Creative play: why it’s important for preschooler learning and development
The preschool years can be one of the most creative times in a child’s life. While your child’s imagination is still developing, drama, music, dance and visual art:
- foster creativity
- help your child express feelings and learn communication skills
- help your child develop, practise and improve coordination and motor skills
- give your child a chance to try out problem-solving and thinking skills
- help your child find new ways of looking at things.
Learning and development through drama
Your preschooler will often use new songs and stories as the basis for drama and dramatic play. One moment she’s a queen eating bread and honey, and the next you’ve got a little cow jumping over the moon!
Taking on a role and seeing the world from someone else’s point of view helps your child to make sense of the world and express feelings.
Dramatic storytelling also gives your child opportunities to build and practise vocabulary, use imagination and learn about the structure of stories. Sometimes your child might prefer to tell stories alone – at other times, your child might enjoy it more if you join in.
Preschoolers often get completely involved in stories too. For example, when you read your preschooler a story, you might notice him moving his arms, legs or face and miming what’s happening in the story.
Learning and development through visual arts
Preschoolers love to express themselves and their ideas using crayons, paints, playdough, clay, scissors, glue and paper.
Your child will begin making basic shapes, and might enjoy experimenting with texture, space and colours in pieces of art. For example, preschoolers often draw houses with shining suns above them – this is because this picture is made up of very basic shapes, including a square house, triangular roof and round sun.
As children develop, their artworks contain more and more detail. Drawings of people are usually basic figures to begin with. Realistic shape, scale and other details come a little later.
Musical learning and development
Preschoolers use musical instruments – including their own voices – to express feelings and ideas.
Your child will enjoy singing just for the sake of singing. She’ll love songs with repetition and simple melodies. She can make up her own words to familiar songs, and words often come from the events and people around her.
Your preschooler can usually recognise and name favourite songs, and sing parts of them fairly accurately. You’ll quickly learn his favourite nursery rhymes off by heart too! Singing along also helps children understand the differences between fast and slow, long and short, and loud and soft.
Preschoolers might also enjoy group singing games and finger plays – for example, ‘Open Shut Them’ or ‘Where is Thumbkin?’
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Learning and development through dance
Your preschooler will show that she’s developing control of her body by moving spontaneously to music.
Your child might also express feelings of sadness, happiness, joy or excitement through movement – not to mention a temper tantrum now and then!
You might find your child flying like a butterfly, creeping like a caterpillar or hopping like a frog. These play movements help him understand more about the world. You can encourage this activity by giving him props – for example, your child could wave around a scarf to pretend he’s flying.
Dance is more than just a creative art form – it can play a critical role in the development of a child’s gross motor skills. And like many kinds of creative play, it can help develop other skills.