Children learn, develop critical skills, and have fun when provided the opportunity for creative, artistic expression. Painting, coloring, writing, making music, and making crafts are all creative activities. Creative expression helps children articulate their feelings and thoughts.

They think critically about their world and practice visual communication. Young children learn colors, shapes, and sounds during creative play. They begin to understand cause and effect. When children dance, they get physical exercise and develop coordination and balance.

Encouraging creative expression is easy in both indoor and outdoor playspaces. Include designated spaces for creativity, such as a music room, area, or panel. Outdoor playspaces can include areas for chalk drawing and art panels, while indoor playspaces can have an art room for drawing and painting. Even better invite artists to come and paint or sculpt with the children as part of your camp or programming activities.


Children paint at accessible clear outdoor paint panelIf you've ever tried scrubbing crayon marks off a freshly-painted wall, you know children like to express themselves artistically! While walls and floors might not be the best surfaces for their talents, its great to encourage children to freely explore making art. Provide space, time, and tools for art, and watch their creativity flourish! Also, ask children about their artistic projects and support their efforts with an open mind and positive responses.

In outdoor playspaces, art and nature go hand-in-hand. Invite children to help choose flowers and plants for gardens, noting the colors and shapes of what they select. Leave designated spaces for chalk drawing, and provide chalk if you have funds for it. Sand studios are great additions to outdoor playspaces. Make room for sheltered easels or install a clear plastic art panel.

Children can really let their artistic selves shine in indoor playspaces. Easels with paper, washable paints, and watercolors are a great starting point. But don't stop there! Children can make art out of all sorts of materials. Scraps of colored paper, pictures from magazines, popsicle sticks, dried noodles, yarn, and cotton balls form fascinating collages. Let children reshape materials with safety scissors and glue. Play-dough and clay turn into amazing shapes in their little hands! You can even use recycled materials like toilet paper rolls, fabric samples, and paper dining products!

Music and dance

Child plays with chime panel at playgroundTwo-year-old Ben runs to the kitchen and presses the button on the CD player, announces his favorite song to his mother, and grins as music fills the room. Several minutes later, he runs to the electronic piano in the living room and starts pounding keys. His mom does a silly dance for him and Ben laughs excitedly.

Music brings pleasure, calm, and satisfaction to children's lives. Small babies respond to a soothing lullaby, toddlers have favorite songs, and preschoolers love to dance and sing. Older children idolize pop singers and plaster their room with posters.

Music is also beneficial for children. Listening and playing music, singing songs, and dancing help to develop important skills. The patterns and rhythms of music enhance spatial reasoning. Rhymes and repetitions sharpen memory and aid in the development of language and literacy. Children can also learn about culture and history through the exploration of music.

Make music a part of your playspace with some simple steps. Include a CD player or radio so children can choose background music for their play. Churches or universities might have pianos or other large instruments to donate. Xylophones, triangles, and conga drums are fun for children to play. Choreograph your child's day with silly songs and funny dances.

Helpful links


Gable, S. (2000). Creativity in young children. Human Environmental Sciences Extension.

Griffith, Susan. (1999). Children who play creatively show best creativity and problem-solving later.

MacPherson, K. (2004). Experts concerned about children's creative thinking. Post-Gazette.


Discount School Supply. Arts & Crafts.

Lee, P. (1995). Why art is vital to child development. UniqArts & Technologies.

Music and Dance

The Children's Music Web

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Sing-Along Songs. NIEHS Kids' Pages.

SoundPlay Outdoor Musical Instruments. (2006). Accessible equipment for people of all ages to enjoy self-expression and build community through music.

Photos courtesy of Landscape Structures