Effective Practice Guides

Creativity: Do


Try the following practices with infants and toddlers and preschool-aged children. Find out how home visitors can put these practices to work with families.

Infants and Toddlers1

  • Imitate sounds, gestures, and facial expressions to support infants in using a variety of ways to interact with other people. Arrange activities to promote play in small groups of two or three toddlers.
  • Participate in infants' and toddlers' play, modeling positive social interactions such as taking turns.
  • Provide props and open-ended objects to support imaginary play. For example, introduce objects that can be used to represent real-life items (e.g., using a small wooden block as a phone).
  • Organize the environment to encourage pretend play (e.g., include toy cars and trucks with the blocks or puppets and dress-up clothes near books).
  • Connect toddlers' imaginary play to familiar plots from story books and real-life situations.
  • Engage in pretend play with infants and toddlers. Extend pretend play by asking questions such as, "What happens next?" or "Oh look, here is a shell. I wonder if we can use this in our story?"
  • Provide safe, engaging materials toddlers can use for creative expression (e.g., simple rhythm instruments, scarves, crayons, chalk, finger paint, different types of paper to paint on, play dough, collage materials). When they use the materials, emphasize the creative process over the end product.


  • Create an environment where children feel supported and can take risks (i.e., they aren't afraid to try and fail). Praise effort and persistence (e.g., "You worked really hard on that!").
  • Allow time for children to investigate their own interests. Actively listen to their ideas and ask questions that invite children to explain what they are doing and why.
  • Respond to children in ways that let them know you accept and appreciate the creative ways they solve problems, approach tasks, and express themselves.
  • Provide children with opportunities to create and explore with a variety of materials.
  • Create a "recycle center" where leftover materials are available for projects. Organize materials by size, texture, and color. Encourage children to keep them organized (a great critical thinking experience).

Home Visitors

Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying practices above during home visits and group socializations. Here are more ideas.

  • Help parents understand and recognize the creative process—in themselves and in their child. Share that adults and children are creative and use their imagination when they take existing ideas or objects and combine them in different ways for different purposes. Children and adults use their growing knowledge to come up with new and useful solutions to everyday challenges.3
  • Plan developmentally appropriate opportunities with parents that tap into their child's creativity and imagination (e.g., art, music, movement, pretend play/drama, storytelling). Make use of the family's culture and cultural traditions as well as items and materials found in the home and community.

1Allyson Dean, Sarah, LeMoine, and Maria Mayoral, ZERO TO THREE Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators (Washington, DC: ZERO TO THREE, 2016), 50–51, C-3.

2National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning, Front Porch Series: Promoting Creativity in Early Childhood Classrooms (Washington, DC, Author, 2/27/2012), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/video/promoting-creativity-early-childhood-classrooms.

3Head Start Bureau, The Head Start Guide to Positive Outcomes: Strategies to Support Positive Child Outcomes (Washington, DC: DHHS, ACF, ACYF, HSB, 2003), 76.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018