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Creative Play Ideas for Young Children

I live in the beautiful Norfolk countryside with my fiancé and 13-year-old daughter. I love all types of handmade craft.


What Is Creative Play?

Creative play incorporates a whole range of activities that uses 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 are 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.

Creative Play Examples

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 preschool children include tambourine, harmonica, maracas, toy guitars, keyboards, xylophone, drum, handbells, etc.
  • Roleplay: Kids love pretend play and love to dress up. Keep any old clothes and hats that you have and make them 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 stocked at some supermarkets as well as toy shops. 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! Roleplay 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, glueing, 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 keeping an old roll of wallpaper, unrolling a large piece of it outside and letting 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 also 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 glueing 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 anymore 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 floors, 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
  • ribbon
  • string
  • card (especially colored card)
  • tissue paper
  • cotton reels
  • cotton wool
  • empty plastic bottles
  • straws
  • 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.


heather on November 22, 2019:

fab fabby tastic

jacqui2011 (author) from Norfolk, UK on March 08, 2012:

@ molometer - Couldn't have said it better myself. It's so inexpensive and a lot more fun to be creative than shooting aliens til you're cross-eyed. Thankfully none of my kids are interested in console games (apart from fitness ones) and they prefer to bake or paint etc. Thanks for stopping by.

Micheal from United Kingdom on March 07, 2012:

Anything that encourages creativity is okay in my book.

Dump the computer zombie machines and let's get back to using the kids imaginations.

jacqui2011 (author) from Norfolk, UK on March 07, 2012:

@ teaches12345 - Hi, thank you for your comments and and the vote up. Children love to be creative, and in my experience the messier the better! It's nice to get them involved in making cards for special occasions e.g. birthdays, Easter and Christmas. They love to give little gifts and have them appreciated by the recipient. Thanks again for stopping by.

Dianna Mendez on March 06, 2012:

I love your busy box items and great advice on how to encourage creative play in children. It is always fun to invite them to express themselves with different tools such as crayons, musical instruments and baking. This is all wonderful and voted up.

jacqui2011 (author) from Norfolk, UK on March 06, 2012:

@ CASE1WORKER - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It's good to get back to basics and just enjoy spending time with children and doing something creative together. There seems to be too much emphasis on spending fortunes on console games and gadgets these days. (I'm beginning to sound like my mum!)

CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on March 06, 2012:

Excellent idea- I run a craft club for kids once a month and all the kids (and I include the bigger kids like mum and dad and the helpers) all enjoy making things and having good relationships with each other whilst they do it. Too much TV and IT in this world at times

jacqui2011 (author) from Norfolk, UK on March 06, 2012:

@ Robert Erich - Hi Robert and thanks so much for your lovely comments and encouragement. It seems such a waste to throw things away, that can be used for creative play. I agree with you that children spend too much time in front of tv and playing console games. It is so inexpensive to just sit down and make something with children. Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Robert Erich from California on March 06, 2012:

There are two things that I thought were awesome about this article (besides for great writing).

1) Kids spend way to much time in front of the TV and video games, I'm glad that you are writing to encourage other methods of entertainment.

2) Encouraging recycling. Good entertainment that also uses things we would otherwise throw out - great article all around! Keep writing.

jacqui2011 (author) from Norfolk, UK on March 06, 2012:

@ ytsenoh - Hi, thank you so much for your comment. I am glad that you liked the busy box. It's great when the weather is bad, and the kids are at a loose end, it really keeps them entertained for ages.

Cathy from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri on March 06, 2012:

jacqui2011, great advice for creative fun for and with children. It takes an imaginative mind to display types of creativy for children to enjoy. Like your "busy box" term and full of the recycled items--great idea. Thumbs up. Thank you.