Ways to Strengthen Children's Creativity in Child Care

Watercolor paints for children

Every child is born with creative potential, but this potential may be stifled if child care providers and parents are not careful 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 Children’s Creativity

  • Relax the controls. Child care providers who constantly control children’s activities actually 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 children’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. Unstructured toys and materials supply preschoolers with opportunities for imagining and allow the child to use toys in a variety of ways. 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.
  • Encourage planning and problem solving. Teach children 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.

Creative Games for Young Children in Child Care

  • Object Creation: 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 having another player push it. Everyone can join in the sound effects as the lawnmower “cuts” the grass. More good objects to role play include: eggbeater, record player, garbage disposal, toaster, pencil sharpener and water fountain.
  • Continuing Story: 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: Have one child choose an animal cracker, look at it and then eat it. Then the child becomes that animal for one to two minutes. Encourage other children to guess which animal cracker the child ate.

Follow the Leader

Creative Role Playing Ideas for Child Care

Role playing and pretending are great ways for children to express their personality in their own way. Pretending to be animals, snowflakes, fairies, giants, snails, mice and other characters helps children see the viewpoints of others, explore their own feelings, and handle their emotions. Acting out family happenings, everyday activities such as a visit to the doctor, store or bank or child care situations can stimulate children’s creative thinking. The following are some creative play activities:

  • 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.

Creative Questioning

Creative questions can help young children be creative by stimulating their imagination and encouraging problem solving. The following are examples of creative questioning activities for use in child care.

  • 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.
  • Play guessing games: Have children close their eyes and then guess what you have placed in their hands (a piece of foam rubber, a small rock, etc.) or guess what they hear (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. Ask questions that require creative thinking, such as:

    • 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. Anytime you ask a child a question which requires a variety of answers, you are aiding creative thinking skills.
  • Ask “What would happen if…” questions. Explore concepts such as fire, sand, cars, smoke, ice by asking what would happen in different situations. 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?
  • Ask “In how many different ways…” questions. These questions also extend a child’s creative thinking. Some examples include:

    • 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?

For More Information

To learn more about how child care providers can support children’s development, check out our Ages and Stages in Child Care section, or take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:

Photo by Emilio Labrador / CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/