What is creativity anyway?

What is creativity anyway?

Discussions about Early Years pedagogy and curriculum often mention creativity. It is seen as a key aspect to supporting the learning and development of young children and encourage curiosity and interest in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) areas. But what creativity actually is or entails, can be very subjective. Encouraging creativity, especially at this time of year, can been seen as anything from colouring in sleighs, or rows of identical toilet roll Santas to creations of children’s own making and choice bursting with colour and individuality.

Templates can limit creativity

Recently I helped out at a children’s Christmas experience. I was an Elf, helping children write their letters to Santa. This activity had a template letter where children filled in their names, ages and added their wish list along with chats about what goodies they were planning to leave out for Santa and the reindeer on Christmas Eve. They then put the letter into a special envelope and posted it in a special letter box. These templates were ideal for that situation. But I was struck by some children who were drawn (pardon the pun) to the blank side of the page and the big baskets of coloured pencils and markers to draw their wish list. They clearly wanted to really express themselves and their individuality without the constraints of a template. This reminded me of a blog written by my former colleague Elaine Hynes, called Celebrate the spiders. In it she spoke about the concentration, focus and interest shown by a little boy drawing his spiders on a blank page. She mentioned his body language and expression demonstrating a deep involvement. In my opinion, a colouring in sheet will rarely, if ever enable young children to get deeply involved. And there is also a danger that a well-meaning adult will encourage the child to ‘stay inside the lines’ or ‘colour it all in’. Older children and indeed adults can love the challenge of colouring in a mandala or Celtic design and find it deeply satisfying, but this is not the case for young children.

When is a drawing or painting finished?

Another recent experience made me reflect on this. I had a lovely afternoon on a wine tour, blending wine. We were given a label to place on the bottle we had ‘created’. There was an abstract pattern on the label, and we were supplied with markers and coloured pencils to colour in the label. When I was finished mine, another person on the tour said, ‘Are you not going to finish it?’ I replied that I was finished, and she pointed out that I had ‘missed bits’.  I sat there and wondered how often young children hear that about a painting or template they’ve been given. Do they feel pressure to fill it all in? Do they feel frustrated that their picture isn’t recognised as complete when they feel it is? I know I did!

Great artists

We admire the work of artists like Picasso and Chagall, with their bright colours, abstract ideas and fabulous creativity. Wasn’t it Picasso said ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’ I believe we should provide children with opportunities to explore a variety of materials in their own way and their own time. This doesn’t have to mean having an art studio or atelier with lots of materials. It can simply mean having paper in a variety of sizes, colours and textures with a selection of brush sizes and paint, crayons and chalk. Have play dough or clay so children can explore 3 dimensional creations. Use open-ended materials and loose parts to enable children to use their curiosity and creativity to make whatever they are interested in at a given time, individually or in a group.

Open-ended materials

In addition to an approach like this supporting more authentic creativity, it can also be more sustainable as less printing and ink is required. Wastepaper can be used (ensure any correspondence is not confidential!) Loose parts and open-ended materials can be found in lots of places and do not need to be bought. Old Christmas cards can be recycled by children to create new decorations or gift tags. You will find more ideas for a sustainable Christmas in this blog post, Have yourself a sustainable little Christmas by Paula Bradley from Early Childhood Ireland.

Providing children with opportunities to be creative, in their own way, develops their curiosity and resourcefulness, key skills for learning and development.

As this is the final Scéalta post for 2023, all on the Scéalta team at Early Childhood Ireland would like to wish you a very happy, restful festive season, however you choose to spend the occasion.

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