For young children, creativity comes naturally. Children are curious about the world around them, eager to express questions and ideas, and free of the inhibitions that may inhibit creative expression as we grow older. In the past, some early childhood programs sought to channel these impulses into “appropriate” avenues—you may remember color-by-number worksheets! But today, educators are increasingly aware that opportunities for authentic self-expression are a vital part of learning for young children.
Creativity can take many forms, Educators are increasingly aware that opportunities for authentic self-expression are a vital part of learning for young children.and most children are happy to engage with all of them! Poetry, dance, artwork, and music spring to mind, but building blocks, recyclable creations, open-ended games and puzzles, skits, word games, dress-up, movement challenges, outdoor play—virtually any activity children get excited about can incorporate self-expressive opportunities.
The teacher’s role in encouraging creativity is vital. By asking open-ended questions and making thoughtful suggestions, teachers can help children embrace and expand their creative abilities. Teachers can also model creativity by working alongside students on their own projects, demonstrating different ways of being imaginative and expressive. The learning environment is also of great importance, as highly structured classrooms may give children messages about what is and is not allowed, while learning spaces that offer more open-ended options may help students to express themselves in ways that feel right to them.
- How much opportunity for creativity and self-expression do I want for my child?
- What is this school’s philosophy in this area? Can I see this philosophy in what the teachers say and in what the learning spaces look like?
- Does this school seem to value self-expression, or does it seem to direct children to act and do things similarly to each other?
- Which seems to be valued more at this school, the “right answer” or the journey of discovery?
- Avoid judging your child’s answers and accomplishments as right or wrong; instead, ask “what did you mean by this,” or say “that’s so interesting, can you explain it to me more?” This approach validates your child’s ideas and encourages intellectual exploration and risk-taking.
- Give your kids lots of opportunities for creativity and self-expression. Put on some music; explore nature and see what natural “toys” your child can find; put out some paints or chalk and suggest some art or sidewalk messages. You never know what will pique your child’s interest.
- Get creative yourself! Kids notice what their parents do, so don’t just tell them to be creative, but model it yourself by making some music, telling a story, or sketching a scene. Besides inspiring your children, you might find something new to enjoy!