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Fantasy Play Improves Children's Creativity

Fantasy Play Improves Children’s Creativity

A new study suggests engaging in fantasy play could benefit creative thinking in children.

Researchers used a novel method to assess the influence of fantasy play among children as the topic has drawn substantial interest in recent years.

The findings were presented at the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section annual conference.

Lead researcher Dr Louise Bunce of Oxford Brookes University said, “A growing body of research is investigating the influence of children engaging in fantasy on their development. We wanted to test whether children who engage in fantasy play are more creative.

This is because, theoretically, playing in make-believe worlds requires imagination to conceive of the world differently to its current reality, which is also necessary to think creatively.”

Dr Bunce and her team interviewed 70 children aged four to eight years old to assess the extent to which their fantasy play involved:

  • pretending in a way that mirrored real-life (e.g. having a tea party or pretending to be a teacher)
  • pretending in a way that involved events that were improbable in reality (e.g. fighting a lion and being unharmed or going to school in a helicopter) or
  • pretending in a way that involved impossible events (e.g. going to wizarding school or playing with an elf).

The children also completed three creativity tasks.

In the first task children had to think of as many things as possible that were red, in the second task they had to demonstrate as many ways as possible of moving across the room from A-B, then the third task asked them to draw a real and pretend person.

In the first two tasks children received points for the number of responses they gave and how unique those responses were. Their drawings were rated for their level of creativity according to two judges. 

As the researchers expected, analysis revealed that children who reported higher levels of fantastical play also received higher creativity scores across all three tasks, although the findings were stronger on the first two tasks than on the drawing task.

Dr  Bunce said, “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.”

“None the less, 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.”

Source: The British Psychological Association

Fantasy Play Improves Children’s Creativity

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Fantasy Play Improves Children’s Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 16 Sep 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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