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Finding creativity inside of yourself!


Monday 07 September 2020


The recent death of Sir Ken Robinson got me thinking again about creativity. I went back and leafed through his book ‘The Element: How finding your passion changes everything’, which I had read at a time when I was reflecting on what drives me in life. 

Then I re-watched his famous TED talk on ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity’ and began to rethink about pedagogy in early childhood. His words touched my soul, connected with my value system, and tapped into a joyful feeling. When I read or listen to his words, I feel connected because I believe in what he proposes. Sir Ken proposes that creativity is as important as any other subject or area of learning, including literacy and that imagination is at the heart of every form of human achievement. 

However, while he talks about the dysfunction of the education system, I don’t think he was referring to early childhood and especially not here in Ireland. Our system is imperfect (Urban, 2018) but one of our strengths is that we have an open framework approach to the curriculum which gives us professional freedom to support children’s learning. We are not hampered by prescriptive learning outcomes or assessments in early childhood. We have the pedagogical capacity to proof our provision and practice for creativity and imagination.

Creativity is tricky to define, but Craft (2002) suggests that it is a life-wide disposition that connects with self-direction resourcefulness, imagination, self-expression and self-actualisation. More recently Churchill Dower (2020, p.24) proposed that irrespective of age, creativity has something to do with being able to ‘discover and express your emotions, your passions, your ideas, your resourcefulness, your identities and your unique view on life in a variety of ways’. These are powerful concepts and the beauty of it is that, as Sir Ken said, everyone has capacities to be creative but not everyone develops them. 

Just think about that – imagine, every child is creative, it is just a matter of providing the conditions to allow that imagination to flourish!

Every day you see children’s creativity in what Tina Bruce (2005) calls observable behaviours, as they are immersed in a game in the home corner, concentrating as they paint with tongues stuck out, absorbed in twirling around as they play outside. These are the easy behaviours to spot, but we can only get a deeper sense of their creative thought processes through listening to them, eavesdropping on conversations but also talking with them. Creativity gives children a feeling of ‘I can’, being agentive, able and in control. 

It also gives them a sense of what Csikszentmihalyi (1997) calls ‘flow’, that feeling of being immersed and being at one with and in their world. Maybe, even as an adult, you recognise these feelings of ‘being in the zone’.

At the start of a new and extraordinary term, I think more than ever we need to help children tap back into their creativity and fuel their imagination. Creativity and imagination will also help them explore and express their feelings, typically through play. Settling children back into settings and nourishing their creativity might mean, that we:

Engage with the child on their terms, that is, following their interests. Take up the themes that you see emerging in their talk and play and integrate them into the curriculum.

Engage in a pedagogy of listening, watch and listen carefully not only to what they say but what they do, what they are fascinated by, what they are struggling with. Keep an eye on their body language and what they might be expressing without words.

Slow down and give children time and space to move and to interact. Now is the time to relax and allow time for children to wallow in their play. Maybe ensure you can pull tables back to create some open space for movement. There is nothing like movement to bring joy to the body – just think about dancing in the kitchen some evenings, listening to your favourite music.

Be playful and creative yourself. Despite the many pressures you have, let go a little when with the children, it will be good for them and you.

Have a shared set of values and practices, a creative pedagogy, among the team that is purposeful in supporting imagination, what Craft (2002, p.148) calls ‘teaching for creativity’. Bring the team along and maybe focus on prioritising play and creativity in the coming months.

Create interesting and stimulating environments, using open-ended materials, that connect with children’s interests and that invite engagement. I know the issue of materials is a challenging one at present but just hold this thought.  

Above all, practice what is called ‘possibility thinking’ (Craft, 2002) – ‘I wonder if…..’, ‘what would happen if…….’ ‘Suppose that….’. Encourage children to think creatively, to open up their mind to flights of fancy.

We all could do with a little more creativity because it will bring us and the children joy – something that we need now, more than ever.



Marlene McCormack is a lecturer and placement coordinator on the Bachelor of Early Childhood Education in the DCU Institute of Education. Over her time in early childhood, she has worn many hats, as playgroup leader, centre manager, director of training, department head in ECI and always as an advocate for those working directly with children and families. Her current focus is on preparing students for professional practice and her research interests include pedagogy and documentation.     



Bruce, T. (2005). Early Childhood Education. (3rd ed.) London: Hodder Education.

Churchill Dower, R. (2020). Creativity and the Arts in Early Childhood.London: Jessica Kingsley.

Craft, A. (2002). Creativity and Early Years Education: A Lifewide Foundation. London: Continuum.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: HarperPerennial. 

Urban, M. (2018). So you say you want a revolution [Blog post]. Montessori and Early Childhood Professionals Ireland. Retrieved:





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