A Habit of Self-Expression

We often marvel at the creativity that flows from young children.

Children are born knowing how to be creative. I would not have ever thought to mix water, flour, and toothpaste together to make a magical potion but I know a child who did!

Early childhood is all about experimentation, exploration, and discovery.

Thinking of ideas, and working to make them a reality, simply because they can. They are literally guided, by their brains, to create for proper development.

Creative play is about exploring materials and objects, testing ideas, making mistakes, and trying again. It is also playing with sounds, words, language, and movement. The goal being to learn how all things work, connect, and relate to one’s self.

Here are some ways to encourage creative play to support a life long habit of self-expression and creative thinking.

1. Create an environment to encourage play.

Have art materials on hand and easily accessible to your child for when the mood strikes!

All the basics like crayons, markers, different types of paper, paint, scissors, glue and clay or playdough are enough to start. Observation of how your child uses these items will guide you in what materials to add to support their creativity.

Creative play is not just about art though.

It is also movement, drama, music, storytelling and building.

Offer props, instruments, costumes, books, loose parts, blocks and a CD player or other musical device to play songs. Listen to music and read often. Tell and make up stories together.

Dedicate a corner or room as space for play.

Make it cozy and inviting for children to play. Include a shelf or storage, soft pillows and a small table and chair. Make it "yes" space where children are free to make choices and play as they choose.

2. Create time for play & make it a priority.

Allow ample opportunity for play every day. Sometimes this means understanding that its ok for children to play at home all day. It's even good for them!

3. Create a process-focused mindset.

Focus and comment on a child’s process and not on the outcome of their play. Too much focus on the product of creative play takes away from a child’s natural intrinsic motivation to create.

"I noticed you made a big circle and used a lot of red," and "I see you are stacking the blocks very slowly," are both examples of process-focused comments.

Focusing on the process supports creative thinking and tells the child they are capable and competent learners. That confidence then leads to more creative expression!

Become an observer of your child’s play.

Watch, notice and follow the child’s lead. Know that it is also healthy for your child to play alone while adults are occupied. Allow your child to be bored. Boredom often leads to even better creative play and new ideas.

Join your child in play when invited and play the role they create for you.

What part will your child choose for you?

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