15 Quick and Easy Ways to Get Your Kids Creating
Children love to create and in today’s world creative is a good way to be. Where would society be without people who are able to see things and express themselves in unique ways, or the ability to find interesting solutions to problems, or to streamline a process to become more efficient?
These are all examples of creative thought in action, the nurturing which begins in our homes as we give children the opportunity and the confidence to have fun and create. It isn’t hard and takes just a little organisation, so without further ado, here are 15 quick and easy creative fun ideas using simple grocery items and things commonly found around the home to get you started…
Half fill a large plastic tub (preferably with low sides) with rice. Add an assortment of small cups, tubs, spoons, plastic bottles and a funnel and watch your toddler or preschooler get busy pouring, stirring, filling and emptying. If you are worried about the mess, take the fun outdoors or put the tub down in the centre of a large tablecloth and then scoop up the edges to collect all the rice once you are done. Keep a dustpan and brush nearby and get the kids involved in sweeping up once they are done playing.
As well as being fun, creative experiences which involve the five senses help to develop strong brain pathways in babies and young children. Even babies can fingerpaint, you just need to start with edible fingerpaint! Custard, chocolate pudding, Uncle Toby’s pureed fruit or rice pudding all make for a fun (and tasty!) sensory play experience.
Shaving Cream Play
Spread some shaving cream onto a baking tray (not too much as it really does go a long way). Add a few drops of two different colours of food colouring and allow your child to experiment with colour mixing. Preschoolers will enjoy making pictures in the shaving cream by smoothing it over and drawing with their finger. Shaving cream feels lovely and smooth, cleans up easily and leaves everyone smelling clean and fresh.
An oldie but a goodie, I don’t think playdough will ever go out of fashion! To make your own at home: mix 2 cups of plain flour, 4 tablespoons of cream of tartar, 2 tablespoons of cooking oil, 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of water and a few drops of food colouring in a saucepan and stir continuously over a medium heat until the mixture congeals and comes together. Remove from heat and knead with a little flour as the playdough cools. An additional layer of sensory fun can be added with - sparkly glitter for visual appeal, uncooked rice for texture to touch, or a little lemon juice, diluted coffee powder or vanilla essence for smell.
Goop is fascinating to children – feeling firm to pick up but also running through their fingers as a liquid. Goop is simply made by emptying a packet of cornflour into a plastic container and then slowly adding 1 cup of cold water. You can also add food colouring if you wish. It can be messy so play clothes and a large plastic container outdoors is the best way for both the kids and Mum to enjoy goop!
Paper Bag Puppets
Paper bag puppets can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. Grab a brown paper bag, felt tipped pens and some collage materials and glue. Create your puppet character on the front of the bag and then stuff it with crumpled newspaper. Tape to a cardboard roll and you are ready to put on a show. Puppets are perfect for developing imagination and communication skills as children make up stories and scenarios to share with an audience.
Who doesn’t remember good old fashioned pasta threading at preschool? Keep it simple with penne pasta and wool or string, or add other bits and bobs suitable for threading – small colourful cupcake wrappers (patty pans) with a hole punched in the middle look pretty; hole-y cereal like Uncle Toby’s Cheerios is fun and yummy too; cut up drinking straws provide an extra challenge for older children. The pasta can be easily dyed with a little food colouring before use, just be sure to lay the it out on a baking tray to fully dry first. If your child has difficulty pushing the wool or string through the pasta, wrap a small piece of tape around the end of the wool to make it easier to handle.
Small plastic juice bottles are perfect for making home made shakers. Offer your child a variety of possible ‘music making ingredients’ to fill their bottle with -popcorn, dried beans, rice, buttons, risoni pasta, even toothpicks or matchsticks make fun sounds. You may also like to dress up your music makers with coloured tape.
In the Kitchen
Get the kids creating in the kitchen. Why not start with fruit kebabs? Choose soft fruits like watermelon, bananas and strawberries, enlisting the help of your child with cutting the fruit up and threading the pieces onto popsticks or kebab sticks (I recommend cutting off the point, you wont need it). Add yoghurt and sprinkles for dipping and you have a yummy, scrummy afternoon tea.
A simple savoury cooking-with-kids option is vegie face pizzas. Provide each child with an individual base – half an English muffin or a lebanese bread round work well, spread the base with pizza sauce, sprinkle on a little cheese and then add toppings to make funny faces. Think olives for eyes, pineapple for a nose, capsicum for a mouth, and shredded ham for hair!
Marshmallow Family Challenge
This one is perfect for involving the whole family. Set a challenge to see who can build the tallest structure from mini marshmallows and toothpicks!
More Family Fun
Or raid the Coles stationary aisle for chalk, crayons, pencils and felt pens and cover the dining table with a big sheet of paper for family drawing time. This is a great way to spend time talking together as a family as you create together or side by side.
Create secret messages or treasure maps by writing your message with a white candle. Reveal your hidden secrets by washing over your paper with a paintbrush dipped in a little diluted food colouring.
Balloon printing makes for really pretty wrapping paper and it really is easy to do. I usually put a little rice into the balloon before I blow it up to help weigh it down. Only blow the balloon part way up as it is much easier to hold if it is not too large. Dip the balloon into some paint and bounce away on large sheets of paper.
Into a small tub of water squeeze a squirt of dishwashing liquid and a few drops of food colouring. Let your child blow through a straw until bubbles form up high enough to lay a sheet of paper over the top of the tub to make a print. They will have lots of fun huffing and puffing to make pretty bubble prints.
Kids love glue and creating a collage is wonderful way to get gluing. Toddlers will enjoy exploring with flour and water paste and pictures cut from a catalogue (Coles, of course!). For preschoolers, why not try collecting materials to paste which represent a range of textures – bumpy/rough textures from birdseed, porridge oats, unpopped popcorn, or whole cloves; cotton balls, feathers, and wool scraps for soft; pieces of cellophane or alfoil for smooth.
Most importantly, remember being creative is about the process of exploring new materials or ideas and not about the end product. In this case, the journey is much more important than the destination. Have fun!
Christie Burnett is the Mum and Early Childhood Teacher behind award winning blog, Childhood 101 . She provides information, education and inspiration for parents about all things ‘childhood,’ including play ideas, art activities, toy and book reviews, and information about everyday issues like nutrition, health and behaviour. Christie is always on the lookout for simple, cost effective ways to play and have fun as a family.