Inspiration not Perspiration - 5 Easy Ways to Fit Creative Projects into a Busy Preschool Day
26 March 2019
Child development and pediatric experts agree that even short spurts of creative time can greatly impact a preschooler’s social, mental, and emotional development in their earliest years. And, sharing these creative preschool experiences makes long-lasting, positive memories with their caring adults.
At the same time, as I'm sure you know, those who care for preschoolers all share one big problem: They are strapped for time. But it is possible to easily fit creative activities into your busy and challenging preschool days-- if you take a more relaxed, less structured approach.
Here are five easy ways to help your family quickly and simply engage in meaningful creative preschool projects.
- Eliminate the pressures that makes creative projects so hard. Creative projects don’t need to take a lot of parent prep-time. Use items that you already have around the house-- like paper towel rolls or cotton balls-- to eliminate time typically needed to go out and buy special supplies. Focus Scopes is an example of a very simple activity that re-uses paper towel or toilet tissue rolls. Also, keep simple items on hand that can be used for a variety of projects, such as paper, paint, tape, crayons, and glue. Store these in a spot where you and your preschooler can easily access them when the creative bug bites. Also, try storing your materials in clear plastic. shoe-sized boxes with lids like these to allow for easy viewing and using! To get more quick ideas using everyday and recycled household materials, check out our Easy Peasy & Kitchen Science Activity Collections.
- Let your preschooler take the creative lead. You don’t always have to be the leader. Hang back and encourage your child to try out their own ideas versus giving them a strict pattern to follow. Simply put out the paint sets, paper, brushes and water and let your child decide what’s next! By allowing them to practice the mental process of “trial and error” and to initiate their own creative project, you will promote their innovative thinking, independence, and planning skills. Even better, a creative spark is lit when your child is encouraged to figure out how materials work on their own. This approach is backed by recent studies which have shown that young children display more advanced cognitive or mental skills when adults use less instruction. Need more open-ended, preschool-friendly materials? Try our Preschool Materials Guide right here!
- Be supportive, but don’t take over. The benefits from doing creative projects independently are critical for your preschooler’s academic readiness. You can best support your little one by encouraging them, providing them with suggestions, and stepping in only when really needed. While it might take your child longer to open a glue bottle or paint tube, these are important (and easy!) ways children can develop the small motor skills and muscle strength they will need for primary school. And when your child does make mistakes during an activity, the ability to work through them is a skill that will be extremely valuable in school-- and beyond. Our Child Development Guide is an excellent source to gain a holistic understanding of what skills your preschooler has in all of the major development areas, large and small.
- Praise your child’s efforts, not the product itself. Want to support your child’s future success in academics, sports, and the arts? Research has proven that praising your child for their effort, not the quality of the final product, supports qualities like self-confidence and determination that will pave their road to accomplishment. Simple yet creative activities offer an opportunity for you to encourage and reinforce your child’s efforts rather than focusing on a “perfect” outcome. For example, acknowledge something specific your child spent time on, such as making an interesting color when mixing paints: I see how you made a really dark purple by using more blue this time. Or, you can acknowledge a specific skill: You cut so many shapes with those scissors! For more helpful ways to talk with your child about their creative work, read on our educational article, Your Picture Makes Me Happy - Talking with Young Children about Their Creations.
- Remember, no matter the amount of time spent, you are creating happy memories! Large blocks of time are not necessary to make an impression that will last your child’s lifetime. The crucial point is that you are making it a priority to spend time together and to support your child’s creativity. Years from now, it won’t matter what was created. What matters is a lifetime of benefits you and your child get from the experience of making something together.
With these tips, yes indeed, it will be possible to fit creative activities more easily into your busy preschool day! I hope that both you and your preschooler will enjoy the benefits of including them whenever and wherever possible.
If you’re looking for more ways to support the development of your child’s creativity, check out our educational article series, Children’s Creativity, starting with Part 1 - Four Essential Skills. And to find out even more about why creative activities are so supportive of their future learning, check out Art Builds Brains - How Art Stimulates Young Children’s Mental Growth. Enjoy the time you have together!
Let us know what you think! What idea worked best for you? You can give us your feedback right here.