Encouraging your school-age child’s creative play

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.

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

Whatever artwork your child comes up with, encourage her effort with lots of descriptive praise. For example, ‘I like the rhyming words in your song’. This is great for your child’s confidence.

You can also 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 think creatively.

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

Creative activities: arts and crafts

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

  • Use large cardboard boxes to build cubby houses. Let your child come up with the structure and decoration.
  • Give your child a large piece of paper or cardboard to decorate or draw as an imaginary place. For example, your child could paint an outer space scene and then drive cars between planets.
  • Play with textured paint. 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, he can hold the paper up to the light and see the message reappear.
  • Make robots out of recycled materials like boxes, kitchen materials like foil and craft supplies like pipe cleaners.
  • Combine drawing, painting or clay-making with digital media. For example, make a clay model and take photographs of the model. Your child can use these photographs to make up a story using an app.

Keep a ‘busy box’ of play materials that can spark your child’s imagination. A busy box could have things like dried pasta shapes, scraps of wrapping paper, ribbons, pipe cleaners, sticks, bits of material, empty food containers – there’s a lot of recycled objects you can include.

Creative activities: digital media

Here are some activities that your child can do at home:

  • Take photographs and create a story or photo album using an app or a software program.
  • Make a video. Your child could write the script and make the costumes, then video herself using a smartphone or camera. She can edit and add special effects with software or apps.
  • Play with music apps that allow your child to make songs and beats using the sounds of different instruments.
  • Help your child set up a blog where he can write stories or share ideas about favourite subjects or activities.
  • Create digital artwork using software programs or apps.

Your child is likely to use digital media for creative work at school. Your child will learn how to make digital art, how to use digital media to communicate and tell stories, and how to think critically about digital art and media.

Creative activities: drama

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

  • Start a dress-up box. You can use old clothes or buy simple props from op shops. Your child might like to dress up as an athlete, singer, dancer, scientist, teacher, vet and so on.
  • Use songs and movement to act out events from daily life, movies and TV shows, or stories from your child’s imagination.
  • Play with puppets. You could buy puppets or get your child to make simple puppets.
  • 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.
  • Play games that involve guessing and acting. Charades and Pictionary are good games for this age group. Your child could also make up his own set of flashcards with words to act out or draw.

Creative activities: music, dance and movement

Some children are more interested in music and dance than others, so you can’t really ‘teach’ your child to enjoy these creative activities. But you can pass on a positive attitude to music and dance.

Here are some fun musical activities you can do with your child:

  • If you already own or play instruments yourself, it’s great to play music with your child. Let your child hold the instruments and try to make sounds on them.
  • Play instruments at different volumes, tempos and rhythms, and encourage your child to copy the way you play.
  • Encourage your child to hum a favourite song and try to guess what she’s 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.

Here are some fun dance and movement ideas that your child might enjoy:

  • Dance to different rhythms and music.
  • Combine different movements. For example, balance on one leg and wave arms or spin quickly and then slowly.
  • Make up dance sequences. Your child can teach them to you too.
  • Use your whole body to show emotions – for example, sadness, happiness, surprise, anger, puzzlement, boredom and so on.
  • Make up dances about people, animals, machines, plants – whatever interests your child.

Creative activities: creative writing

Writing is great way for your child to express feelings and explore ideas. Here are some ways to get your school-age child writing creatively:

  • Make up new words, meanings for the words.
  • Create lyrics or rhymes to made-up songs or to tunes that you know.
  • Make up jokes and riddles. Your child could put these into a book or share them on a blog.
  • Write a story using made up characters or characters he knows. For example, your child could write a storyline for a TV show he watches or for an original play.
  • Make a story book. Your child could make up the story and illustrate the book herself.
  • Make up a new game. Your child can write the back story and the rules. Your child could also make the board and pieces.

For creative writing, it’s more important for your child to focus on the creative act rather than spelling and grammar.

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