Creative Play Ideas for Young Children
What is Creative Play?
Creative play incorporates a whole range of activities, which use the imagination of the child. This can be anything from dancing to drawing, building with blocks, or dressing up. Children are naturally curious and like to explore and experiment. Creative play should be fun and stimulating, and develop the child's knowledge and senses as they learn new skills and challenges. Many preschool children will have set activities as part of their development at nursery, playgroup or kindergarten, but there is lots we can do at home with children to give them the opportunity to be creative.
Set aside time for your child as some activities will require close supervision. Always praise and encourage your child when they engage in an activity and give them compliments when they have created their masterpiece. I always had a notice board where my children displayed their works of art; this gives them a sense of achievement and instills confidence and self esteem.
Types of Creative Play
These are just some activities that can be carried out at home with children and is inexpensive:
- Singing and Dancing: Most children love to perform, from nursery rhymes and songs to current pop hits. Putting on a music cd and dancing with your child is a great way to spend some quality time with your child as well as being a fun session for them.
- Musical instruments: Let them make their own music. A wooden spoon and an old pot can be just as much fun as a shop bought children's instrument. My daughter loved her xylophone as a young child along with her toy trumpet. You could let your son/daughter have a go at making their own rainmaker with you. Some instruments that are ideal for pre school children are: tambourine, harmonica, maracas, toy guitars, keyboards, xylophone, drum, hand bells etc.
- Role play: Kids love pretend play and love to dress up. Keep any old clothes and hats that you have and make them up their very own dress-up box. If you're handy with a sewing machine, make them some costumes; alternatively buy a few outfits - they are inexpensive and some supermarkets as well as toy shops stock them. Play at shops and put some tinned and boxed goods on a table and take turns at being the buyer and the shopkeeper. My daughter loved playing doctors and often bandaged me up like a mummy! Role play is an excellent way to let the child's imagination take over and there are so many possibilities.
- Reading: Picture books are a great way of communicating with your child. Let them read the book to you which is a good way to develop language, communication skills and learn new vocabulary.
- Craft activities: painting, drawing, gluing, coloring in, playdoh, stamping, chalking, modelling clay, stencils - the list is endless. If the activity is taking place indoors, be sure to protect your furniture and floors! An activity that I love to do with the children is keep an old roll of wallpaper, unroll a large piece of it outside and let them do some hand and footprints using washable paint; it's quite messy, lots of fun but they will need a bath afterwards!
- Baking: Kids love to help out in the kitchen. Some simple baking with them will help fire their imagination. They can help to weigh out the food, mix the ingredients and ice/decorate the cakes or biscuits.
- Gardening: Children love being out in the fresh air and like the independence of carrying out simple tasks at this age. Allow them to help you by weeding, raking leaves, watering plants, tidying up and planting. They like to be independent and would love a little patch of the garden to call their own, or even a grow bag that they can put some plants in and take care of. Choose a few plants that are quick to grow as children become bored easily and lose interest quickly. Sunflowers are a good choice of plant for outdoors, and cress is great for growing indoors, with quick results. Gardening not only provides the child with physical exercise, but teaches them about the environment too. Kids gardening sets are available to buy at most toy stores and children love helping out with their very own equipment.
- Cutting and pasting: A pair of safety scissors, some old magazines or catalogs and your child will be happy for hours. They will enjoy cutting out pictures and gluing them onto card or paper. This is a great activity for developing their fine motor skills.
- Building blocks: They can create anything from a house to a magic castle. This is particularly good if you want to introduce counting and/or colors. It encourages communication, physical play and fine motor skills.
- Mini-Me: Children like to mimic their parents and help with simple chores. You can encourage this by making it a game. Once they get older, they realize that this is not a game any more and are less likely to want to help. Some simple tasks around the house that they could help out with are: folding laundry, dusting, washing dishes, tidying up, mopping floor, helping to put groceries away, or pairing socks.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
There are many items around our homes that would normally be thrown out or put in the recycle bin. Take advantage of these items and put them aside for creative play with your little ones. Some of the most useful items are:
- old newspapers/magazines
- empty cardboard boxes
- empty kitchen rolls
- plastic jars and containers
- yoghurt pots
- card (especially colored card)
- tissue paper
- cotton reels
- cotton wool
- empty plastic bottles
- old clean socks
- fabric remnants
Keep these items and make a "busy box" to store them in. Each time that you want to have a craft session, bring out the box. Encourage your child to put items into the busy box and that way they will see what has been collected and look forward to their next play session.