According to PBS (n.d.), the ability to create something from personal experiences and feelings can nurture emotional health and assist with mental growth by providing opportunities to problem solve and think in new ways. Adults benefit too because creative play leads to relaxation or stimulation of new ideas and mental growth. With advantages like these, it is impossible to deny the impact it can also have on bonding time. As single parents, it is crucial for us to bond with our children as we are their first peek into what the world is like “out there”. We want them to trust us and our opinions more than they will trust their friends as we have been there, done that. It is during this time, that walls can be broken down and conversations can filter in (for the older children). Some of us struggle with the concept of being silly and getting dirty or letting our children find their way in creative play. But, there is no failure or gong that goes off to signal foul play. It is all fun, outside of the box fun, giggles, laughter, joy, eye contact, wonder, imagination, celebration, stimulation…play. Don’t be scared that the carpet and the walls will become ruined (the odds that this will happen regardless are great). Put on some clothes that you feel comfortable in and depending on the type of activity, that you don’t mind getting nasty. First think of your child’s natural strengths and talents and build activities around those. After building self-esteem, transport them to new activities where they must think outside of the box and use their imagination. I look back at my own childhood and since everyone else in the household was an adult and worked long hours, I had to entertain myself. I set up concerts using my Barbie dolls, created castles with Lego’s, completed latch hook and paint by number pieces, collected garbage pail kid cards, rocks, stamps, etc.
But, now there are so many other options out there and our kids are glued to screens instead of manipulating pieces and putting things together with their hands to create something new, whether or not it turns out the way that they intended. Below, I have listed some options for creative play with your child by age group. I hope that this helps and you try some of these this summer when you have more time with them than during the school year.
Toddlers & Young Children:
- foam blocks
- foam tangram
- finger paints outside, in the tub, on a wooden table
- Wii just dance or any dance game on the Wii or Kinetic for Xbox
- decorate clay pots
- use towel paper rolls to create instruments, kaleidoscope, animals like color snakes, etc
- fruit loop necklaces
- create a rainbow with paper plates and colorful streamers
- just color (crayons, blank paper, huge coloring book)
The great thing about toddlers is that they are more interested in the box than the contents. Utilize everyday household supplies to save money and create with what you have. Small ones love to get messy and make a lot of noise so keep that in my mind.
- make lip gloss, soap, candy
- bake a cake that looks gross but tastes wonderful
- let them design a menu and make the meal (with your assistance of course)
- watch a YouTube video together and learn a new dance move
- put together a skit, write it and act it out
- put together a dance routine
- Wii Zumba
- latch hook
- paint by number
- watch a YouTube video and learn how to crochet and knit (make a scarf)
- purchase a science experiment book and try one a week
- make jewelry
- up cycle a pair of jeans or a t-shirt and make it something new
- paint glass
Remember there are a lot of items that you can obtain from your local dollar store. You don’t need to go to some expensive craft store to get started. Also, use your seasons; in the summer collect seashells and place them in clear containers, in the fall, gather some leaves and create something, in the winter make something besides a snow man with the snow, and in the spring plant a garden.
- make snow globes
- create a musical
- shadow boxing
- create an iPad sleeve from recycled resources or old clothing
- make a journal from scratch
- vision boards
- bejeweled iPhone cases or jazz them up in a different way
- learn to sew together
- Wii Michael Jackson
Okay, the Wii showed up in each category but it is really fun and my kids love to see me let my hair down, plus I get some exercise. If you can think of anything else, please add to the list in the comments. If you have questions please feel free to contact me here in the comments or via Twitter. Now, go play with your kids!