Free time to play and explore opens up her mind and her heart.

How to Promote Self Expression in Children

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

“Look at me dance, Mommy.” Your preschooler’s smile is as bright as the noon sun as she dips and whirls to music only she hears. According to Building Blocks for a Healthy Future, children who are encouraged to engage in self-expression gain self-confidence, demonstrate individuality, develop problem solving skills, learn to cope with their feelings, and have less stress and anxiety than children who have problems with self-expression. While you might not always appreciate her self-expression, such as when she reveals family secrets, you can see the value of that skill.

1 Provide time and space for your child to move and express herself, recommends Building Blocks. In that free space and time she can engage in arts, dance, creative play and dramatization. If she isn’t worried about banging into your precious breakables, she is more likely to make up her own dances or act out a story.

2 Give her plenty of toys, clothes for dress-up, props and puppets to role-play or dramatize a familiar or original story, suggests Building Blocks. Sit down and watch her production and perhaps video it so you can share it with family and friends.

3 Provide materials that she can use to make her own kind of music. Consider supplying rice sealed in Easter eggs, pie pans for cymbals, dowel rods for drum sticks and oatmeal containers for a drum. If she’s curious and willing and your budget can afford it, enroll her in music lessons or let her experiment with a recorder, keyboard or guitar.

4 Stock craft supplies such as plain and construction paper, safety scissors, glue, paints, glitter, craft foam, cardboard rollers and pipe cleaners. Let her imagination run wild. Don’t worry about whether her creations have any basis in reality. She might create something totally original that mankind is just waiting to celebrate.

5 Pose story starters such as “A puppy was looking for a new home. What do you think the puppy did to find a perfect family?” If she tells you a story that you think is meant to be a fib, ask her, “Is that the truth or are you making up a story?”

6 Invite a group of friends over and let them have a tea party or put on a talent show. If they don’t agree, don’t step in. Give them time to work things out and find a solution that works for everyone.

7 Take her to the park and let her explore the wind with streamers, bubbles, balloons or tossing bird seed in the air. Ask her, “What do you think will happen?” before you get started and congratulate her after the experiment whether she guessed correctly or not.

Items you will need

  • Toys
  • Clothes for dress-up
  • Props
  • Puppets
  • Music-making materials
  • Art supplies
  • Science experiment supplies

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

Photo Credits

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