Encouraging your school-age child’s creative play

It’s important for your child to enjoy the process of creating and also to think about creative processes and experiences. You can help this happen by encouraging your child to share artworks and creative activities with you and your family.

When your child is creating something, it’s also good for him to keep experimenting and changing his artworks until he feels they’re finished. You can encourage this process by showing interest in what your child is making and giving him support when he needs it.

And by getting involved in your child’s creative activities, you can help your child’s skills and understanding develop.

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

Not sure what to expect when it comes to the creative arts? Read more about school-age creative learning and development.

Creative activities: visual art and media

Here are some ideas to get you and your child started:

  • Use different tools and techniques – for example, drawing, painting, clay-making, taking photographs or making videos. Combine techniques by experimenting with something like claymation.
  • Take photographs and create a story using paper, an app or a software program.
  • 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.
  • 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. Your child could use these new toys to make up stories.
  • Make use of found and natural material. For example, 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.
  • Make papier mâché using old newspapers, glue and water.

Creative play idea: textured paint
You need:

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

Put lots of paint on the paper. Use the sand, soap flakes and sawdust alternately to change the texture of the paint. Use this textured paint for finger painting, or use paint brushes. Use different textures for different artworks.

Talk with your child about the visual and physical differences, which ones your child prefers, and why.

Keep a ‘busy box’ of useful objects or materials for creative play. A busy box could have things like string, coloured paper, empty food containers and plastic cups.

Creative activities: drama

Your child can do these activities by himself, and you can enjoy them together:

  • 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, songs and movement to act out things from daily life. It could be doctors, mothers, fathers, shopkeepers, firefighters, chefs – whatever interests your child. You could get involved by pretending to be a customer for your ‘shopkeeper’ child.
  • 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.

Creative activities: music, dance and movement

If you want your child to appreciate music, you might need to take the lead sometimes.

Giving your child the chance to hear 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 pass on a positive attitude to music. And it’s a fun way of being creative and learning 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 copy the way you played the instruments. Do the same with fast and slow sounds, then high and low sounds.

And 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 a song.

Creative play idea: movement and dance

  • Jump on the spot, then jump while running. Make small jumps and big 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. Turn quickly, then slowly. Turn standing up, then crouching down. Follow parts of your body around – your elbow, your nose, your ankle.
  • Use your whole body to show emotions – for example, sadness, happiness, surprise, anger, puzzlement.
  • Make up dances about animals, machines, plants – whatever interests your child.