Five tips for encouraging creative play

All kids love to play. From outdoor adventures to indoor dress-up fun, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to express themselves. Giving, which is especially important before they’re able to tell you what they’re feeling verbally. Creative play is great for this and helps children develop confidence and independence in their abilities and become more fearless and resilient.

Ideas for creative play are all around us and don’t need to be expensive or complicated. Simple experiences like painting water onto a fence, playing with sticks and leaves at the park and drawing and colouring at home all help develop their creativity. Letting kids discover and experiment encourages them to learn about the world around them and their five senses. Here are our top tips to help encourage your kid’s to get creative with their play!

Less is more

The fewer toys a child has available, the less overwhelmed they will be and the more they will be focused on the toys they do have. Providing open-ended experiences like small-parts play, costumes for role-playing and blocks or magnetic tiles for building will encourage your child to use their imagination and play with their toys in many different ways. Rather than getting involved physically in their play, sit back, watch and ask your child questions about what they are creating. This helps build vocabulary and encourages them to learn how to tell a story.

Preschoolers love playing with building toys like Duplo and Lego, because it’s easy for them to learn to create many different shapes, objects and buildings. Playing with Duplo is an immediately satisfying experience and doesn’t require adult involvement – although building a Lego empire can be a great family play idea. Let your child loose with a large box of blocks and you’ll see their creativity develop the more they play. Teach them that a structure collapse isn’t a bad thing and that they can try again – this helps build resilience.

Have creative art supplies available

Art is one of the best ways to help your child express their thoughts and get creative. Encourage your mini Picasso by providing plenty of art and craft supplies at home and letting your child draw on blank paper, rather than simply using a colouring book. If you can, set up an art corner with a table they can sit at independently and have paper and art materials at the ready. 

Let them experiment with different mediums, like crayons, washable markers and finger paint. Ask them questions about what they are drawing and encourage your child to make up stories to describe their creations. Be sure to frame some of their work and display it in their play area so they can appreciate it long after you pack away the supplies.

Let them be messy

As much as it can seem like a parent’s nightmare, giving kids the space to be messy is vital for fostering creativity. If you don’t want to do it at home, there are plenty of play places that offer kids the opportunity to get messy in a more controlled environment. Just remember, messy play at home can be as simple as providing containers of water and letting your child transfer from one to the other. 

Encouraging messy play gives your children the freedom to experiment with textures and sensations, learn cause and effect and express themselves in new ways. Set up sensory experiences like playing with sand, foam, pasta shells, coloured rice and water balloons, and let your child play with them in whatever way their mind takes them. The more opportunities you give your child for messy play, the more you’ll embrace it.  

Head outside

Rather than hibernating over winter, rug up in warm clothing and wet weather gear and head outside. Waterproof coveralls are a great way to protect clothing so you can play in the rain (they’re also great for messy play). Do a scavenger hunt, splash in puddles and simply explore. Try different areas like bushland or woods, rivers and the beach. Let your children run wild and immerse themselves in their environment. This sort of unstructured play is a great way to foster a love and appreciation of nature. Being unafraid to head out in cold weather will also help bust cabin-fever-induced boredom. 

Give them their own play zone

As well as being open to messy play, be open to your child making a mess when they play with other toys. Sometimes being creative means an explosion of blocks, small-world parts, costume parts and other toys and it’s important to show your child that that’s okay. Giving them a play zone where they’re encouraged to be messy and unstructured in their play is a big part of fostering creativity. Whether this is a separate playroom or a designated area of your living room, accept that things might be a bit chaotic as they experiment and explore different forms of play. Knowing they are safe to go large with their building or imaginative play encourages your child to get creative. A bonus is that it also teaches them to take care of their things and clean up when the play is done. 

No matter what sort of play your child enjoys, it’s important to foster their imagination. Letting your child lead the play and asking open-ended questions about what they are doing encourages them to think creatively. Offer plenty of opportunities for messy play, take them out in nature, give them art and craft supplies to let them express themselves on paper and give them space to go large with their play. 

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I'm Hayley and this is us; working parents to three tiny wild ones. Whether it's travel, food, lifestyle or just a healthy dose of parenting reality, there's something for everyone here. So sit back, get comfy and start scrolling!

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