How to promote different types of play
“Play is vital for development. Play is a biological necessity,” says Carol Reid, a professor of Early Childhood Education at Toronto’s Humber College.
You’ve probably noticed that preschoolers love to play. Not all play is equal, though, according to Terry Stafford, the director of the Wildwood Educational Enrichment Centre in Fort Langley, BC. Stafford says the more passive activities of watching TV or interacting with electronic games can be seductive and may pull kids away from creative, imaginative play. “That’s why your supply of creative materials needs to be easy to access and equally appealing.”
The word Reid uses to describe the toys and activities that promote creativity is “open-ended.” She explains that “open-ended toys can be enjoyed by boys and by girls, appeal to a wide age range, and don’t need adult instructions or demonstrations.” She adds that children also need enough space to be able to move around freely and a good stretch of unstructured time — experts suggest at least 45 minutes, according to Reid — to really get into their creative play.
Want to encourage your preschooler to explore some new creative activities? Stafford suggests setting up areas that can promote different types of play:
The art corner
• Stock up on inexpensive art supplies: crayons, markers, different types of paints, coloured pencils and chalks. (Keep paints and especially messy art supplies out of reach until you’re available to supervise.)
• If you can, set up a permanent painting centre. Tape a shower curtain to the floor with duct tape, and put a child-sized table and chairs on top. Keep a small pail with a wet rag handy for easy cleanup, and have old adult T-shirts hanging nearby to protect clothes.
• A box of collage supplies and glue can invite more creative expression. Try these materials: wallpaper samples, feathers, beads, crinkled paper, pictures cut from magazines, and corrugated and textured papers.
• Store containers of playdough, clay and modelling wax near the table.
• Make a place to display the finished artwork. “A clothesline along one wall with clothespins for attaching pictures is a fun look,” says Stafford.