Creative play: why it’s important for school-age learning and development

School-age children usually take a keen interest in creative arts and artistic activities. Creative activities and creative play support your child’s learning and development by:

  • encouraging your child’s creativity and visual expression
  • helping your child to express feelings, thoughts and ideas in verbal and non-verbal ways
  • getting your child thinking about problems that don’t have set or ‘right’ answers
  • helping your child to think about issues from many perspectives.

In the months leading up to the start of school, you might notice your child asking more questions about how things work – and there’ll be lots of ‘Why?’ questions, of course! So by school age, your child is ready to explore and experience new ideas, skills and information.

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 activities.

Our ideas for school-age creative learning and development can you get you started on fun and creative activities with your child.

Learning and development through drama

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-age children can usually play with simple props such as hats, shoes, cooking utensils, sticks and so on. Your child might make up and act out stories using these props.

Your child might also act out the lyrics of songs as he sings them or listens to a CD.

Taking on a role and seeing the world from someone else’s point of view helps your child to make sense of the world, build communication skills and express feelings.

Learning and development through visual art

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 show the difference between things.

It can be pretty easy to work out what interests your child when you watch what she creates. For example, she might enjoy creating pictures of dinosaurs, fairies or boats over and over again.

You might notice that your child’s drawings and paintings are more detailed now. 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, now you can see leaves, branches, trunks and petals.

School-age 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 a local art gallery or exhibition together and talk about what you see?

Musical learning and development

School-age children might use musical sounds to explore their feelings. Often they can talk about how music makes them feel.

Your child might like using music to tell stories too. 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, your child might enjoy using sounds to represent characters and events in other stories.

And your child will probably still get a lot of fun out of making musical instruments from everyday objects. He can use these to play songs and make up his own music. He might also be ready to use musical symbols and notes to remember how to play a piece of music.

Learning and development through dance

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. You’ll probably see your child moving more in time with music. She can react to contrasts in the sounds she hears.

And don’t be surprised if your child starts making up dance sequences with friends to popular music or songs.

Four stages of creativity

When they’re playing creatively, children go through a thought process that might involve four basic stages:

  1. 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 he looks at other cards, and looks to see what materials he can use.
  2. Incubation: children mull over the problem, subconsciously or by thinking some more – for example, your child thinks about what she might do with the card.
  3. Illumination: the ‘aha’ moment, where children carry through, and the creative processes all come together. For example, your child decides to choose flowers and leaves from the garden to stick on his card, and draw a picture of you.
  4. Verification: after the initial excitement passes, children think about the thing they’ve made. For example, your child hides her finished card so you can’t see it until she decides to give it to you. But she might get it out every now and then to have a look.