Good Talking, Good Listening
Children’s ability to express themselves creatively is often associated with positive social, emotional, and behavioral health. It is important for caregivers, educators, prevention professionals, and community members to help children cope with their feelings by channeling self-expression into healthy avenues. Self-expression can take many forms, including art, dance, and creative play. Activities such as participating in imaginative role-playing, engaging in creative writing, playing sports, and building objects with blocks or LEGOS™ allow children to express themselves freely and communicate their feelings. These activities also provide them with an opportunity to learn more about themselves while increasing their self-confidence. Involvement in these types of activities can help foster children’s healthy development and prevent them from engaging in risky behaviors now and later in life.
Use the following tips to encourage your children to express their individuality and gain self-confidence:
- Introduce activities based on your children’s interests rather than your own to provide them with an opportunity to make decisions.
- Provide several kinds of materials (e.g., paper, crayons, markers, and paint) for their use, and make sure they have enough time to explore the materials and apply creative problem-solving skills.
- Do not judge a child’s creative choices. How children choose to use materials or create little dramas is their own self-expression. They just need you to acknowledge their contribution through frequent positive reinforcement.
- Emphasize the energy and effort put into a creative endeavor and not what the completed product looks like.
- Join in with their made-up games, activities, or storytelling. Playing “restaurant” may not be high drama to you, but pretending is important to a preschooler. Your willingness to participate in activities with your children increases their feelings of self-worth.
Family Activity: Show Me, Tell Me, How Do You Feel?
Educator Activity: The Creative Classroom: Time and Space for Self-Expression
Quiz for Parents: Encouraging a Child’s Creative Expression
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- “Promotion and Advancement of Women in Sports,” testimony delivered before a Congressional committee, makes a case for inclusion of girls in sports and increased physical activity among the Nation’s children to ensure physical, mental, and emotional health.
First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign
- “Get Active,” from the Let’s Move campaign, describes the need for physical activity to protect against the risk for obesity and to create and sustain a healthy lifestyle.
National Association for the Education of Young Children
- “Creative Arts” is a resource for caregivers to enhance children’s creative expressions through different media channels such as online games, songs, and activities.
Mental Health America
- In “The Power of Dance and Movement,” the author describes movement as “every child’s first language” and how movement-based activities contribute to children’s healthy growth.
PBS.org: The Whole Child