creative play in the home
Arts & Crafts,  Creative Play,  Imaginative Play,  Outdoor Play,  Tuff Tray Play

The Beginners Guide to Creative Play in the Home

It is not important what children create, but that they do create, that they exercise and implement their creative imagination

LEV SEMENOVICH VYGOTSKY

Have you ever written off creative play activities because you don’t consider yourself to be creative

Have you ever decided not to do something because you can’t do it as well as other parents?

Have you ever looked at Pinterest creations and been overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy?

If this is you, then hear these words loud and clear:

Creative play is a journey!

It has nothing to do with the end result, creative play it is about what is learnt along the way

It’s not about what it looks like, it’s a journey of discovery!

  • It is about exploring new surroundings
  • It is about learning new skills
  • It is about developing social skills

  • It’s about being imaginative

But most of all it’s about learning through creative play and having a lot of fun no matter what the outcome!

Mum’s Creative Cupboard is packed full of learning through play activities for toddlers and presschoolers that I’m sure you’ll love!

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My Creative Play Journey

As a toddler group leader and a mum of two young toddlers, I was always on the lookout for new activities and crafts to share that were fun and engaging and a little bit different.



All it took was some simple adaptations!

We had a cupboard full of playdough, and I began to realise that there was so much more than just cutting shapes out with cutters!

We introduced playdough mats, which I now absolutely love creating (check out this post for free printable playdough mats) play dough small world play, playdough themed days with playdough kits – you name it, we tried it! And it was so easy to do!

But what about at creative play at home?

As mums at home, it can seem like a lot of effort to get creative.

But it doesn’t have to be!

You’ll be surprised to discover that you’re already armed with loads of simple household items that are just perfect for creative play

I’m here to show you how easy it can be with step by step activity guides, tons of easy crafts, simple activities and loads of creative play ideas for the home for you and your little ones!

Oh and I also have some step by step big projects for the days you want to be a little more adventurous!

What is Creative Play?

Creative play is somewhat of an umbrella term, including many forms of play. But essentially Creative Play is anything that gives children the freedom to express themselves creatively and use their imagination to develop new skills along the way.

ultimate guide to creative play for toddler

Creative play is...

Let’s take a look at some examples of creative play to help us better understand what we are talking about when we use the term creative play:

  • Pretend Play
    This may include dressing up, acting out roles, imaginative or pretend play activities, or small world play (creating small worlds for the purpose of imaginative play)

     

  • Arts & Crafts
    Arts and crafts can be structured or free play, it may involve making something specific like this simple toilet paper roll craft that we made based on The Three Little Pigs or it may be about exploring new materials in activities such as bubble wrap painting which we did as part of some Rainbow Crafts for Toddlers

     

  • Gardening
    This may be growing vegetables, raking leaves, watering the garden, or just having a look around at what creatures can be found – we love nature play and being outdoors and getting crafty too! Why not try some of these Leaf Activities with your little ones

     

  • Music
    Listening to songs, dancing, singing, or musical instruments are a great way to creatively engage with your child – introducing them to new sounds is great on a sensory level for your child – just try sitting in the garden and listening out for birds or the sound of the wind through the trees

     

  • Construction
    Construction play is so simple and fun – It might be building a tower out of blocks, piecing together a train track or creating a house out of cardboard boxes – let your child have a go at working out how to build towers and what causes them to fall down, let them see how pieces fit together (don’t feel you need to do it for them, maybe just show them what you can do and see where they want to take the activity)

     

  • Stories
    Listening to, or reading stories is another source of creative play especially when paired with props such as story baskets or story sacks – for lots of ideas on how to bring stories to life through creative play then take a look at this post all about Creative Story Time Ideas & Activities

     

  • Baking/Cooking
    This is another great way for children to learn new skills and to create in the process, it will depend on the age of your child but this can be a great bonding experience as you pass on your skills to your child – and if you don’t want to do actual baking, then why not just let your child explore the texture of different ingredients (this makes a great sensory activity)

     

What is creative play then?
There are so many examples of Creative play, but its main focus and aim is to encourage creativity and imagination from an early age through play!

Creative play at home is all about learning through play activities for toddlers and preschoolers but not necessarily in a structured way that is used in education in later years. There are many creative activities for toddlers that promote learning that is all about exploration and discovery.

Creative play is not...

There are some common misconceptions about Creative Play that often put people off giving it a go, so let’s take a look at some of those now:

  • Creative Play is NOT JUST messy play
    Many people equate creative play with messy play, and although messy play is certainly a part of it, it is not all about the messy stuff, so don’t be put off thinking you can only do creative play if you want sticky stuff all over the walls! There are plenty of sensory play activities that are not messy too



  • Creative Play is NOT JUST for creative mums
    So many people are put off because they think they are not creative enough to engage in any type of creative play – this is what Mum’s Creative Cupboard is all about, arming you with the ideas you need, to easily bring creative play into your home and helping you realise your own inner creativity



  • Creative Play DOES NOT have to be time-consuming
    Often people assume that it takes a lot of time and effort to set up and prepare for creative play time, but this isn’t true. You can handpick the activity you want to do depending on how much time you’ve got – and some of them don’t even need any preparation! Check out this post on Fine Motor Skills Activities for lots of mini ideas for creative play using things around your home



  • Creative Play DOES NOT have to be Pinterest perfect
    Pinterest photos can be so misleading – you can’t really tell how much fun was had by one photo. Creative Play is all about the learning and the fun, it’s not about the end result (yes sometimes these are great and we want to share, but a lot of the time they’re messy and don’t look like anything much at all and that’s just fine too!)



  • Creative Play DOES NOT require a whole load of supplies
    Some people are put off by the amount of resources required to get creative but this isn’t something you need to worry about – your house is full of creative play supplies (you just might not know it yet!)

Just because the emphasis is on learning through play activities for toddlers does not mean it has to be any of the above – creative activities for toddlers do not always have to be messy, it is not just for creative mums, it does not have to be time consuming and it does not have to be Pinterest perfect with loads of supplies! One of our favourite go to activities is this Crocodile Swamp that takes just 5 minutes to set up and is made from everyday things you most likely already have at home!

Why is Creative Play Important?

Creative Play is so important for your child’s early development. Creative play enables children to explore and make sense of the world around them in a safe but fun way

When children are exposed to creative play opportunities they are able to develop their emotional, physical, intellectual, and social skills, and it gives them the chance to share how they are feeling at any given moment.

It is also a great way to encourage children to play independently which is so important both for your child, and for you too! To find out more about independent play check out this post on how to encourage independent play with your little ones!

Creative play can help children explore their feelings, develop fine motor skills, help them learn problem-solving skills and much much more!

Isn’t it amazing that all this learning can be done through play?!

So why is creative play important? It can provide your child with so many opportunities for development through play and encourages independent thinking. 

How Do I Get Started With Creative Play?

If you are just starting out with creative play then you might be wondering what supplies you will need. This list is a great starter for creative activities for toddlers and preschoolers:

The Essentials

You, your child, and a space to play!

This is really all you need!

And maybe some household supplies that you already have!

Suggested Supplies

If you want to purchase a few things to give you some options then here is a list of things that you will probably get a lot of use out of making it worthwhile:

  • Craft stuff – crayons, paints, coloured paper/card, PVA glue and playdough would be a good place to start. Kiwi Families has a great article on what supplies you might want to get depending on the age of your child

     

  • Staying clean – for messier activities, you might want a play mat to protect tables and floors, and you may want to get some aprons to protect clothes

     

  • Creative Play Toys – Building bricks of some sort are a great thing to have on hand (this can be anything from wooden bricks to Duplo to Stickle bricks – whatever you want really) and things that move like cars, trains or aeroplanes – our personal favourite toy for construction is this Magnetic Tiles set which we absolutely love as they are so versatile and provide hours of fun:

Creative Play Investments

Although as with most things Creative Play can be done on a budget, there may be times when you want to make things as easy as possible. Having a designated place for some of the more messy activities can be a lifesaver! And having a couple of go-to instant play activities is also a win!

 

  • Tuff Trays can help to make creative playtime easier by having a space to set up and ready to go (and it also helps to contain any messy stuff!) We use this slightly smaller Tuff Tray with a DIY Wooden Stand and find it to be the perfect size for smaller spaces

  • Bubble Machines are a great investment – babies and toddlers never seem to tire of bubbles which is why a bubble machine is such a great investment, especially for summer time – our favourite is this Gazillion Bubble Machine which we talk about in more detail here:

  • Dressing up box – role play is a great form of creative play, so having a collection of costumes and dressing up clothes is a great way to encourage this – it doesn’t have to be filled with expensive costumes, just clothes that you might be giving away or old hats, or aprons! Let your child get creative 🙂

Common Questions About Creative Play

How do I encourage creative play?

We know how important creative play is, so how do we get our child interested and engaged?

 

  • Have fewer toys available and let them use their imagination to create new ways of playing.

     

  • Get out a couple of options – less is definitely more – children can often they can feel overwhelmed by too much choice and not play with anything at all!

     

  • Go outside – let them explore their surroundings, even trips to the shops can be an exciting adventure for little ones! (So long as they’re not hungry or tired!)

     

  • Let them help with household chores – this is a form of role play that kids absolutely love – make the most of it because the novelty eventually wears off!

     

  • Be involved in the play with them, don’t do things for them but play alongside and they will want to join in with you

Can simple things like colouring really help my child's development?

Yes!

Children need the opportunity to express themselves, and mark-making is not only great for creative expression but also for developing fine motor skills

Colouring or mark-making of any form is also great for social interaction – let your child tell you all about what they are drawing, ask questions, encourage them to explore new ways of drawing stories

What are some non-messy examples of creative play?

You just cleaned the house from top to bottom and the last thing you want is new sticky messes all over (just 1 day of of a clean house is all we want!)

Well don’t worry, there are plenty of non-messy creative play ideas for the days you just can’t face the clean up!

  • Pretend play / role play – This could even be tied in to cleaning the house – maybe have a washer upper! You could do some dusting together! Dressing up is another great activity – play doctors and nurses get some bandages out and run a surgery for your little one’s teddy bear collection! We had a go at setting up our own Pretend Play Shoe Shop which was super simple but so much fun!

     

  • Singing and dancing around your living room! Listen to your favourite film music, or do the actions to some nursery rhymes, even put on a little live show if you have a confident little one!

     

  • Storytime – how about creating some wooden spoon puppets for your child’s favourite story and using them to act out the story – this is a great way to help children really grasp a story.

    We recently made these Story Spoons for one of our favourite Pip and Posy Books!

Are there activities that I can throw together in less than 5 minutes?

Yes, loads!

Creative play can be as long as short as you want, it’s entirely up to you!


If you just want to fill 10 minutes before tea time then you can find a suitable activity like playing with cars or drawing pictures in the high chair.


Or maybe you are popping out and need to grab something to take with you to keep your little one occupied in the doctor’s waiting room – you could just pick up a book, or some finger puppets (which you could have a go at making!)


To make it even easier, you could have some activities prepared in advance that you can just grab and go with – why not make up some activity packs for the days you won’t have time to even think about what you might do!

Is Creative Play Suitable For Babies?

Absolutely!

A child’s development begins at birth, so yes there are simplified creative things you can do with your baby.

  • Creative Play that is sensory-based is a great place to start – let babies explore different textures, touchy-feely books are lovely for tiny ones.

     

  • Music & Movement is a great option – and even though your baby might not be able to sing or dance yet, you can, so hold them whilst you move! If you have multiple children this is a great feel-good family activity!

     

  • Bubbles! I’ve already mentioned these but babies are fascinated with bubbles and this a gentle and easy fun thing to do with your baby – and I don’t know about you, but I never stopped loving bubbles…!
creative play for toddlers ideas

Creative Play in a Nutshell

What is Creative Play and Why is Creative Play important?

Creative Play is essentially a window to your child’s learning and development and is important for developing many childhood skills.

Creative Play is about the Journey

A journey of learning and development through creative play

It is not all about the end result


All you need to get going on your Creative Play Journey is a willingness to have fun, a willingness to create things that are not Pinterest perfect (but are a lot of fun to make), be prepared to get messy at times, but above all just get stuck in and enjoy some bonding play time with your little one!


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Happy Playing!


Louisa | Mum’s Creative Cupboard