Teaching Creativity: Supporting, Valuing, and Inspiring Young Children’s Creative Thinking

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Children need provocations—invitations to explore an idea or a concept—that match their interests, questions, and actions, and that allow them to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts they are investigating. The challenge for early childhood educators is establishing an environment where children can, through both teacher- and child-guided experiences, explore, establish goals and plans, work on projects of their own choosing, take responsibility for some of their own learning, search for ideas, question possibilities, probe deeply, try diverse solutions, communicate, revisit and revise their goals, evaluate, and discover excitement in the inventive process.

Rather than prepare children to simply follow directions and do well on tests that focus on limited knowledge and skills, we must nurture creative, critical thinkers who are free to make mistakes and encouraged to learn from them. Children need an environment where they are able to expand their thinking and find new possibilities while gaining creative confidence in their abilities. Throughout this process, children also need opportunities to strengthen their social and emotional development with a knowledgeable teacher who values creative thought, supports unique efforts, and plans experiences based on the knowledge and skills she knows children need to develop.

Children also need the six aptitudes, or senses, of high touch—design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning Pink Whenever a teacher or child tries a new idea or does something differently, he takes a risk: Most people, including children, are more hesitant to take risks in an environment where conformity is expected and rewarded.

Taking a leap into the unknown is scary, and many adults and children do not enjoy taking risks because of past failures or negative experiences. However, the majority of innovations, experiments, inventions, writings, and designs happen because the creator deviates from convention. In a classroom that inspires creative thinking, teachers and children learn to be comfortable taking risks and making mistakes, both of which are an important part of learning, discovering new ideas, and refining the process of creating.

Remember to consider your facial expressions, gestures, intonation, and wait time. When posing any questions or providing support, listen carefully and reflect on what a child is sharing.

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Some teachers, while well intentioned, ask a barrage of open-ended questions while children are involved in something, which can easily frustrate children or cause them to lose interest in their own ideas. Make sure the questions you ask are genuine, judicious, and help children think more deeply about what they are doing and what they want to achieve. Then give them time to consider and respond to your questions at their own pace. Have one group "make music" by clapping their hands, playing rhythm instruments, or tapping their feet on the floor.

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Ask the second group to listen carefully to the rhythms provided by their peers and dance to the music in their own inventive ways. Children learn to represent things by using their bodies in space. Toddlers love to try to hop like a bunny. Older children might enjoy moving like a turtle, a dragonfly, or an elephant. Ask the children whether they can use their bodies to represent emotions, such as joy, anger, or surprise. Creative thinking is implicit in many cooperative games, such as "Big Snake. The "snake" slithers over on its belly to connect up to make a four-- person snake and so on.

The children have to figure out how the snake could slither up on a mountain or figure out a way to flip over the whole snake on its back without losing its parts. At rest time, you might let children conjure up different imaginary scenarios, such as being a fly busily walking across the ceiling. What are they looking for? How do the children on their cots look to the fly from its upside-down vantage point on the ceiling?

The Whole Child - For Early Care Providers - Creativity and Play

You can also ask children to pretend: Which animal would you choose? What would you do all day long as that animal? Some creativity games, such as the "One Goes Back" game, help children learn more about themselves, including their preferences and reactions. In this game, you might ask:. Which one of the three would you give up if you had to give one back? What could you do with the other two things? Could you use them together? The "Uses" game draws on children's ability to conjure up lots of unusual and unconventional uses for objects, such as a tin can, paper clip, or cardboard tube from a paper towel roll.

When a teacher gave some men's ties to a group of year-olds, they pretended to use them as seatbelts while taking a plane trip. They also pretended the ties were slithery snakes crawling along the floor. Give children the chance to play out their imaginative scripts with such props and then enjoy your peek into the window of their creative conjuring! Plan with children to create imaginative indoor scenarios to lift everyone's mood during dark winter days. For instance, try creating a summer picnic in the classroom. Spread a large sheet on the floor Put seashells and maybe a few handfuls of sand in shallow plastic tubs of water Work with children to prepare a variety of sandwiches and slices of fresh fruit.

Ask parents to send in some summer clothing so that preschoolers can change into swimsuits and carry towels. Have a small plastic swimming pool on the floor After children "go for a swim," they can make sand pies or sort seashells on the edge of the "sand" sheet. Brain researchers emphasize how important it is to wire in neural pathways with variety and richness of language interactions. How you set up your classroom paves the way for creative adventures. Provide enough space for a safe block corner and enough cars and blocks for creating highways and traffic jams.

Have easels out and smocks with plastic flexible neck-- bands ready for children to put on when inspiration strikes. Try to have fewer time constraints for activities so that children's creative juices can flow unfettered by a classroom clock.

Although story-reading times and group times are wonderful ways to increase social cohesiveness, be aware of the implications of requiring all children to participate together for other planned activities. Children may be discovering on their own something that is not part of your specific plan for them. For example, if all the children are playing a game outdoors and one child wants to create a sandcastle, a flexible teacher will not be threatened by this personal choice.

Perceptive teachers handle such individual needs in ways that nurture a child's growth rather than squash budding initiatives. An indispensable classroom ingredient is the dramatic-play area. Teachers often ask themselves, "Can rigid dramatic-play scenarios be considered creative in any way? As they chase peers, some children play "monster" as other children screech and run away. The repetitive "monster" play requires no surprise scripts.

How to Raise Smarter Children

Yet, the teacher who wants to promote creativity can help connect the stereotyped behavior of a given child with the larger world of imaginative play. We, as teachers, are constant observers and learn about each child's unique style, fears, strengths, and use of fantasy. Notice children's repetitive themes and how these serve to buffer them against anxiety.