When reading an article recently about creativity, I was reminded of an experience some time ago in an early years setting. The children were colouring in template worksheets with numbers, letters and corresponding objects. I watched as one little boy coloured his sheet quickly. He then proceeded to turn over the sheet of paper, selected a pencil and on the blank side of the page began to draw spiders. As I watched, I realised that these were no ordinary spiders, they came from the imagination of a three-year-old who was an expert on all things spider related, along with an intense interest and desire to know more about them. I watched, enthralled, as he became the illustrator of his spider story. His body language and expression showed that he was deeply involved in what he was doing. His eyes were bright, his face scrunched in concentration, as spider after spider appeared on the page. Soon it was populated with the most elaborate, intricate and detailed spiders.
Later when the little boy’s Mum came to collect him he ran with his drawing, ready to share this wonderful creation and proudly presented the spiders! The educator smiled and gently turned the page around to show his Mum the ‘real work’, pointing to the numbers and letters. This reminded me that creativity can sometimes take a back seat to what is considered to be ‘real work’. However, this little boy had shown such concentration and engagement at such a deep level. His understanding of shape, space and size was acutely developed. He was intrinsically motivated to represent his understanding of something that happened to be of great interest to him. It was real evidence of Well-being, Exploring and Thinking, Communicating and Identity and Belonging. As Early Years Educators we play a really important role in supporting children in their desire to express their thinking and be creative. The early years’ environment can foster wonder and encourage young children to examine, explore and enquire. An adult that is tuned into the child’s creative endeavours can engage in a shared conversation that tells us so much about his strengths, interests and about him as a learner.
Children learn quickly what is valued and these messages can shape their experience as learners. So, take a little time every day to nurture creativity, watch it flourish, enjoy the journey and in a world of templates always remember to celebrate the spiders!