I recently spoke with Milica Atanackovic for Early Childhood Ireland’s podcast. She believes 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. Aistear supports and encourages us to see creativity in that way too. Right across the four themes of Aistear runs a thread encouraging creativity:
- Well-being: children will express themselves creatively and experience the arts
- Identity and belonging: children will experience learning opportunities that are based on personal interests and linked to their home, community, and culture.
- Communicating: children will express themselves through the visual arts using skills such as cutting, drawing, glueing, sticking, painting, printing, sculpting and sewing.
- Exploring and thinking: use their creativity and imagination to think of new ways to solve problems.
These are just four of the learning goals outlined in Aistear, in fact there are many more that refer (explicitly or implicitly) to creativity.
In her podcast, Milica quotes the late Ken Robinson saying, ‘Creativity is the process of having original ideas which have value’. Since chatting to Milica that has stayed in my head. Original ideas…we value originality greatly don’t we? We admire people who ‘think outside the box’. When we hear of someone who can make gorgeous cakes without following a recipe we are in awe. The architect who dreams up incredible buildings that are beautiful and functional is sought after. According to the Sound of Music, there are 8 basic notes and yet there are composers and songwriters writing amazing and unique songs, scores and concertos using those 8 notes going back centuries. That is creativity.
These creative skills start in early childhood, not later on in primary or secondary school. They start with play. They start with open-ended materials and loose parts, not with templates! They start with enquiry and shared learning. By encouraging creativity and originality, we show how we value funds of knowledge, from individual families and cultures. We are not imposing our ideas of what is creativity. At this time of year that is especially important, we all have different, equally valuable beliefs and traditions and we must take care not to impose our beliefs and values on others.
This process of creativity can take place indoors and outdoors. Sometimes when we think of creativity, we think of tables and easels inside. What about taking the easel outside, or using a clipboard, or taking photos? In frosty weather, looking at the gorgeous patterns mother nature weaves on plants, grass and water encourages children to observe, imagine and explore new ideas and words. Make sure that the paints and pencils available to children reflect the colours in nature at that time so they can draw or paint what they see. Have materials too for the child who doesn’t like to draw but who might prefer cutting and glueing. Draw children’s attention to the tracks and shapes they create with wheels when they cycle through puddles. Have a camera, so children can take photos of the beauty around them. Have clay or playdough so children can make three-dimensional representations of what is in their environment (home and setting). Use chalk on the ground, blackboard or paper. Listen to the sounds of the windchimes, the wind blowing or raindrops. Look at clouds and see what the shapes are like. Write down the things they say and the stories they tell you.
These are the items parents will treasure, much more than the identical holly leaves or Santas that we can sometimes rely on at this time of year. By all means have some holly in your environment, in a vase perhaps. Chat with the children who are interested in the colours, the textures, the gloss on one side of the leaves and the duller underside, the berries – are they plump and smooth or wizened and wrinkly? You can have paper in the holly colours so children can cut and stick, and/or paint and draw.
Tap into your own creativity for ideas on materials you can provide for children to make their own. Follow their lead, enquire about what they think, share your ideas and encourage them to develop their original ideas. Reflect on what has value for the children themselves and for their families and play, observe, chat and have fun.
Happy creativity everyone!
Máire Corbett is an Early Childhood Specialist at Early Childhood Ireland. She trained in Montessori teaching and has completed an MA in Integrated Provision for Children and Families with the University of Leicester at Pen Green.