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Free creative play can make your child a better problem-solver

Children love to play, pretend, fantasize, experiment, and explore new things. By providing a variety of craft and art media, parents can support their child’s development of creative thinking.


Mother painting with two children.
Painting on paper or on rocks! Children love it when their parents play too.
The activity:

Allow children to explore a range of art, craft, and natural materials however they want, to create anything they want.


This process builds divergent thinking, as children can produce unique solutions and make new connections without being tied to a singular, “right” way of doing things.


Strong divergent thinking skills help people of any age generate multiple solutions to a problem.


Mother helping child with scissors.
Note how this parent is showing her child how to hold scissors correctly so she can try to cut on her own.
How to set up the creative play:
  • Provide a space for messy activity. Have your child wear a paint shirt and use a plastic tablecloth to protect your work surface.

  • Encourage your child to create something unique, made from their pure imagination. You can assist them when they need help (for example, to cut holes in cardboard), but remember, letting them try to do things on their own is part of the process.

Materials needed:

Paint, cardboard box, markers, glue, recycled paper towel rolls, small rocks, pinecones, leaves, etc.


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