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Transforming Play

Is it important to encourage my child's creativity?

A. Definitely! There's absolutely no developmental reason not to cultivate your preschooler's mental flexibility. In fact, our ability to create is an important aspect of being made in God's image. The Genesis account demonstrates God's inherent creative nature, and the New Testament even talks about how the Holy Spirit transforms us into a "new creation."

What's wonderful about creativity is that it involves your preschooler's body, mind, and spirit. It's a soul-centered pursuit that involves focus. And because it encourages spiritual exploration, a preschooler can move beyond himself and the temporal when wholly focused in a creative activity. The unusual questions, nonconforming responses, and insightful observations that crop up during this process sometimes are astounding!

Try integrating these ideas into creative "soul play":

Loosen up on structure.

Preschoolers are highly imaginative, so they gravitate to unstructured objects such as sand. Using sand, ask your preschooler what Bible story he associates with it. Focus on a single idea, then mold, mix, pour, and sift. Act out the story hands-on with him in the sandbox. Ask your preschooler open-ended questions as you work together.

Preschoolers also love working with clay. As one preschooler, Todd, modeled a clay giraffe for Noah's ark, he was immersed in the creative process, having to decide whether to use bare hands instead of a cutter or rolling pin. What was he thinking about as he pushed, pulled, squeezed, and punched the clay?

Provide room for expression.

How would your preschooler visually express his ideas about God? The calming, creative play of painting encourages visual expression. With painting, preschoolers are given the opportunity to decide their work preferences regarding color, order, form, work station and positions (floor, table, easel), thicknesses, and textures. For additional flourishes, let your child use a straw, an eye-dropper, cotton balls, swabs, Styrofoam, string, or pipe cleaners as applicators. Or let him embellish with his hands.

Refrain from using rewards.

Children who are motivated internally are better able to maintain focus and probe deeply that those anticipating rewards. So don't make a reward the result of your child's involvement in a creative activity.

Avoid the comparison trap.

Evidence suggests that competitive peer pressure and/or surveillance are counter-productive. Never compare one child's work to another!

Instead, praise your child; make note of his aptitudes, such as a keen memory, ability to ask questions, advanced reading, pre-reading or artistic skills. Affirm open-mindedness. A hug and encouraging words go a long way. Creativity helps uncover and heal thoughts and feelings often left unexpressed. As your preschooler becomes more open, encourage him to express his thoughts to God.

Mary Maslen is the Creative Developer for Awana Family Connection.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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