Marilyn Lopes
Extension Specialist, Family Life Education
Cape Cod Cooperative Extension
University of Massachusetts

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Every child is born with creative potential, but this potential may be stifled if care is not taken 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.


Relax the controls. Adults who constantly exert supervision and control diminish the spontaneity and self-confidence that are essential to the creative spirit.

Inspire perseverence. All the creative energy in the world is useless if the product is not seen through to completion. Show appreciation for a child'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. Toys for imagining: Supply preschoolers with unstructured toys and materials. Provide the child with toys that can become a variety of things. 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.

Planning and problem-solving. Encourage creative problem solving in a variety of ways. Teach a youngster 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.


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 have another player push it. Everyone can join in the sound effects as it tackles the lawn. More good objects to role play: eggbeater, record player, garbage disposal, toaster, pencil sharpener, and water fountain.

Someone starts a story and each person adds a part.

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 – Child chooses one cracker; looks at it; then eats it. Then the child becomes that animal for 1-2 minutes.

Read a story and then act it out.



A child can develop and express his or her personality in his own way – pretending to be animals, snowflakes, fairies, giants, snails, mice, etc.

Role playing family happenings, everyday activities such as a visit to the doctor, store or bank, day care situations, etc., stimulates creative thinking and is a good way to help children see the viewpoints of others, help them explore their own feelings, and handle their emotions.

The following are some creative play activities that require the use of
large muscles and help in the development of those muscles:

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.

Building with Sand, Mud and Clay – Children use large muscles to build
sand mounds with moats around them. Sand pies and sand forts can be
built in a sandbox, on a sand table, or at the beach. Children use mud
to make large structures. Clay is also used to create structures and


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.

  • Have children close their eyes and then guess what you have placed in their hands – a piece of foam rubber, a small rock, etc.
  • Have children close their eyes and guess at what they hear – use such sounds as 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, for example:

  • 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. Any time you ask a child a question which requires a variety of answers, you are aiding creative thinking skills. 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?

Other concepts: fire, sand, cars, smoke, ice

Ask “What would happen if…” questions. These questions are fun to ask and allow the children to really use their imaginations. Here are some:

  • What would happen if all the trees in the world were blue?
  • What would happen if all the cars were gone?
  • What would happen if everybody wore the same clothes?
  • What would happen if you could fly?
  • What would happen if no one cleaned the house?

Ask “In how many different ways…” questions. These questions also extend a child's creative thinking.

  • 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?

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