Children really thrive in a warm and relaxed environment where they are able to explore, play and learn. This isn’t to say that anything goes! Babies and toddlers are not very good at assessing risk, but as long as they are safe they can really benefit from a relaxed attitude to play and discovery.
Should I let my child get messy?
Children learn by exploring their environment and using all their senses. This means picking up grass and soil and the occasional worm. As long as they are supervised, and dangerous things like cleaning products, poisonous berries, dog poo and sharp objects are kept away from them, they should be allowed to explore the natural environment. It is very important to let children get messy. They should be going in puddles and picking things up and examining things and it is really lovely for them to begin creating.
How can I help my child be creative?
When it comes to painting, babies and toddlers could not be less interested in the end result. They’re not trying to produce a masterpiece. It is all about the process, so it’s really encouraging to provide lots of different materials that give them the freedom to explore and try different things out.
Children follow a recognised development in their ‘art’, starting with marking paper with lots of squiggles. As their fine motor skills develop, we begin to see lines, circles, faces, faces with arms and legs and then people with bodies. It is so lovely to see this development in drawing and to keep a record of each of these drawing milestones.
Children learn and play best through trial and error. Although it is tempting to do things for them, an over-controlled playtime is counter-productive. If you are doing something together, for example a jigsaw puzzle, it is good parenting to allow your toddler to try, fail and try again to put the pieces in the correct places.
Work together and ask your child what they would like to do next in the task. Praise your baby or toddler’s efforts and this positive attitude will make them feel like they were capable of doing the puzzle. Keep things fun – anxious and controlling parents can tend to take over during playtime, especially if it is a new or messy game. Children can quickly lose confidence and interest in the game if they keep getting criticised and controlled.
Try not to worry about the end result – messy pictures and toppling towers. Your child will learn much more quickly if you guide and support them, rather than take over. It is important to praise your children a lot and to allow them to fail and do things badly. It’s a much better way for them to kind of grow their own independence and their own skills.