Lucky for us, preschoolers usually have an abundance of these three traits – curiosity, invention, and imagination. These skills don’t necessarily need to be taught, but we can focus on arranging the child’s environment to foster and encourage creative exploration.
Why are these traits important?
Curiosity provides intrinsic motivation to learn. Asking “Why?” often leads to exploration and discovery.
Creative thinking (“outside-the-box”) is a crucial skill for becoming a good problem-solver.
Through creative exploration and pretend play, children can take risks, make mistakes, and practice perseverance.
Tips + Activities:
Set out unusual toy combinations, such as blocks + dolls or play dishes + fabric scraps.
Ask open-ended questions such as “What would happen if…?” or “Why do you think…?”
Place a new art tool, an unfamiliar toy, or a tray of unusual collage materials where your child will find it and be intrigued to explore.
Read books about animals, people, places; have conversations and encourage your child to ask questions.
Join your child in trying new activities, materials, and foods.
Listen and respond to your child’s questions (even if they seem endless!). Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know. How could we find out the answer to that?”
Gather and set-out props that encourage pretend play, such as dress-up clothes, clipboards, maps, menus, etc.
Provide open-ended toys, such as blocks, playsilks + fabric, art materials, etc.
Create your own board games and card games. Use pieces from two different games and combine into one.
Start a junk box where you collect boxes, old catalogs, cardboard tubes, etc.
Provide large blocks of unstructured play time with plenty of opportunities for making choices.
Have a collection of child-friendly discovery tools in an accessible place: magnifying glass, binoculars, tape measure, magnets, buckets and other containers for collecting.
Follow your child’s lead. Find out what he/she is interested in and explore it together!
The Things a String Can Be by Julie Goulis
If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen (My girls LOVE this book!)
Hands : Growing up to Be an Artist by Lois Ehlert
I Wonder Why Zippers Have Teeth: And Other Questions About Inventions by Barbara Taylor (There’s lots of books in this series covering a wide variety of topics)
Nonfiction books! (See some of our favorites here.)
Encouraging Creativity at PBS Kids
How do you foster your child’s curiosity? Please share your questions, tips, and ideas in the comments.