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Here’s some good news: Despite having less time for free play (thanks, jam-packed after-school schedules!), kids are actually becoming more imaginative when they do play, finds recent research from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Psychologists observed the unstructured play of school-age kids, who were given just two puppets and three blocks to entertain themselves. After comparing 14 studies, they found that kids today use more elements of fantasy during their playtime, like pretending that blocks are houses or that they’re on a rocket ship to the moon. Even with less playtime to spare than children in decades’ past, today’s kids still find plenty of ways to expand their imaginations—like being exposed to mind-growing information from books, good-quality TV, and the Internet, as well as storytelling and creative classroom activities, says study co-author Sandra Russ.

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