By Raising Children Network
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Girl doing French knitting with her mum
Creative play is very important for your school-age child’s development. You can create an encouraging environment by feeding your child’s imagination and allowing plenty of time for creative play.

How to encourage your school-age child’s creative play

It’s important to let your child enjoy the process of creating. Perseverance is a good quality to nurture, so encourage your child to complete artworks. But this is a time for experimentation, for trial and error. That’s how your child learns.

You can encourage your child by showing a keen interest in what’s being created, making suggestions and giving support when needed. Encourage your child to talk about the process, and to share artworks and experiences with friends and family.

Whatever artwork, song or dance your child comes up with, give lots of descriptive praise. For example, 'I like the rhyming words in your song.' This will boost your child’s self-esteem and encourage your child to keep going with creative play. Try not to compare your child’s creations with those of other children.

Find out more about school-age creative and artistic development and the four stages of creativity.

Ideas for making things

  • Encourage the use of tools and techniques for creative arts. Drawing, using paint brushes or clay-making are all good skills to practice at this age.
  • Use an empty cardboard box to make a house, a robot, a truck, an animal – whatever your child is keen on. Your child could cut up the box, glue things onto it, or paint it.
  • Glue ribbons and strips of material onto paper or cardboard.
  • Old newspaper, glue and water are all you need for papier mâché.
  • Use empty toilet rolls or small plastic juice bottles to make a family. Draw on faces, stick on paper clothes, and use cotton wool for hair. When you’ve finished making the family, your child could use these new toys to make up stories.
  • In autumn, collect fallen leaves for drawing, pasting onto paper, or dipping into paint.
  • Use small plastic lids, patty pan cases and other ‘threadables’ to make jewellery.
Keep a ‘busy box’ of useful objects or materials for creative play. A busy box could contain things like string, coloured paper, empty food containers and plastic cups.

Play idea: textured paint
You need:

  • paint
  • paper
  • paint brushes
  • sand
  • soap flakes
  • PVA glue
  • sawdust.

To create your textured painting:

  • Use the sand, soap flakes, PVA glue and sawdust alternately to change the texture of your paint.
  • Use this textured paint for finger painting, or use paint brushes. Use different textures for different artworks.
  • Discuss with your child the visual and physical differences, which ones your child prefers, and why.

Drama ideas

  • Instead of throwing out old clothes, start a dress-up box or bag for dramatic play. Op shops are also a great source of cheap and unusual clothes and props. Every now and then, you could surprise your child by putting a new thing into the bag.
  • Use dramatic play, song and movement to re-enact things from daily life. You might play at being doctors, mothers, fathers, shopkeepers, firefighters – whatever interests your child. You might be amazed at how your child sees the people and events that are part of your daily life. 
  • Take turns telling a new, made-up story. You could begin with a simple situation from everyday life, and then take turns saying what happens next. The longer the game continues, the more imaginative and incredible the story can be.

Music and movement ideas

If you want your child to appreciate music, you might have to take the lead. Exposing your child to lots of different kinds of music is a good idea. Although you can’t really ‘teach’ your child to enjoy music (some are more interested than others), you can still pass on a positive attitude to music. And it’s a fun way of being creative together. 

If you already own or play instruments yourself, it’s great to play ‘live’ music with your child. Let your child hold the instruments and try to make sounds on them. Praise your child for trying.

As your child develops, you can introduce musical concepts like loud/soft and fast/slow. Play instruments loudly, then softly. Then encourage your child to imitate the way you played the instruments. Do the same with fast and slow sounds, then high and low sounds.

But you don’t even need instruments. Small, repeated, rhythmic actions, or body percussion, make good accompaniments to singing. You and your child can tap your shoulders, knees or elbows to the beat of song.

Play idea: movement
These exercises will help your child to explore personal and common space through movement.

  • Jump on the spot, then while running. Make small jumps and large jumps. Jump fast and then slow. Jump on one foot and then on two feet.
  • Turn on the spot, using a large space and then a small space. Alternate the speed – turn quickly, then slowly. Alternate the height – high then low. Follow parts of your body around – your elbow, your nose, your ankle.
  • Use the whole body to show emotions – for example, sadness, happiness, surprise, anger, puzzlement.
  • Last updated or reviewed 17-10-2011