If there is one thing I learned from the course I have just completed it is that child lead creative play is vital in extending toddlers development.
Child lead is a bit of a buzz term in child care and often gets completely overlooked. Basically it means if a child brings home an Easter card from nursery with a perfect Easter bunny on the front constructed entirely by the child being told what to put where, what have they learned? Nothing. However if the card is covered in what looks like a mess to you and me, with two eyes peering out at you and the child tells you its a rabbit then this is child lead. The child has been given the freedom to create a masterpiece of their own to feel proud of and has probably thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
There are so many ways to encourage creative play. It really does not need to be left to the childcare setting, most of us are probably doing them without realising it. But if you need some ideas then here are one or two ( OK a lot) that I love.
Fill a tub up with rice/pasta/dried lentils/sand/water and let the child use cups, spades etc to move the medium around. Let them get their hands in, let them feel the rice, the learning is through the touch and the sensation.
Plasticine or play dough is great for encouraging creative language and manual dexterity in using tools, as well as extending fine motors kills.
Cooking- measuring the ingredients is early maths, combining them to create a product is early science and generally getting their hands in is creative!
Get them to clean the outdoor toys with lots of water and washing up liquid, they can roll play as they are doing it and use appropriate language thus extending vocabulary.
Use voice with dolls, puppets, farm animals to create a story. This captures and encourages their imagination and extends their use of language.
Put paint, paintbrushes, paper and objects (a toy car, a wooden shape, a straw, a sponge) in front of them and let them, do what they want to do, it may not look like anything to you but you'll be amazed what it is to them.
Fill a tray with shaving foam, chuck in their farm animals or toy dinosaurs and away you go - they love this one!
Put out glue and lots of different coloured and textured paper and leave them to create their own collage, you can obviously guide them whilst using the correct vocabulary but try not to take over, let them do it.
Combine cornflour and water to make a loose paste and they can create marks in it on a plate with their fingers, they love the sensation and texture and you can extend their mark making and fine motor skills in this way.
The great thing about creative play for kids is there is no right or wrong for them, with puzzles the pieces have to fit, with counting the numbers have an order and so on. But in some areas of their life it's nice for them to be allowed to just be a bit free.
All too soon, they will be assessed on yes and no answers, multiple choice questions and what they can and can't do. I want Monty to enjoy the freedom of being creative, and if it extends him in so many areas even better!