Play is a vital component of every child’s cognitive and social-emotional development. In addition to having fun, play also helps children develop the skills needed to express themselves. When little ones engage in creative play, they are provided with opportunities to learn independence and enrich their developing life skills in self-control, decision-making, and other important areas.

As parents, it is our responsibility to encourage our children to engage in activities that help them become well-rounded and prepare them for life’s future experiences and challenges. In this post, we will discuss different strategies to encourage creative play with your little one.

Limit the number of toys

When children have an overabundance of toys, it can be overstimulating for them. It’s better for us to encourage them to use their imaginations. Give youngsters just enough toys for daily play, and store the others away.   When children aren’t overwhelmed by too many options, it lets them engage in activities that help their imaginations flourish.

Is your child drawn to colorful and noisy toys? If so, then it’s even more important that he or she has adequate opportunities to engage in creative play. When buying toys, try to choose simple, educational options that teach children to create and build.

Make time to play with your child

In a world often dominated by smartphones, tablets, social media, and countless online platforms, we  are never without options to entertain ourselves. Although these activities can help us alleviate stress, they should not be used to quell your kid’s boredom.

For parents, it’s important that we carve out time to break away from our fast-paced lifestyle when possible. We need to avoid letting electronic gadgets and TV be our children’s “babysitters”. Slow down and set aside some time to play with your child each day if possible. Join children during their playtime, and let them take the lead. Allow yourself to be silly when spending time with your little one.

Encourage creative, open-ended activities

Children as young as two years old can start playing with creative materials and toy sets such as playdough, molders, rollers, and other items. 

Sit down with your toddler and play with these items together. Show little ones how they can make different shapes with their playdough. Then step back and let your little one play independently. On the other hand, when it comes to preschoolers,  they’re typically old enough that you can step back and allow them to play independently. Encourage children to engage in these types of sensory activities and see what kinds of creations they come up with.

Other open-ended toys that promote creative and independent play include plastic bricks, blocks, art sets, and playhouses.

Set aside time for independent play

When you let children play on their own, it boosts their creativity and confidence. It also allows them to discover things about themselves. Set aside specific time for independent play, and do your best to stick to this routine. During this time, provide your little one with a handful of open-ended toys and watch his or her imagination soar.

Independent play enhances children’s problem-solving skills. When children are given the chance to play independently, they are more compelled to come up with solutions independently. 

Developing self-control is another advantage of independent play. When children are left alone to play, it helps them establish a foundation to keep themselves calm and engaged without the help of others. As a result, they learn self-reliance, patience, and emotional control.

Allow messy activities

If you have a toddler or preschooler, you need to embrace the reality that messiness will be a part of your life. Even though it’s difficult, try to resist the urge to organize your children’s toys during playtime because the cleanliness won’t last while these items are being used. 

It’s okay to let children satisfy their creative curiosity, even if it results in a mess. Only clean up the things that may lead to accidents (like spilled beads all over the floor because they can cause someone to slip and fall.)

Try not to limit what your children can do in their play area. Let them build and combine their toys and materials, even if you know it will create a huge mess.

We can’t impose creative thinking on our kids, but we can give them plenty of opportunities to explore and experiment during free play.

Go outside

Nature is an excellent setting for children to tap into their creativity. Look for ways to expand your child’s knowledge through fun activities outdoors. Take your family on a trip to the beach, and play with the shells and sand. Walk to the nearby park and have a scavenger hunt. The list of creative things to do when you’re outside is endless.

Here at Early Childhood University, we engage children in a variety of activities that encourage creative play. Contact us today for more information!