Guide to Preschool Creative Play
Benefits of Creative Play in Early Childhood
If you were asked to guess how old most people are when they hit their creative peak, how old would you predict? Believe it or not, most people hit their creative peak before they are even six years old! As a young child, everything is new and ready to be explored and kids take their own means to discover it. However, as a child crosses into that preschool age, their creative development is stunted because they begin to learn ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to do things. Being taught how to do things discourages children from exploring their own approaches to problem solving, which in turn, also drains creativity from other aspects of their life.
Nurturing creative play in your preschooler will not only help your child better overcome any obstacle that comes their way, but it will also foster an innovative mind. There is no doubt that promoting creative play in your household will benefit your kiddos, but what are the best ways to encourage creative play in children? Stick with us to find out!
What is Creative Play?
To learn the best ways to encourage creative in your children, you must first understand what creative play is… Creative play is such an abstract concept, where to even begin? Creativity is defined as “The use of imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of artistic work”. Although creative play is most commonly thought of in an artistic sense, its meaning goes far beyond that; creative play allows children to approach problems in a new way, invent original games, and express themselves in unique ways.
How to Explain Creative Play to Your Child
That makes sense to us, but how would you explain creative play to a child? To put it simply, you can tell them that it is the ability to come up with completely new ideas or thoughts on their own. When you are explaining, it is important to stress that creative play can come in many shapes and forms; where some kids excel in art and music, others might shine with problem solving or construction. Too often kids write themselves off as un-creative at a young age and limit themselves by believing their self-diagnosis. If they define themselves this way early on, they have a hard time going out of their way to prove otherwise.
In addition to explaining the versatility in creative play, it is beneficial to highlight the strengths that comes with creativity. Having the ability to come up with new ideas is extremely powerful, and when they recognize the strength that comes with it, they will want to nurture creativity on their own as well.
When does creative play start?
Although it may seem like some individuals are naturally born with more creative abilities than others, we actually all started with the same creative capacity! Growing that creative capacity starts shortly after children are born. In their early years, they develop their creativity best through being nurtured, sung to, and played with. Babies have extremely perceptive senses so during playtime, try stimulating more than one of their senses at a time to kindle their creative play!
As they get older, having a personal connection with a caregiver is extremely important because they begin to learn the world through them. On the other hand, allowing them to entertain themselves is equally important. These first personal play moments of shaking a rattle or kicking their feet while laying on the ground are the first sparks of their creative play. Having a good balance between personal play and interactive play will lead to the best development in their very first years.
In the preschool years, creative play can also look like making up their own games or play either alone or with friends. I remember making up games with my cousins or friends every time we played together! Making up games and pretend play are great ways to engage in creative play.
Activities to promote creative play at home
Now that you have a complete understanding of what creative play is and why it is important, we have listed some fun activities that are sure to exercise your little ones’ imagination. Here are five simple ideas to get you started!
- Put on a puppet show. A puppet show is the perfect way to nurture all aspects of your kid’s creative play. Not only can they help develop their artistic creativity by constructing unique characters from scratch, but once they are done, they will also be able to plan and perform an endless amount of shows. Performing the shows will encourage them to imagine original storylines, promote dialogue, and self-expression. Once you have the puppets made, the possibilities of what happens with them after are infinite! So what are you waiting for, learn How to Make a Simple Paper Puppet and get your private theatre going!
- Introduce music into their lives. Whether it be by learning an instrument or allowing them to dance, music is a fantastic creative outlet. Both playing and dancing allows them to interpret the world around them, and express it through their own song or movements. Either way, it will help your child burn off some energy and can lead to a long term passion for the arts. It is a win-win: exercising their body and their mind!
- Cook with your little ones. Start out with something easy; too many complicated steps can be a bit overwhelming for both you and your child, and may discourage your little one’s creativity. A plain, base meal is perfect for the child to help with- say, something like pancakes? With the base recipe complete, you can give them the option to make additions to the batter or add toppings. Aside from preparing a fun, creative activity, you will also be teaching your child life skills at the same time! So, they might come up with some crazy silly combinations, but who knows, you might find your next secret family recipe!
- Bring out toys. In this case, less is more when it comes to fostering creative play. Their play toy should be a blank canvas, allowing for plenty of imagination during play time. It is important to make sure that the child is directing the play, not the toy. By this, we mean that their toy doesn’t have a single, identified and driving purpose- rather, it has many uses. A great example of a toy that exemplifies this potential for creative play is the Wooden Activity Cube. With this cube and other toys like it, the possibilities for play are endless!
- Create a new card game. This can be done with any deck of cards, whether it be a fun ‘Old Maids’ deck or a traditional deck with 52 cards! Simply bring out the deck and ask the child to create/explain a new game. Their ideas might not always work, but it is crucial to play out their games so they can experience that trial and error. Have fun with the process and create your own favorite game!
- Use toys in a new way. Even toys that seem to only have one way to play with can be used to encourage creative play. Does your child love puzzles? Maybe your preschool has built a road, drive the pieces from the vehicle puzzle and make your own noises for what they sound like! Our 6 puzzle set comes with animal, letter, number, vegetable, vehicle and shape puzzles making them easy to use in new ways!
Tips for parents on how to encourage preschool creative play at home
We want to help you get the most out of these activities and promote preschool creative play throughout all areas of your child’s life. As a parent, when you are doing these activities there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
First and foremost, you will want to make sure that your child has a designated area that will foster creative play. It should be clean, easily accessible (both visually and physically), and organized. This will not only allow the child to access the space whenever they are feeling creative, but having it so clearly organized will help the child avoid feeling overwhelmed by options or clutter. Establishing this space will encourage your child to access their full creative potential.
Next, you are going to want to engage in play with your child, but make sure to let them take the lead! Directing their play can hinder creative play and condition them to always need guidance in their life. By letting them lead, your child is able to explore wherever their imagination takes them, no matter how crazy or silly it gets! This might not always be easy, but learning How to Become More Playful as an Adult can make it easier!
Lastly, try to find little things in your daily life that can boost their creative play. It can be as simple as asking them for their input on what to get while grocery shopping, or having them create an alternate ending to a classic tale. Small daily exercises like this can keep your child’s creativity sharp as ever. After all, you have to use it or lose it! Following these few tips should maximize the creativity flowing through your household.
Creative play can be found and fostered in the simplest of places, but it is up to you to encourage your kids to nurture that part of themselves. The best way is to lead by example and practice your own creative play! At the end of the day, when you implement these ways to encourage creative play in children, you are aiding in your child’s mental and emotional development while setting them up for future success. Who wouldn’t want that?
Related: Ways to Encourage Pretend Play
Tips for Parents on How to Encourage Creativity at Home