Engage the child in cooking activities to develop an interest in healthy food. It also helps the child to learn new words and understand maths concepts like ‘half’, ‘1 teaspoon’ or ‘30 minutes’.

6. Play games that teach the child to practice sharing and taking turns. When you play, say things like:

“it’s my turn to build the tower, then it’s your turn.’
‘share the red blocks with me, and I’ll share the green blocks with you.


Ann and Robert H. Laurie’s Children’s Hospital of Chicago. (2021). Play developmental milestones. Retrieved from

British Psychological Society (BPS). (2016, September 15). Engaging in fantasy play could benefit creative thinking in children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 27, 2021 from

No Time For Flash Cards. (2013). 75 everyday play activities for three-year-olds. Retrieved from

Raising Children. (2020). 3- 4 yeas: preschool development. Retrieved from

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