Creative Play Helps Children Grow!
Every child is born with creative potential, but this potential may be stifled if care is not taken to nurture and stimulate creativity. Creativity shows one’s uniqueness. It is the individual saying: “I can be; I can do.” Isn’t this what we want for our children? Creativity is the ability to see things in a new and unusual light, to see problems that no one else may even realize exist, and then come up with new, unusual, and effective solutions to these problems.
WAYS TO STRENGTHEN A CHILD’S CREATIVITY
Relax the controls. Adults who constantly exert supervision and control diminish the spontaneity and self-confidence that are essential to the creative spirit.
Inspire perseverance. All the creative energy in the world is useless if the product is not seen through to completion. Show appreciation for a child’s efforts. Suppress the impulse to accomplish tasks for children.
Tolerate the “offbeat.” Let children know that it is not always critical to have the “correct” answer to the problem – that novel, innovative, and unique approaches are valued as well.
Provide a creative atmosphere. Creative materials should be available to the young child for his use. Some of the basic equipment includes books, records, drawing materials, objects to make sounds with, clay, and blocks. Toys for imagining: Supply preschoolers with unstructured toys and materials. Provide the child with toys that can become a variety of things. Be careful about discouraging daydreaming. Daydreaming is really an imagery process. Some of what goes on in the name of daydreaming is really problem solving.
Planning and problem-solving. Encourage creative problem solving in a variety of ways. Teach a youngster to look at alternatives, evaluate them, and then decide how to carry them out successfully.
Offer – but do not pressure. Resist the temptation to overcrowd children with organized activities in an attempt to cultivate their creativity. Allow the child time to be alone to develop the creativity that is innate in all of us.
Have the children create a “machine” piece by piece. Some players become parts that move and make noise, while other players operate the machine. Others can then guess what it is. Try making a lawnmower with people as wheels, body, and handle, and have another player push it. Everyone can join in the sound effects as it tackles the lawn. More good objects to role play: eggbeater, record player, garbage disposal, toaster, pencil sharpener, and water fountain.
Someone starts a story and each person adds a part.
CREATIVE DRAMATIC PLAY
One of the best ways children have to express themselves is through creative dramatic play. Here they feel free to express their inner feelings. It occurs daily in the lives of young children, as they
constantly imitate the people, animals, and machines in their world. It helps them understand and deal with the world. Stimulate this spontaneous kind of drama by providing simple props and encouragement.
Animal Cracker Game – Child chooses one cracker; looks at it; then eats it. Then the child becomes that animal for 1-2 minutes.
Read a story and then act it out.
A child can develop and express his or her personality in his own way – pretending to be animals, snowflakes, fairies, giants, snails, mice, etc.
Role playing family happenings, everyday activities such as a visit to the doctor, store or bank, day care situations, etc., stimulates creative thinking and is a good way to help children see the viewpoints of others, help them explore their own feelings, and handle their emotions.
The following are some creative play activities that require the use of
large muscles and help in the development of those muscles:
Follow the Leader – The leader child moves freely about. He or she may
imitate animals, hop, skip, or whatever. The others must follow the
leader and act as the leader does.
Guess What I Am? – Without saying a word, a child tries to act out the
movements of some object. Suggestions include an airplane making a
landing, a rooster strutting around the barnyard, a cement truck dumping
its load, a clock telling the time of day. The child may think up
things to do, or the teacher may whisper suggestions.
Building with Sand, Mud and Clay – Children use large muscles to build
sand mounds with moats around them. Sand pies and sand forts can be
built in a sandbox, on a sand table, or at the beach. Children use mud
to make large structures. Clay is also used to create structures and
Ask open-ended questions: Show the child a picture, then ask questions to stimulate and create a thinking atmosphere, for example: What are the people in the picture doing? What are the people saying? What would happen if …?
Ask children to use their senses: Young children may often have their creative talents stretched by asking them to use their senses in an unusual way.
Have children close their eyes and then guess what you have placed in their hands – a piece of foam rubber, a small rock, etc.
Have children close their eyes and guess at what they hear – use such sounds as shuffling cards, jingling coins, rubbing sandpaper, ripping paper, etc.
Ask children about changes: One way to help children to think more creatively is to ask them to change things to make them the way they would like them to be, for example:
What would taste better if it were sweeter?
What would be nicer if it were smaller?
What would be more fun if it were faster?
What would be better if it were quieter?
What would be happier if it were bigger?
What could be more exciting if it went backwards?
Ask questions with lots of answers. Any time you ask a child a question which requires a variety of answers, you are aiding creative thinking skills. Here are some examples using the concept of water:
What are some of the uses of water?
What floats in water?
How does water help us?
Why is cold water cold?
What always stays underwater?
What are the different colors that water can be?
Other concepts: fire, sand, cars, smoke, ice
Ask “What would happen if…” questions. These questions are fun to ask and allow the children to really use their imaginations. Here are some:
What would happen if all the trees in the world were blue?
What would happen if all the cars were gone?
What would happen if everybody wore the same clothes?
What would happen if you could fly?
What would happen if no one cleaned the house?
Ask “In how many different ways…” questions. These questions also extend a child’s creative thinking.
In how many different ways could a spoon be used?
In how many different ways could a button be used?
In how many different ways could a string be used?
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care –
NNCC. (1993). Creative play helps children grow. In M. Lopes (Ed.)
CareGiver News (October, p. 3). Amherst, MA: University of
Massachusetts Cooperative Extension.
(C) Copyright 1997-2017 by Preschool Education
How They Communicate
Between ages two and three, many preschoolers begin to use more complicated sentences. However, this does not mean that they understand all of an adult’s words or abstract concepts. In fact, preschoolers are often very literal thinkers and interpret ideas concretely. Many are only beginning to think logically and understand sequences of events.
Preschoolers learn that they can use specific words to say what they mean. They have long known their parents’ words have power over their lives and they are beginning to realize that their own words can make a difference as well. They create more powerful meanings using their growing vocabulary.
“No” and “Why” become common words for young preschoolers. Saying “No” is a way a preschooler claims her space. Saying “Why” is a wish to understand the world around her. “Why” is also a word preschoolers use to question authority. Underneath the question, they are saying “Why do you have power over me when I want to feel autonomous?”
Preschoolers like to participate in decisions. This gives them a feeling of control and independence. A preschooler might think, “I can take a different position from my mother — and I like it.” Or, “By saying what I want, I am a big kid.”
Preschoolers love to imitate other people’s words. They often mimic comments, phrases and sophisticated statements. At times they misuse or exaggerate phrases, particularly during pretend play. A preschooler might say to a doll, “You are so bad you are going to jail for 100 years!”
Preschoolers like to hear about and describe the same event over and over. By telling and listening to stories, preschoolers begin to form opinions about the world and how they fit into it. They say “tell me again,” because hearing a story many times makes them feel safe and secure. When the story is repeated, it also allows them to imagine new scenarios.
Preschoolers like to make up their own explanations. This helps them make sense of things they are only beginning to understand. For example, a preschooler might explain her sadness about winter being over by saying, “When the snow melts, the winter is crying.” Preschoolers may also embellish stories with wishful thinking.
Between three and five, preschoolers refine their understanding of cause and effect. Older preschoolers can understand simple explanations of cause and effect such as “The medicine will help you get well” and “If you eat healthy food, you will grow big and strong.”
Preschoolers also talk through their bodies, their play and their art. In fact, verbal communication still may not be the dominant way many preschoolers either understand the world or express themselves.
© PBS 2003 – 2016, all rights reserved
Walks up and down stairs, alternating feet
Bends over without falling
Imitates adults and playmates
Show affection for familiar playmates
Can take turns in games
Understands “mine” and “his / hers”
Makes mechanical toys work
Matches an object in hand to picture in book
Plays make believe
Sorts objects by shape and color
Completes 3 – 4 piece puzzles
Understands concept of “two”
© Copyright 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics. All rights reserved.
Preschool provides a foundation for learning both socially and academically that will help your child succeed in elementary school.
Preschool is an opportunity for growth
For many children, preschool is their first experience in a structured setting with teachers and groups of children. It’s an opportunity to learn to share, follow instructions, and begin the foundation for learning that will occur in elementary school.
Preschool prepares children for kindergarten
As kindergarten becomes more academic, many parents look to preschool to launch their child on the path to success in school. At the same time, parents may worry that the current trend to focus on pre-math and pre-literacy skills in preschool cuts into important play time and pushes a child to grow up too fast. It’s a confusing issue,especially with friends and family offering different opinions and advice.
Fortunately, in selecting a preschool, parents aren’t forced to choose between protecting a child’s play time and making sure she’s ready for kindergarten. A high-quality early childhood education program will offer children both.
But how do high-quality preschools benefit children’s learning and development? And what features should parents look for in a preschool program? One answer to these questions is that the staff at high-quality preschools and child care programs understand the particular ways that young children develop and learn. And they organize space, time and activities to be in sync with children’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical abilities.
Preschool promotes social and emotional development
In order to learn, a young child needs to feel cared for and secure with a teacher or caregiver. A 3-year-old child is able to spend time away from parents and build trusting relationships with adults outside the family. High-quality preschool programs nurture warm relationships among children, teachers and parents. And teachers build a close personal connection with each child in their care.
Children thrive when there is consistency in care between home and school. In high-quality preschools, teachers value parents as the experts on their children. Parents get daily reports on their child’s activities and regular meetings are scheduled for more in-depth conferences with staff. Teachers strive to understand and respect parents’ child-rearing goals and values.
Young children learn social skills and emotional self-control in “real time.” Three- and 4-year-olds learn through their experiences and good teachers make time for those “teachable moments” when they can help children learn to manage frustrations or anger. They don’t automatically step in to resolve children’s conflicts for them; they have a well-honed sense of when to let children work out their own problems and when to intervene. Without shaming a child, they encourage her to notice the impact of her aggressive or hurtful behavior on another child.
The preschool environment is structured, although it may not appear that way
A highly structured environment helps young children learn to make friends and play well with others. This doesn’t mean there are lots of rules or that adults constantly direct children’s activities. On the contrary, the structure of a high-quality preschool classroom is largely invisible to children. Classroom space is organized to encourage social interaction, and minimize congestion and conflicts.
Children get to make choices
Children have several choices of activities; a child who is wandering aimlessly is encouraged to choose one that interests him. Teachers are alert to a child who can’t figure out how to enter other children’s play and may offer him suggestions on ways to join the group.
Children learn to take care of themselves and others
Children’s sense of competence and self-worth grow as they learn to take care of themselves and help others. Teachers appeal to a young child’s desire to engage in “real work” by offering him chances to help out in the classroom, for example, by setting the table at snack time or feeding the classroom hamster. Children are expected to wash their hands before snack time, keep personal belongings in their “cubby,” and put away toys before moving to a new activity.
Teachers also encourage a child to view herself as a resource for other children. For example, a teacher might ask a child who’s more competent at pouring water to help a child who is learning. Or she might ask a “veteran” preschooler to show a newcomer where the sand toys are kept.
Throughout their school years, much of children’s learning will take place in the company of their peers. In a high-quality preschool program, children are introduced to the behaviors required to function successfully in a kindergarten classroom. For example, during group activities such as “circle time,” children learn to focus attention on the teacher, listen while others are speaking, and wait their turn to talk.
Preschool promotes language and cognitive skills
Preschool-age children’s language skills are nurtured in a “language-rich” environment. Between the ages of 3 and 5, a child’s vocabulary grows from 900 to 2,500 words, and her sentences become longer and more complex. In a conversational manner, and without dominating the discussion, teachers help children stretch their language skills by asking thought-provoking questions and introducing new vocabulary during science, art, snack time, and other activities. Children have many opportunities to sing, talk about favorite read-aloud books, and act out stories.
A young child’s cognitive skills are strengthened by engaging in a wide range of hands-on activities that challenge her to observe closely, ask questions, test her ideas or solve a problem. However, teachers understand that preschool children are not logical in the adult sense of the word; their explanations of what makes a plant grow or why people get old, may not involve cause and effect. For example, “people get old because they have birthdays.” They may rely on their senses and “magical thinking” rather than on reason to explain why wood floats in water and rocks sink – “The rock likes to be on the bottom because it’s cooler.”
Preschool teachers nurture a child’s curiosity
Teachers observe, ask questions and listen to children’s ideas during these activities — “correct” answers are not the goal. To nurture their curiosity and motivation to learn, teachers use children’s interests and ideas to create activities. And even a simple, chance event – such as a child’s discovery of a snail in the outdoor play area — can be turned into an exciting opportunity to learn.
Preschool-age children have active imaginations and learn through make-believe play. Teachers know that the line between reality and fantasy is often not clear to a young child. Sometimes this results in fears of monsters under the bed. But imagination also fuels learning. For example, when a group of children creates a make-believe pet store, they will practice many social and cognitive skills as they assign roles to each child, figure out categories of pet supplies and how to organize them, make signs to label products; help their “customers” select the right shampoo or cat toy; and take “money” for merchandize.
The imaginary play area in a high-quality preschool is well-stocked with costumes, “props,” and child-size household items such as stoves, sinks and cupboards. It’s often in this activity area that preschool-age children progress steadily from solitary play, to one-on-one play, to complicated group play.
Preschool activities boost pre-math and literacy skills
Young children show growing interest in pre-math and pre-literacy skills. They are curious and observant, and they want to be competent in the skills that their families and society value — such as reading the instructions for assembling a toy, or selecting the correct bills or coins to pay for a purchase. To prepare children for the academic demands of kindergarten, teachers offer a wide variety of games and activities that help children acquire the pre- math and literacy skills.
Singing an alphabet song while following along in a picture book builds a child’s awareness of the connections between alphabet letters and word sounds. Learning rhymes and chants helps them to notice the distinct sounds within words. Engaging children in a discussion about an exciting read-aloud story encourages their listening, comprehension, and expressive language skills. Playing with magnetic alphabet letters may inspire a child to ask a teacher to help her write the first letter of her name.
Matching games, sorting games, counting games, and board games build children’s understanding of number, categories and sequence, which supports later math learning. Putting together puzzles encourages children to notice patterns, plan ahead and problem-solve.
To sustain children’s excitement and motivation for learning, high-quality preschool and child care programs introduce early literacy and math skills not as isolated exercises, but in the context of activities that are interesting and meaningful to children.
10. Preschool helps develop motor skills
Physical coordination improves, allowing the child to explore her environment — and to challenge herself-in new ways. Young children are in motion for a good part of the day. High-quality preschool programs provide several opportunities daily for children to run, climb, and play active games. Activities are offered to help children develop fine motor skills, such as threading beads or cutting with scissors. And children are challenged through a variety of activities to build their hand-eye coordination and balance.
When you choose a high-quality program that suits your child and family, you can feel assured that your child is well cared for, is enjoying activities and making friends — and is building the knowledge, skills, and confidence to do well in kindergarten.
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