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Creative play with your 4-5 year old

Row of puppet toys

At 4-5 years old, children are mini explorers. They are fascinated with trying to make sense of the world around them. It’s a very exciting time for them, learning about friendships and experimenting with their own imaginative ideas.

There’s so much going on in a 4-5 year old’s development, meaning that their style of play is evolving. Children of this age love to express themselves, and they do this by engaging in make-believe play, art and crafts, outdoor play, turn-taking games and stories. They love to be around people and asking lots of questions.

The main thing your child needs from playing with you is to have fun. It’s important not to turn play into ‘lessons’. Try and provide an interesting environment and enough time to play, and follow your child’s lead to allow them their creativity. Take an interest when they talk, and praise and encourage them when they’ve considered others or played well with others, and help them to understand how others feel.

Here are some ideas for ways you can encourage play with your 4-5 year old.

Outdoor play: There’s so much you can do outdoors to keep energised. Ball games and learning to ride a bike or scooter are great. You could also get them involved in the gardening. Hide and seek and treasure hunts are always a hit with energetic and imaginative 4-5 year olds. You can make your walk more interesting by playing eye spy while you’re out or ticking off a scavenger hunt.

Junk modelling: Put aside everyday used packaging you would otherwise recycle or dispose of. Empty yogurt pots, cardboard boxes, used straws, milk bottle lids; pretty much anything can become a car, a house, a robot. Let their imagination run wild!

Arts and crafts: There’s lots of art and craft activities out there you can purchase but there's also lots you can do with things from around the home, visit Pinterest for lots of creative ideas. To extend your child’s learning and development, consider items like sequins, buttons and tissue paper. Any activity that requires cutting and sticking are great for refining their fine motor skills.

Cooking and baking: Not only are these fun but they’ll also help teach your child the concepts of maths and how to follow instructions.

Sensory play: All under 5’s love sensory play! It’s great stimulation for the brain and allows your child to practise a wide range of developmental skills – See Little Bins for Little Hands for lots of sensory play ideas.

Role play: Children have fantastic imaginations and role play is something that can be done anywhere. All those cardboard boxes you accumulated from all that online shopping can very easily become a ‘castle’. Welcome your child’s attempts to involve you in their imaginative play and get stuck in, ask them questions such as, “a wheel, what can we use to make that?”. This will spur on their creative thinking and decision making skills! 

For more on activities to try with your 4-5 year old head to the BBC website where you can find lots of lovely ideas and helpful videos.

Make sure you speak with your GP or health visitor if you’re concerned about your child’s development or you need support, they're always there to support you.

About the author

Hannah Smallbone