Creative Play Ideas for Babies and Toddlers
Nurture | Creativity | Joy: Creative play for 0- 2 year olds
This very special blog post is written by our guest blogger, Claire Moloney, Founder of Tiny Seeds, a small business that provides creative play classes for children. We are so very excited to support another small biz mama and have her share her expertise with us on the Cloth & Crown blog!
Children are born creative. Studies have shown that it is just after we start our formal schooling that levels of creativity start to decline. Children are active learners through play, so by providing plenty of opportunity for children to discover, explore, create and imagine we are helping set up their futures.
Creative play has a fluid definition, essentially it is play that sparks creativity, it can be in almost any play format and doesn’t need a lot to set up. Creative play is beneficial for a healthy development, emotionally, intellectually, socially, spiritually and physically.
Creative play is beneficial for a healthy development, emotionally, intellectually, socially, spiritually and physically.
This type of play nurtures children’s emotional health as they have opportunities to learn to self express, it also helps mature self regulation. It increases problem solving abilities and critical/ creative thinking, through making mistakes and learning. Play = learning! Encourages choice making which leads to self confidence.
Creative play strengthens cognitive skills which is vital for core human development. Playing helps all of us be immersed in the moment, providing us with joy. Parents and carers can encourage creative play by modelling creativity; embrace your creative pursuits, whether it’s making art, baking, dancing, singing, seeing theatre or concert’s or writing.
Playing helps all of us be immersed in the moment, providing us with joy.
Even better if you can include the children in your activities or let them watch you. Introduce your children to a variety of creative activities and experiences – and don’t ever stop, this is a life long skill that is so valued today!
You don’t need much to make creative play happen – think about giving yourself and your child time to explore, investigate and have fun. Have a safe space to enjoy the activities and most importantly use your imagination – the sky is the limit.
Creative play ideas for the 0 – 2 year olds
Being outside in nature is particularly wonderful creatively for all babies, toddlers and children! Nature play is not only vital for healthy development, but allows children to experience a variety of senses, textures, concepts and ideas. Let them investigate to help develop their curiosity, self confidence and understanding of the world, which will help strengthen their creativity.
Reading picture books is wonderful for babies understanding of how to imagine and plants seeds of viewpoints.
Bubbles. Who doesn’t love bubbles! They are fun and engaging.
Water play (carefully supervised), bath time, splashing or pouring water all help with imagining, problem solving and importantly enjoying and relaxing.
Babies newborn – 4 months:
- Introducing storytelling, whether it’s through reading a picture book with them or just using your voice. Showing babies colourful, contrasting pictures – black and white pictures are particularly great at this age as their eyes are adjusting to life on the outside.
- Singing, babies love the sound of your voice but it’s also a brilliant idea to introduce babies to a variety of musical styles, even if it is just in the background – try classical, blues, rock n roll, country – anything goes.
- Letting them explore different textures, temperatures, smells, sights, sounds and allow them to use all their senses.
- Lie them down under a tree outside and let them watch the world go by, this is wonderful for the beginning of creativity.
Babies around 4 months – 6 months:
- Discovery baskets – find a small box or basket and place some household ideas in there and let them play.
- Introduce simple musical instruments such as egg shakers (you can make your own with a bottle and some rice) and allow them to make some noise.
- Outdoor nature floor play – have a picnic outside, let them explore nature.
- Put some paint in a sealed bag (e.g. zip-lock), tape it to the floor and let them explore pushing and moving the paint around (added bones it’s mess free).
Around 6 months +
- Creating their own music – set up some pots, pans and a wooden spoon then join in and make your own band.
- Dancing, play some music and dance away, you will know when babies enjoy music because they will start bobbing along – letting them move their bodies (even when they are sitting) is a wonderful form of self expression.
- Around this age you can introduce food textures as part of creative play – be creative yourself in coming up with ideas for them to explore (think coloured rice, lavender play dough, corn flour – there are lots of ideas online)
- Messy play is definitely part of creative play.
Around 18 months +
- Cloud spotting – nothing beats lying down, looking up at the sky and seeing shapes, animals, and trains, talk about what you see and ask them what they can find – the answers may often surprise you.
- Painting, set up an area that they can use freely – a shell pool or tuff tray is useful, add some paint (make sure it is non toxic and safe for babies) and something for them to paint on and paint with (it doesn’t have to be paper and the usual brushes), and make sure they are wearing old clothing – then let them go to town.
- Any form of art (play dough/ nature art/ drawing/ sculpting) – focus on the process rather than the result – allow them to choose the materials (you may need to set up a few to give them a choice) and let them experiment.
- Small world play – this can be set up simply with a tray, a coloured scarf and some wooden figures such as animals – let them create their own worlds. Often less is more for young children.
- Allow them to start helping in the kitchen – using a leaning tower – babies of this age love to “help” and this process will encourage them to gain necessary life skills as well as be creative.
- Open ended toys are marvellous to introduce – they really don’t need many – a few quality ones will do – second hand are fine as well!
Remember each baby will develop in their own time – allow them to investigate, make mistakes, explore and find joy in the moment!
* Under 2 years old must always be carefully supervised by an adult when using materials for safety reasons.
By Claire Moloney, Founder of Tiny Seeds
About the Author
Claire Moloney is a mama, educator, designer, researcher and nature lover and the Founder of Tiny Seeds, which develops creative play classes for children. She lives on a farm in the beautiful South Coast of NSW with her family.
Claire is passionate about nurturing children’s creative development and supporting parents to help their children thrive.