Encouraging Creativity Through Play

If you’re a parent of small children, you might sympathize the fact that it can be difficult to get them to slow down for activities sometimes. There are just so many new and exciting things for them to explore that it can seem impossible to get them to stop for even a minute. My boys are a bit older now (9 and 7), but they are still boys and it seems they are constantly on-the-go.

My boys love to run and play outside, explore the fields, fight off the “bad guys” and wrestle around, all in good fun. If your children are active as well, here are some ideas for using that active nature to encourage creativity.

Encouraging Creativity through natural play in children.

Here are a few ways to engage your children and spark their creativity. Some are specifically for younger children and toddlers, but some are great for all ages.

Bonus: Many of these are great for independent, busy time activities when mama needs a break, or needs to help the other children with school work.

1. Stickers

Kids love stickers! These are great for toddlers especially because they are so easy to use. Simply buy them a few pages of big, colorful stickers, give them some paper, and you may be surprised by how it can keep them busy.

2. Coloring Books

Simple and easy, coloring books have provided fun for generations. Just get a few coloring crayons, a good book, and let your child go wild.

If your child seems more interested in playing with your tablet or smartphone, that doesn’t mean they have to watch a video or play a game. Instead, you can find a great coloring for them instead. There is a mandala coloring book app for Android phones that is perfect for kids. This is perfect for on-the-go where they can create amazing pictures, and there is no tidying up to do. We don’t do much screen time in our house, but occasionally it’s fun for them.

3. Legos

If you follow me on facebook, you probably know by now that my boys LOVE legos! Building blocks are a classic childhood toy. They have a lot of benefits for kids, and you can start your toddlers off with the colored wooden blocks that they can use to create towers. Kids will have hours of fun with these, and they will also use them to learn how to build, and it’s a very creative and rewarding skill.

Any kind of building toys are a great way to inspire creativity in your toddler. Don’t have any legos or building blogs? Get a few old shoe boxes and cartons that they can stack up on top of each other.

4. Outside Play

We love outside play! My boys can spend hours outside, and guess how many outside toys we have? ZERO. Or rather, I should say it’s an endless amount…sticks, stones, fir cones, grass, leaves—there are endless fascinating things to enjoy outside.

Why not help them to build a twig house or collect stones to create an outdoor work of art?

5. Crack Open the Paint

If you don’t mind getting messy, you can open up the paint and let your toddler enjoy some creative fun. Kids love painting because it’s easy for them to create something.

Set out some colors, a few large paintbrushes, and some plain paper, and they’ll have a great time creating their own masterpiece. You can even turn this into an educational thing–we created some really neat impressionist art using fingerpainting earlier this year, and learned all about Claude Monet.

6. A Large Cardboard Box

We’ve left the best until last. No toddler can resist a large cardboard box. We had a large box after buying our cast-iron woodstove this year, and my boys loved it! If you can get your hands on one, it’s an easy way to have a lot of creative fun.

They will have a den, a spaceship, a house, or anything else their imagination will create. You could even help them with some creative ideas of your own. Kids love to use their imaginations, and a plain cardboard box is a perfect way to encourage this.

In fact, my friend Mandi just posted this on Instagram. How cute are her boys?

These are just a few ideas for keeping your restless toddler engaged while also inspiring their creativity. We are big fans of allowing our children to get bored, and not entertaining them every minute of the day, but I do love to provide them plenty of independent opportunities for creativity.

Encouraging creativity through your children's natural play.


  1. Sarah says

    Great tips! I completely agree with you about providing opportunities for open play as opposed to scheduling and micromanaging everything for them.

  2. says

    Great list! I love encouraging creativity. It’s one of my biggest struggles with my toddler, actually. I’m so far ahead of her in wanting to play imagination games or to invent ‘new’ games (after years of play running ABA therapy, there are very few truly new games for me) to play with old toys. Meanwhile, she’s still at that level of, “Look, Mom! If you bang it on something it makes noise!”

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Love it Lauren–it sounds like you have an arsenal of ideas that will be great for your daughter! I’m a big believer in natural play, too, though. Children learn even when they are just banging on things :)

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