Creative activities: why they’re important for school-age learning and development
School-age children usually take a keen interest in creative activities. This is great because creative activities like drama, singing, dancing, art and craft help school-age children:
- develop creativity and imagination
- build confidence
- express emotions, thoughts and ideas in verbal and non-verbal ways
- learn about the world from someone else’s point of view
- practise decision-making, problem-solving and critical thinking
- practise and improve social skills
- develop physical and motor skills.
Encouraging school-age children to enjoy creative activities
You can encourage creative activity by giving your child free time to play and stepping back from your child’s play. Even boredom can encourage children to be creative. So can relaxation – for example, lying on the grass and watching the clouds change their shape.
It’s important for your child to enjoy and think about the process of creating things. You can help this happen by encouraging your child to share artworks and creative activities with you and your family. It’s always best to check with your child before sharing their artwork with other people, especially on social media.
When your child is creating something, it’s good for them to keep experimenting and changing their artworks until they feel they’re finished.
You can encourage this by:
- asking about their process – for example, ‘Tell me how you attached the wheels to the bus’
- suggesting ways to experiment – for example, ‘Show me how many sounds you can make with the drum’
- being available to help if they need it – for example, ‘I can hold that shape while you paint around it’.
If you can give your child a workspace or storage box for their unfinished projects, that’s great too.
Whatever artwork your child comes up with, you can encourage their effort with plenty of descriptive praise. For example, ‘I like the rhyming words in your song’. This is great for your child’s confidence.
Some children are more interested in creative activities than others, so you can’t really ‘teach’ your child to enjoy these creative activities. But you can pass on a positive attitude to them.
It’s good to include some ‘art appreciation’ in your child’s life. Why not visit a local art exhibition or see a multicultural or Aboriginal dance or theatre performance together and talk about your favourite parts?
Art and craft: creative activities for school-age children
At this age, children have a solid understanding of colour, shapes, patterns and details. Where your child used to draw scribbles and squiggles for trees and flowers, now you can see leaves, branches, trunks and petals.
School-age children are also figuring out different ways to make things – they don’t need parts pre-made for them. For example, they might draw and cut out wings for a craft butterfly, or they might make wings from scrap paper and leaves. Younger school-age children might still need your help to get started.
Here are some ideas for creative art and craft activities:
- Get your child to build and decorate a cubby house out of cardboard boxes or natural materials like tree branches.
- Play with textured paint. Encourage your child to add sand, dirt or sawdust to paint and use this to decorate boxes or make paintings.
- Make invisible ink out of a mixture of lemon juice and water. Your child can write a secret message with the ink. When it’s dry, they can hold the paper up to the light and see the message reappear.
- Find a large cardboard box and see what your child can come up with. It could become a robot costume, plane, puppet theatre and so on.
- Combine drawing, painting or clay-making with digital media. For example, make a clay model or a sculpture out of sticks and take photographs of it. Your child can use these photographs to make up a story.
- Go on a nature walk and take nature photographs. Create a story, photo album or map with the photos using an app or a software program.
- Create digital artwork using software programs or apps.
Creative writing is a great way for your child to express emotions and explore ideas. For example, your child might make up new words or riddles, write and illustrate a family story book, write a script for their favourite TV show, or start a journal or blog about their favourite subjects or activities.
Drama: creative activities for school-age children
School-age children often make up and act out their own stories using simple props. Sometimes they act out events from daily life, movies and TV shows. Or you might notice your child acting out the lyrics as they listen to music or watch music videos. Also, children might act out roles like a caring vet or a police officer.
These dramatic activities give children the chance to work out real-life problems, like what to do when a person or a pet is sick or someone is angry. They also encourage children to see the world from someone else’s point of view, which helps to build empathy.
Here are some ideas to get your child involved in dramatic creative activities:
- Start a dress-up box. Use old clothes or buy simple props like cooking utensils from op shops.
- Make simple puppets and put on a puppet show.
- Take turns making up a story. You could begin with a simple situation and take turns saying what happens next. The longer the game continues, the more imaginative the story can be. If you need help to get started, you could try roll-a-story.
- Video a play or performance. Your child could write the script and make the costumes, then video themselves using a smartphone or camera. They can edit and add special effects with software or apps.
- Play games that involve guessing and acting, like charades and Pictionary. Your child could also make up their own set of flashcards with words to act out or draw.
Diversity in play is good for children. It helps children learn about people from diverse backgrounds, avoid stereotypes and understand equality. For example, you could encourage children of all genders to dress up as nurses or builders. Or choose stories or songs from diverse cultures or languages.
Music, sound, movement and dance: creative activities for school-age children
Your child might enjoy making music, either copying songs they know or making up their own. Your child might also be keen to experiment with volume, echo, rhythm, tempo and pitch. And they might be ready to use musical symbols and notes to learn how to play a piece of music.
Also, at this age, children can often control and move their bodies in expressive ways. You’ll probably see your child moving more in time with music. Or your child might start making up dance sequences to popular music or songs.
Here are some ways for your child to get creative with music, sound, movement and dance:
- Let your child play or make sounds using bought instruments or instruments you already own. Encourage your child to try different volumes, tempos and rhythms, or copy the way you play.
- Listen to the musical pieces Peter and the wolf and The carnival of the animals, which use different instruments to represent different animals. Guess what animal the music represents, copy the sounds and make up movements to go with the music.
- Encourage your child to hum a favourite song, and try to guess what they’re humming. You can have a go too.
- Use body percussion with singing. You and your child can tap your shoulders, knees or elbows to the beat of a song.
- Play with music apps that allow your child to make songs and beats using the sounds of different instruments.
- Dance to different rhythms and music. Or make up dance sequences about people, animals, machines, plants – whatever interests your child. Your child can teach you some dance moves too.
If your child wants to learn a musical instrument, encourage them to listen to a range of instruments and musical styles so they can work out what interests them the most. For example, play orchestral music, electronic music and popular bands. Or go to see different live music acts at a local festival.
Creative activities for children with diverse abilities
You can adapt creative activities to suit school-age children with diverse abilities. For example, if your child:
- needs help with creative play skills, you could model simple actions – for example, show your child how to growl like a monster or bang a drum, or break down the activity into easier steps or use written or picture instructions to help your child understand what to do
- has sensory sensitivities, give your child tools to touch things like playdough, play music more quietly or introduce new textures and colours slowly
- has vision impairment or fine motor difficulties, use larger materials and tools – for example, make collages with large oak leafs instead of petals, or use chunky crayons instead of pencils
- has a lot of energy, encourage bigger movements like jumping, swaying arms, stretching, crouching or shaking
- has limited mobility, collect play materials for your child and put them within easy reach.