We value creativity and innovation, in all aspects of life. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have observed so many Early Learning and Care settings seeking ways to stay connected during the enforced closures and later with parents and families when settings had reopened but distancing requirements meant parents could not enter buildings. We have many times acknowledged the huge benefits technology is in the management of the pandemic, as relatively normal work and productivity were possible due to the availability of innovations such as VPNs, Zoom, Teams and so on. To me, the innovations such as these are the products of creativity.
When I sat down to write this Scéalta blog post, my mind went back to December 2020 when I spoke with Milica Atanackovic for the December 2020 episode of Early Childhood Ireland’s podcast. When I asked her for a ‘personal statement’ in advance of recording that episode she replied, ‘Creativity is at the heart of childhood and learning and our role as educators is to support children as they make meaning of the world around them through enquiry and shared learning’. She went on to quote the late Ken Robinson who said that ‘creativity was the process of having original ideas that have the value’. She said creativity is everywhere, all around us and she broadened the concept of creativity to encompass how people can play with words, sound, movement, patterns, shapes and taste. I’ve mulled that over several times since that episode and I’d encourage you to have a listen, or indeed a re-listen!
My parents had the creativity gene! My Dad could do anything with his hands, he could make, mend and create all kinds of things on our farm. His 3 sisters were gifted at drawing, painting and lacemaking and my uncle was a wonderful woodworker. Indeed, when I set up my Montessori school, it was my uncle who made most of my Sensorial equipment, as precisely as any manufacturer would have. And Dad made much of my shelving. My Mum is a wonderful flower arranger and gardener and when she was younger, she took part in many flower festivals. The imagination and creativity she displayed when designing and planning the floral displays she and her fellow flower club members would create to fit whatever theme was amazing. But I often said the creativity gene passed me by. I couldn’t draw, or make a table, or arrange flowers! Then I got a camera and discovered that there was a germ of creativity there. But I had to find it myself, I had to explore it myself and get comfortable with it and then try new things. And like all things, the more I figure out about photography the more I realise how much I have to learn.
But we learn all these things…. photography, drawing, cooking, writing, painting, sewing, playing music and myriad other forms of creative expression by playing, practising, making mistakes and making unexpected discoveries as a result of those mistakes.
The seeds of this process are sown every day in our settings…in the mud kitchen, in the art area, at the music wall, the water tray. When children make funny riddles and so-called nonsense rhymes like ‘ziggle, piddle, widdle, waddle, wham’ they are being creative with sounds. When they lay out blocks in a wonderful design they are being creative with a pattern, when they take a brush and paint they are exploring their creativity.
So, at this time of year when it can be easy to fall into the endless tide of paper tube Santas, cut out and glue holly leaves and berries and hand-print reindeer, all of which take so much longer to prepare for than it takes to complete, maybe take a moment to think about child-led creativity. How do ‘cookie-cutter’ adult-led activities really enable children to be and become creative? Could children take photos in the garden, maybe of frost or ice in water? Could the easel or painting table be located outside so nature inspires the paintings? Could you provide different colour papers and paints, could you bring some holly leaves to the setting and then have red and green paint, chalk, crayons available to children can draw their own if they choose? Did you collect and dry autumn leaves that could be used in a collage? Do you have materials you could set out so children can make and explore sounds? Given the opportunities, as we know, children will lead the way in creativity.
Simply providing a wide range of materials and various media is enough. True creativity will emerge as children have the freedom to explore, think and express their own ideas. Trust the process!
The team at Scéalta and Early Childhood Ireland have enjoyed this year, with so many excellent contributions from so many interesting and thought-provoking people. We are proud to support creative, resilient and caring educators in our sector and we look forward to even more great Scéalta posts in 2022 and hope that you have a lovely, restful Christmas season, whatever you do over the next week or so. See you all back in January!