There are plenty of ways we can help the children in our lives to grow holistically and process the world around them, and ensuring creativity is the centrepiece to their learning and development in the early years is a vital one. The benefits of creative play for children are endless, and the earlier we start with them, the more we’ll see them flourish. Learning through different sensations, having to solve puzzles and storytelling is not only exciting and stimulating for children, but it actually creates building blocks of behaviours and thought processes that they’ll need their whole life. Who knows what sparks will ignite in them from playtime, and inspire their future careers, passions and hobbies! We also want our little ones to learn to be able to express themselves, tell us how they feel and create something from nothing… and it all starts with creative play!
What are the types of creative play our children can engage in?
- Art and Crafts: Drawing, painting, sticking objects together
- Music: Playing instruments, pushing sound buttons, listening to music or even clapping and tapping along.
- Storytelling and Drama: Costumes, plays, writing and listening to stories, imaginative play, puppets, shadows, animating toys or soft animals.
- Dance and Physical Movement: Learning how to move with a rhythm, identify areas of their body, making physical sounds or shapes.
- Building things and construction toys: Lego, building blocks, toilet tubes, sandpits,
What are the main benefits of creative play for children?
- Learning to express themselves through more than words
- Learning to share and interact with others
- Advancing their motor skills, and how moving their body makes them feel
- Establishing neural pathways which help brain development
- Putting children of different academic abilities and backgrounds into a shared, inclusive environment where they are asked to play together
- Listening to instructions, watching examples and learning through doing
How Creative Play helps key Child Development areas, such as:
“Imagination supports learning and the acquisition of knowledge” which is the most important element to a child’s development within education, we want them to be curious and want to learn. Developing an active and creative imagination is the first stepping stone to thinking practically to problem-solve and “think outside of the box”. When children have a growth vs fixed mindset, they are able to take on more challenging and complex tasks even with a risk of failing, as they view it as positive learning. Integrating learning experiences with creative play helps them to form “brain architecture”, crucial neural pathways to remember information and process it.
For children, learning how to put words, thoughts or even colours to feelings so they are able to best tell us what’s going on with them. Combining a practical task with an expression of emotion helps them to connect the dots on how to describe or show what they need or feel. Sometimes the simple subtleties of a child painting themselves next to a rainbow and sunshine is a great indication of their mental wellbeing and how they view themselves. Understanding how our own child, or children in our care, respond emotionally to different types of play also illuminates more about how they learn. For example, if we can see that focusing energy on building things improves the emotional state of a child when they have been stroppy or difficult, but storytelling or drama makes them more loud and unruly, we know in future how to best support their emotional needs and calm them down.
It also helps them to regulate their own behaviour, learn to participate in group activities where emotions are being discussed or displayed and how to respond to that positively. Learning as a young child that drawing or music improves their mood (and other people’s) can spread across a lifetime, and turn into a vital hobby which they need to help with stress as a teenager and adult. As parents/carers, we can show them through play that it’s important to learn from mistakes, to try again and to believe in themselves” which as we all know, it’s something that all adults even find easy.
Creative play is brilliant for children to be able to take part in alone, but when it’s done in a small group or class wide activity it’s more mentally stimulating to share the fun experience (alongside sharing toys/objects). Building the important social skills they need for life, creative play actively gets children to engage with each other, parents and caregivers. When tasks require them to express emotions or thoughts about the activity around them, it helps us to know what they enjoy most and what they struggle with. It’s so important that questions and discussions by caregivers are part of creative play, advancing the social element of the task by encouraging the child to talk about how they feel and think.
Playing music, painting and dancing are also perfect opportunities for children who have disabilities, learning difficulties, emotional or behavioural needs to integrate socially with other children outside of a traditional ‘academic’ set up in a classroom. Showing children that all children can participate in play is a very important lesson, and helps develop empathy and emotional intelligence.
Understanding how to use hands, move feet and express body movement is a joy for children just at home, but even better when they can learn through a variety of different stimuli with other children. Creative play enhances opportunities for a child to develop motor skills, hand eye coordination, balance and personal space. We can observe how they are able to adapt physically when asked to make noise or be quiet, respect personal space, observe their movement helps us to understand what they find easy or challenging. For example, “Moulding and manipulating material like playdough allows children to challenge themselves by making new shapes and textures, building fine motor skills’, alongside making puzzles, Lego or craft work.
Also, creating opportunities for a child to develop a healthy perspective and experience of their body, and respect for other peoples, is so important. Climbing, running, dancing will show them ways to stay fit and healthy from the earliest age, whilst stimulating them cognitively for further learning.
5 Top Tips for leading Creative Play!
- Let the children lead the play, their imaginations and perspectives of the world are untainted by our adult views as Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk touches on, who knows what they’ll dream up.
- Make sure that as a childcare centre, child carer or parent, that you source and purchase toys which will feed creativity and encourage imaginative play. Help them to be as imaginative and use their own thoughts and designs as much as possible, accompanied with plenty of encouragement.
- Ensure that all children have equal opportunities and access to the creative play activities, physically in the room and also socially.
- Mixing up what type of problem solving activities you give the children, variety will only develop their versatility and adaptability further.
- Provide opportunities for children to use objects, colours, sounds and textures that they can assign to emotions, therefore giving them more ways to express what they maybe can’t verbalise yet.
Finding quality child care near you that supports your little one’s creative tendencies and fosters their development is so important. Whichever method, or way you decide to engage your child in creative play, you’ll see their development and wellbeing benefit.