As a parent, you’ll find that you are your toddler’s favourite playmate. Every second you spend with them at playtime is special. Best of all, it’s not only something fun you will cherish in your memories, it’s also a critical part of their growth and development.
Playtime is serious business for toddlers. It’s the main way they learn about the world around them while levelling up their physical development, powering up their imagination and creativity (both vital in the learning process), and learning social skills.
Think of creativity as a way for your toddler to express themself. Allowing them the freedom for self-expression can reflect and nurture their emotional health.
The experiences they have during the first few years of life can affect how their creativity develops. It is critical that you provide them with ample opportunity to explore, experience and express themself.
Creative play involves imagination and creative thinking. Draw and paint together, explore the outdoors, listen to music (try several genres to see which ones they like), and let them make their own art using materials like paper, clay or building blocks.
By allowing your toddler to have a variety of experiences, you are effectively stimulating their sensory systems, building on imagination, and providing them a broader range of ideas.
Remember that it’s not just places and materials, it’s also personal experiences with different people that help your toddler thrive and develop both socially and physically.
Remember to emphasise the process of creativity and not just the final product. You can do this by appreciating and encouraging their efforts while allowing them the independence to handle things on their own.
For example, if they paint the sun blue and colour the leaves of a tree pink, just go with the flow. While colours serve as an indicator of their emotions, you may be surprised to learn that they have his own special way of interpreting their paintings.
Colours can impact your child’s mood or behaviour, so it’s important to paint your rooms with the right colours. Children tend to associate happy scenes with bright colours like orange, yellow, green and blue. Sad scenes are associated with dark colours like brown, black and grey.
Creative play involves using your child’s creativity to turn everyday objects into something they can play with.
Playtime with your toddler can be accomplished with almost anything at hand, e.g. a large cushion placed on a carpet can be their “safe island in the ocean” while you pretend to be a shark in the water, waiting to pounce on them.
By spending plenty of quality time with them, you help to reinforce their creative spirit while engaging in spontaneous play. While you may initiate some of the creative play, be sure to give them the chance to come up with their own ideas or suggestions.
Play helps your toddler develop new ways of thinking and improves their problem-solving skills. For instance, playing with building blocks helps sharpen their mental abilities in measurement, equality, balance, shape and spatial relationships.
You can help stimulate their creativity with ingenuity of your own. Here are a few tips and ideas you can make use of:
• Create a drawing or painting area. You can even reserve one section of their playroom for them to doodle, draw or paint on. You can minimise potential messes by covering floors and tables with mahjong paper or clear plastic sheets.
Easy-to-clean wall paints or chalkboard paints are another option you may consider. Other alternative painting tools include vegetable/texture stamping or hand/foot stamp.
• Create a playwall by placing a collection of different toys, or create a waterwall to teach simple scientific principles like gravity, or to illustrate a rain cycle.
• Use existing toys or everyday household items in different ways. If your toddler loves singing, hold a concert together. All you need is your bed as a stage and a hairbrush as a microphone.
Turn your sofa into the Nautilus as you take them on an imaginary journey 20,000 leagues under the sea. Or pile up some cushions on the floor to become a mini-obstacle course that they have to wriggle through.
With so many possibilities, the only limit is one’s imagination. You can also make your own toys or games, e.g. make your own carrom board using bottle caps, or set aside a section of the floor for hopscotch with floor tiles or foam flooring.
• No time to make something out of scratch? Head to the store and buy toys or equipment that encourage your toddler to use their imagination and creativity, e.g. building blocks, animal sets, cars and trucks, or modelling clay.
Keeping Play Safe
Other things to keep in mind include keeping toys or equipment in easily accessible areas like a playroom or a corner in your home. They can be stored neatly into containers or boxes.
Regardless of the toys or games you make, always ensure that safety remains the priority by not letting them play unsupervised until they are older. Make sure at least one adult is on hand to supervise as they play, or better yet join them for their playtime.
Don’t forget their health, too, by ensuring that they maintain basic hygiene and that they have access to clean air and water. The materials and surfaces they are frequently in contact with should be cleaned regularly, so they are free of bacteria and viruses.
Keep your cool if your children draw or paint on walls in other parts of the house. Be firm but gentle. Walls can be cleaned, but scaring your child from expressing their creativity may have a longer impact in the future.
Lastly, remember that as parents, try not to rely on digital gadgets to pacify your toddler. Sometimes, a little boredom is good for them as it works as an incentive for them to get inventive.
You may need to look at your own digital gadget usage as you are their role model. Lead by example and don’t neglect them by spending too much time with your electronic devices.