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Encouraging Preschoolers Creative and Artistic Development


preschool girl doing art with mom


Creative play and art is an important part of development and helps nurture your preschooler’s senses. You can help support your preschooler by creating an encouraging environment and allowing plenty of time for free-flowing creative activities.

How to encourage creative play

Give your preschooler time and space to be creative. Give him simple materials to stimulate imagination and encourage play. Books, CDs, drawing materials, sound makers, play dough and wooden blocks are all good examples.

Creative arts help your child develop her senses, such sight and touch. Give her access to a wide range of materials to experiment with. Finger painting can be messy, but it’s a great activity for sensory development.

It’s good to leave children to create and play in their own way, but sometimes you might want to join in and show him how to vary the play and use more senses in different ways.

Whatever artwork, song or dance your child comes up with, give lots of descriptive praise. For example, "I love the picture you drew. You really know how to put colours together". This will boost self-esteem and encourage your child to keep going with the creative play.

Ideas for making things

You don’t always need to buy new play materials. Using everyday objects, and making it up as you go along, is a great way to encourage creative development.

  • Use empty cardboard boxes to make houses or forts.
  • Glue ribbons and strips of material onto paper or cardboard.
  • Newspaper, glue and water are all you need for paper mâché.
  • Use empty toilet rolls or small plastic juice bottles to make a family. Draw on faces, stick on paper clothes, and use wool for hair. When finished your child could use these new toys to make up stories.
  • In fall, collect leaves for drawing, pasting onto paper or dipping in paint.
  • Use small plastic lids, cupcake liners and other "threadables" to make jewellery.
  • Create an art gallery in your home, where your child can display her artwork. This shows that you value your preschooler’s creations.

Tip: Keep a "busy box" of useful objects or materials for creative play. A busy box could contain things like string and coloured paper, empty food containers and plastic cups.

Drama, music, movement and dance ideas

  • Start a dress-up box using old clothes and props for dramatic play. Thrift stores are a great source of cheap and unusual clothes and props. Use dramatic play, song and movement to re-enact things from daily life. You might play at being doctors, mothers, fathers, shopkeepers. You might be amazed at how your child sees the people and events that are part of your daily life.
  • At story time, encourage your child to act out roles from the story with movements or sounds. Make homemade instruments out of everyday items like saucepans, spoons, boxes or bottles filled with rice or pasta.
  • Preschoolers like to pretend to be like animals, encourage them to make sounds and move like animals.
  • Play music and dance together. See how many moves you can come up with. Encourage your child to march, stamp, hop, slide and twirl. Skipping can be tricky for preschoolers and can take time to master.
  • Help your child develop a sense of rhythm by doing:
    • finger and body plays such as, "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or "I’m a Little Teapot" or
    • word chants and rhymes like "Five Little Monkeys Bouncing on the Bed" or "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"
© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links:

HealthLink BC: Your Child and Play, Birth to 3 Years 

Last Updated: November 30, 2014