The study videotaped small play groups of kids between the ages of 3 and 6, to determine how toys influenced the way they used their imagination. Specifically, the researchers were looking to see which toys led kids to play within established rules, and which toys fostered novel ideas — what they called “transgressive acts of imagination.” What they found was that building toys like LEGOs, blocks, and train tracks resulted in basic rules being established that everyone had to follow, while fantasy toys like costumes, fairy wings, and teddy bears opened up totally unexpected world-building creativity. For example, in one group playing with blocks, a kid determined that no blue bricks could be used. There was a brief disagreement, but the kid prevailed and that was that. In another group playing with costumes, the big sister fairy went to a disco in a clock tower while her brother remained at home on a mobile phone, ready to assist her if she crashed into a crocodile pit.
Which kids do you think will grow up to build the next Google?
You could roll you eyes at this and point out that everything’s different in Denmark when it comes to families, but you won’t because you’re trying to raise kids who zig where others zag. So, stock up on some wigs and fairy wings, head to the park, and ask your kid to show you how to avoid the crocodile pit.