Creative play and imaginative arts experiences play a central role in pre-schoolers’ learning and development. You can encourage your child’s creativity with free-flowing creative activities and by getting involved in your child’s play. Here are some ideas:

Encouraging your pre-schooler’s creative play

Giving your pre-schooler time, materials and space to be creative is very important.

Pre-schoolers like to be spontaneous in their creative play, so it’s good to follow your child’s lead. But there’ll also be times when your child wants you to be more involved in guiding the play. By being actively involved, you can develop your child’s skills and understanding even more.

It’s important to send the message that there’s more than one way to do something. For example, there’s more than one way to draw a person, build a sandcastle or play a drum. This lets children know they don’t have to conform to anyone else’s ideas and they can go their own way.

Simple materials can stimulate your child’s imagination and encourage unstructured play. Books, CDs, drawing materials, sound makers, playdough and wooden blocks are all good examples.

And a wide range of materials can develop your child’s sense of touch. Yes, finger painting can be messy, but it’s a great activity for sensory development.

It’s important to encourage your child to keep going and finish artworks. But once your child says it’s finished, it’s finished!

And whatever artworks and forms your child comes up with, give your child lots of descriptive praise. For example  ‘I love the picture you drew. You really know how to put colours together’. This boosts self-esteem and encourages your child to keep going with the creative play.

Creative activities: visual art and construction

You don’t always need to give your child new play materials. Using everyday objects, and making it up as you go along, is a great way to encourage creative development.

  • Use an empty cardboard box to make a house, a robot, a truck, an animal – whatever your child is keen on. You could cut up the box, glue things onto it or paint it.

  • Glue ribbons and strips of material onto paper or cardboard.

  • Old newspaper, glue and water are all you need for paper mâché, although your child will need help with this.

  • Use empty toilet rolls or small plastic juice bottles to make a family. Draw on faces, stick on paper clothes, and use cotton wool for hair. Your child could use these new toys to make up stories.

  • Make use of found and natural material. For example, collect fallen leaves for drawing, pasting onto paper or dipping into paint.

  • Use small plastic lids, cupcake liners and other ‘threadables’ to make jewellery.

  • Keep a ‘busy box’ with things like string and coloured paper, empty food containers and plastic cups.

Creative play idea: paint blob animals 

You need:

  • a plastic tablecloth or old newspapers

  • one large sheet of paper

  • paint

Cover your table or floor with the tablecloth or newspapers. Fold the sheet of paper in half then unfold it. Get your child to put blobs of paint on one half of the paper, then fold the other half of the paper over the paint while it’s wet and smooth the paper over the paint.

Unfold the paper carefully to reveal … a fantasy winged animal! Encourage your child to add details to the picture – for example, spots, antennae, legs, a hat, maybe even a wand!

Get your child to make up a name for the winged animal and then help your child write the name on the paper.

Create a home art gallery for your child’s artwork. A wall or pinboard is ideal for sticking up pictures and paintings. You could ask your child to choose one special painting each week to frame in the centre of the gallery. This shows that you value your preschooler’s creations.

Creative activities: drama

  • Instead of throwing out old clothes, start a dress-up box or bag for dramatic play. Thrift shops are also a great source of cheap and unusual clothes and props. Every now and then, you could surprise your child by putting a new thing into the bag.

  • Use dramatic play, song and movement to act out things from daily life. It could be doctors, mothers, fathers, shopkeepers, firefighters – whatever your child likes. You might be amazed by how your child sees the people and events in your life.

  • At story time, encourage your child to act out roles from a story with movements or sounds. For example, your child could pretend to be one of the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are. Using movement and role play to respond to the story helps your child develop communication skills and understand things in the real world.

Creative activities: music, movement and dance

  • Take a saucepan, a saucepan lid and a wooden spoon – your child has got a drum kit.

  • Nothing appeals to a preschooler like animals. Your child might enjoy moving like animals and making animal sounds.

  • Put on a favourite CD – yours or your child’s. Start dancing together, and see how many moves you can come up with. It’s not only fun – it’s good exercise too.

  • Encourage your child to march, stamp, hop, slide and twirl. Watching your child’s progress with jumping and dancing can tell you how your child’s body awareness and control are developing.

  • Help your child develop a sense of rhythm with songs, chants and rhymes like ‘Incy Wincy Spider’,  ‘Heads and Shoulders’, ‘Little Miss Muffet’ and ‘Jack and Jill’.

  • Include some fun or laughter to appeal to your preschooler’s sense of humour. Joke around, and take turns coming up with new, funny dances.

Creative play idea: let’s make music

You need some homemade and/or bought instruments. Homemade instruments can include saucepans, spoons, drums, bottles filled with rice, pasta or sugar or paper plates tambourines.

Lay the instruments on the floor and play them loudly (like an elephant), softly (like a cat), quickly (like a mouse), and slowly (like a tortoise). Encourage your child to copy the way you played the instruments.

Let your pre-schooler experiment with playing instruments loudly, softly, quickly and slowly. Make up stories to go with the sounds.

It’s good to include some ‘art appreciation’ in your child’s life. Whether it’s music, drama or pictures, you can encourage your child to talk about what she likes and which is her favourite part. Why not visit an art gallery or exhibition together and talk about what you see?

© raisingchildren.net.au, translated and adapted with permission

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