Creative play and artistic activity are important to children’s overall development. They help nurture imagination, and also develop problem-solving, thinking and motor skills.
Why creative play is important for school age children
School children start to learn that some problems have a single solution (two plus two always equals four). They also develop skills for finding the right result for a given problem. But there are still many areas where things are not so black and white.
Creative play helps with learning and development, by letting children engage in problem-solving where there are no set or ‘right’ answers. With creative activity, the process is more important than the product.
By school age, your child is ready to soak up lots of new information. In the months leading up to the start of school, you might notice your child ask more questions about how things work – and there’ll be lots of ‘Why?’ questions, of course!
School-age children are usually more confident about themselves and around others than they were a year or so earlier – this is a good thing when it comes to creative pursuits.
Most school-age children take a keen interest in art and artistic activities
. You can encourage creative play and imaginative development by stimulating your child’s creative urges.
School-age children can usually make things up as they go along. They often use role play and storytelling to solve problems. For example, when younger, your child might have expected to hear particular endings to favourite stories. Now your child might start changing things and coming up with new endings.
School kids can usually play with simple props such as hats, shoes, cooking utensils, sticks, and so on. They make up and act out stories based around these props.
School-age children might also act out the lyrics of songs as they sing them or listen to a CD.
School-age children might use colours and shapes to communicate feelings, ideas and messages (for example using lots of black to draw a dark scene or scary feelings). They might also use symbols to differentiate between objects in their drawings.
It can be pretty easy to work out children’s interests when you’re watching what they create. They will enjoy creating pictures on the same theme (dinosaurs or boats, say) over and over again.
You might notice that drawings and paintings become more detailed than when your child was a preschooler. For example, your child might be drawing people with five fingers and toes. Where your child used to draw scribbles and squiggles for trees and flowers, you’ll be able to recognise leaves, branches, trunks and petals.
School children are ready for ‘art appreciation’ – whether it’s music, sculpting or pictures. You and your child can talk about art, artists, favourite artworks and reasons for liking certain things. Why not visit an art gallery together, and talk about what you see?
School-age children might experiment with using musical sounds to explore their feelings. Often they can talk about how music makes them feel. They might also enjoy using music to tell stories. For example, school-age children often enjoy the classical music piece ‘Peter and the Wolf’. This piece uses the sound of an oboe to represent a duck, a flute for a bird, and so on. In a similar way, school-age children might enjoy using sounds to represent characters and events in other stories.
School-age children might make their own musical instruments from everyday objects. They can use these to play songs and make up their own music. They can start using musical symbols and notes to help them remember how to play a particular piece of music.
School-age children often enjoy moving creatively in response to the lyrics of the songs they sing.
The way they move their bodies in response to music becomes more expressive. They can move more in time with the music. They can react to contrasts in the sounds they hear.
School-age children might also start making up dance sequences with their friends to popular music or songs.
Four stages of creativity
When they’re playing creatively, children go through a thought process with four basic stages:
Preparation: children collect information about a topic or idea and think about what they want to do. For example, your child decides to make a card for you. So she looks at other cards, and looks to see what materials she can use.
Incubation: children mull over the problem, subconsciously or by thinking some more (about what he might do with the card).
Illumination: the ‘aha’ moment, where children carry through, and the creative processes all come together. For example, your child decides that she will choose flowers and leaves from the garden to stick on her card, and draw a picture of you.
Verification: after the initial excitement passes, the result or product is examined and thought about. For example, the child hides his finished card so you can’t see it until he decides to give it to you. But he gets it out every now and then to have a look.