Creative Play Helps Children Grow
by Marilyn Lopes
Ways to Strengthen a Child's Creativity
Inspire perseverence. All the creative energy in the world is useless if the product is not seen through to completion. Show appreciation for a child's efforts. Suppress the impulse to accomplish tasks for children.
Tolerate the "offbeat." Let children know that it is not always critical to have the "correct" answer to the problem—that novel, innovative, and unique approaches are valued as well.
Planning and problem-solving. Encourage creative problem solving in a variety of ways. Teach a youngster to look at alternatives, evaluate them, and then decide how to carry them out successfully.
Offer - but do not pressure. Resist the temptation to overcrowd children with organized activities in an attempt to cultivate their creativity. Allow the child time to be alone to develop the creativity that is innate in all of us.
Have the children create a "machine" piece by piece. Some players become parts that move and make noise, while other players operate the machine. Others can then guess what it is. Try making a lawnmower with people as wheels, body, and handle, and have another player push it. Everyone can join in the sound effects as it tackles the lawn. More good objects to role play: eggbeater, record player, garbage disposal, toaster, pencil sharpener, and water fountain.
Someone starts a story and each person adds a part.
Creative Dramatic Play
One of the best ways children have to express themselves is through creative dramatic play. Here they feel free to express their inner feelings. It occurs daily in the lives of young children, as they
constantly imitate the people, animals, and machines in their world. It helps them understand and deal with the world. Stimulate this spontaneous kind of drama by providing simple props and encouragement.
Animal Cracker Game - Child chooses one cracker; looks at it; then eats it. Then the child becomes that animal for 1-2 minutes.
Read a story and then act it out.
Role playing family happenings, everyday activities such as a visit to the doctor, store or bank, day care situations, etc., stimulates creative thinking and is a good way to help children see the viewpoints of others, help them explore their own feelings, and handle their emotions.
The following are some creative play activities that require the use of large muscles and help in the development of those muscles:
Follow the Leader - The leader child moves freely about. He or she may imitate animals, hop, skip, or whatever. The others must follow the leader and act as the leader does.
Guess What I Am? - Without saying a word, a child tries to act out the movements of some object. Suggestions include an airplane making a landing, a rooster strutting around the barnyard, a cement truck dumping its load, a clock telling the time of day. The child may think up things to do, or the teacher may whisper suggestions.
Building with Sand, Mud and Clay - Children use large muscles to build sand mounds with moats around them. Sand pies and sand forts can be built in a sandbox, on a sand table, or at the beach. Children use mud to make large structures. Clay is also used to create structures and shapes.
Ask children to use their senses: Young children may often have their creative talents stretched by asking them to use their senses in an unusual way.
- Have children close their eyes and then guess what you have placed in their hands - a piece of foam rubber, a small rock, etc.
- Have children close their eyes and guess at what they hear - use such sounds as shuffling cards, jingling coins, rubbing sandpaper, ripping paper, etc.
- What would taste better if it were sweeter?
- What would be nicer if it were smaller?
- What would be more fun if it were faster?
- What would be better if it were quieter?
- What would be happier if it were bigger?
- What could be more exciting if it went backwards?
- What are some of the uses of water?
- What floats in water?
- How does water help us?
- Why is cold water cold?
- What always stays underwater?
- What are the different colors that water can be?
Ask "What would happen if..." questions. These questions are fun to ask and allow the children to really use their imaginations. Here are some:
- What would happen if all the trees in the world were blue?
- What would happen if all the cars were gone?
- What would happen if everybody wore the same clothes?
- What would happen if you could fly?
- What would happen if no one cleaned the house?
- In how many different ways could a spoon be used?
- In how many different ways could a button be used?
- In how many different ways could a string be used?
© M. Lopes
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. (1993). Creative play helps children grow. In M. Lopes (Ed.) CareGiver News (October, p. 3). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension.