Children are naturally and spontaneously creative. Some like to "perform" — they welcome the opportunity to show off their newest work. Often a smile or nod from you is all that's needed to tell your child that she's doing something special.
If your preschooler is more reluctant to come forward, provide an atmosphere where she feels free to express herself. Let her know that there is no right or wrong way to sing or act out a story — no lines to memorize, songs to practice, or steps to repeat. Don't pressure her to perform, and don't be judgmental about what she shows you.
Your own spontaneity can be contagious! And being silly with our children is fun. Make up a song about how you and your family zip up your coats, pass the food at dinner, or dig in the sandbox. Put on a character's voice and facial expression while reading a story. Keep the activities open-ended to help your child explore her individuality and creative expression.
Through drama, music, and movement, you and your child are ready to enter the world of creativity — together.
Creative dramatics is the communication of an emotion, an impression, a character, or a story. While there might be an audience, the performance is improvised, not preplanned or rehearsed.
- Make sound effects for a favorite story. When Red Riding Hood skips through the woods, make a "crunch, crunch" sound for the leaves and pine needles crushing under her feet. Ask your child to bark the way Clifford does when he meets a new friend. And don't forget "household instruments," such as a fork that you can tap against a glass of water to simulate the "ping" of raindrops.
- Introduce pantomime. Use motions to act out parts of a story. For example, as you read There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, do the motions — together with your child — of the main character chasing, catching, and swallowing the different creatures.
- Use props to inspire creative performances. A prop — such as a large key, a banana, a scarf, a funny hat — and an open-ended question such as "What can you do with this?" may be all that's needed to bring out the performer in your child.
- Involve the whole family — and friends too. Read a familiar story such as The Three Bears or The Ugly Duckling. Have the adults pantomime the actions of the characters first, then switch. Children will have fun performing for their audience.
Make Marvelous Music
Musical experiences can come from almost anywhere. With your child, listen to the whoosh of the wind, the hum of an air conditioner, the squeak of a new shoe, the drip of a leaky faucet. Your child can take out his toy drum and drumsticks — or two wooden kitchen spoons — and tap out the beat. Join him with your own homemade instrument, and together make up a song.
- Find story rhythms. Read a story, such as Three Billy-Goats Gruff. What would be the rhythm of the littlest goat tramping over the bridge? Tap that out with your child. How would the rhythm be different for the middle goat or the biggest goat?
- Orchestrate a book. Find a familiar, repetitive story such as The Gingerbread Boy or The House That Jack Built. Every time the Gingerbread Boy runs, for instance, have your child rub a comb against a brush to make a musical effect.
Music leads to movement. It's hard to listen to music without moving in some way. We move to explore. Crawling leads to walking, and walking leads to hopping, skipping, and jumping. Watch how your child moves. He might create a movement to go with a sound, to accompany a song, or to express how he feels as he travels from place to place. Ask him to show you the movement. Then take turns imitating each other. Then try switching to the movements of animals — taking turns leaping like a frog or stretching like a cat.
- Spin some discs. Put on whatever music you have on hand or turn on the radio. Then let it flow! You might be surprised to see how naturally your child responds to rock as well as hip-hop and classical. Experiment. Say: "Let's move a different way. Try moving with just your arms, your feet, or your eyes."
- Add props. Sheer scarves, balloons, paper fans, and feathers make great movement props. Colorful streamers are wonderful too.
Your child is a natural singer, dancer, and actor; rhythm is as natural to him as his own heartbeat, and the sound of his own breathing is a song. Get ready to applaud!