Do you find it hard to be creative when playing with children? Let go of your inhibitions and step into the world of a four year old. Read our article on creativity, which includes a ‘Top 10 tips for stimulating imagination’.

Brits feel they are losing their imagination as they become older (65%) according to research from toy brand Chad Valley*, with a third citing ‘pressures of life’ as the main reason they lack a creative spark.

Apparently, four is the magic number, as this is the age when we truly discover the delights of imagination. Aged four, we love to create different scenarios with toys (60%), pretend to be an entire range of characters (55%), and invent games with toys that don’t have ‘real world’ boundaries (56%) – who says a teapot and a cat can’t get married?

Toys that fuel this imagination are much loved by children and parents throughout the UK, with four to seven year olds favouring drawing and art sets (63%), getting muddy with footballs and bikes (56%) and travelling to imaginary worlds with cars, trains and planes (45%).

‘Play Expert’ Dr Richard Woolfson, commented: “With a strong sense of imagination but lack of knowledge about the boundaries of the world, it’s easy for a four year old to imagine a dinosaur can sail on a boat across the kitchen to reach the safety of his best friend, a toy train.”

Parents love watching children use their imagination to create and invent (70%) but one in 10 believe they could boost this confidence by losing their inhibitions and playing with children more. It’s important to remember that imagination doesn’t just stop as we get older, as the benefits are also evident in other aspects of life, such as solving difficult problems in the workplace. Despite our love of children’s imaginations, 30% of mothers feel self-conscious when role playing in the games their children invent and ‘dressing up’ in fancy dress with their kids and a quarter of fathers don’t feel confident enough to draw a picture with their children.

Children’s illustrator and author Alex T Smith is working with Chad Valley to help the UK discover their imagination, and has created a set of tips to help awaken the sense of playfulness we love.

Alex T Smith said: “Living an imaginative life doesn’t mean retreating to a fantasy world, it means having more fun in the real world. It’s no surprise that people feel they need help boosting their imagination and with our lives busier than ever, creativity and imagination can, understandably, take a back seat. As someone who spends every day getting into the mind frame of a child, I know how important it is to find your sense of playfulness. Even a simple act of childish mischievousness such as playing on a swing when no one’s watching, or giving an inanimate object a name can help you find creative inspiration in all walks of life.”

Alex T Smith’s tips for stimulating your imagination

1) Doodle on everyday items to create something more imaginative
2) Make a record of each day using different objects
3) Collaborate and bounce off children’s imaginations
4) Take your imagination for a walk and think ‘What If….’
5) Eavesdrop on people’s conversations and piece together their story
6) Become a detective and create stories with your surroundings
7) Relax – don’t worry about the right answer when thinking creatively.
8) Break up normal routine by changing simple actions – play on the swings or walk through a puddle!
9) Draw the first thing that comes into your head
10) Forget logic – it’s boring!

*Chad Valley produces toys exclusively for Argos.