“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

By Beth Pinyerd

Here we are at the end of January. But, before January slips away, I want to mention that this month is recognized as “International Creativity Month”. The early childhood classroom invites young children to celebrate creativity each day of this month. Many creative ideas can be adopted for young children within families.

During these winter months, in waking up your young children, why not awaken them with a positive greeting? This can be done with the days of the week like: good morning “Marvelous Mondays; Terrific Tuesdays; Wonderful Wednesdays; Tremendous Thursdays; and Fantastic Fridays.” Your young children will catch on to the positive morning greetings and start to make up greetings themselves. On the funny side from the teacher’s corner, after doing lesson plans, teaching or grading papers, we at times may be a little tired by Thursday. We teachers may encourage each other as Thursday being our “Friday Eve”. 

In working with young children, I cease to be amazed that I can give children a construction paper shape and they can draw houses, people, cars, rockets etc.  Every early childhood teacher can tell you they have quite an array of Kleenex flowers, masterpieces full of glue and different odds and ends made with love and many teacher portraits signed or scribbled “I love you”.

When we think of children expressing their creativity, it’s just not drawing, cutting and gluing. Creativity is a foundation block for a child in solving problems, expressing their thoughts, using critical thinking skills as well as “thinking out of the box” or divergent thinking.

The seed of creativity begins when a child is an infant.  When rocking a baby, one can notice how their eyes are constantly looking around, exploring a person’s face or a room, grabbing a parent’s finger or object.  When a child is a toddler, twos, threes, fours, they explore their environment by touching, handling and looking at things.  Free play is a wonderful avenue for children to express their creative skills. Children are not taught to be creative, this is expressed naturally. Children are already creative. We as teachers and parents have to provide materials, resources, time and encourage young children to express their creative skills. 

Creative freedom in childhood leads to creativity in adulthood. A person expresses creativity in areas they have interests and strengths in. A young child may lean toward music, language expression, art, math, etc. If these strengths are encouraged, nourished and nurtured in childhood, then this same creativity is enhanced as an adult.

Tips that I have learned over the years as a teacher and mom, as well as from other teachers are:

You cannot force creativity in a young child. When I give young children coloring sheets, if one asks me if they can turn their page over and draw and color their own picture, I do not stop them from doing this. Creativity is not coloring within the lines of prepared pictures. Coloring prepared pictures comes under “can my child follow directions?” When an adult tells a child what to do step-by-step in coloring, cutting or gluing, that is not letting a child be creative. This cramps creativity from a young child because they are dependent upon your directions and instructions.

Creativity is reinforced when a child is allowed to “link” or make connections from their bodies touching, seeing or feeling things.

Drawing skills are developmental. When your toddler scribbles and loves to use different colors with lines, this is their way of expressing themselves.  Sometimes we may find masterpieces on our wall or furniture, so be sure you have washable crayons, markers around the house. As children turn ages three, four, five, encourage them to explain and tell stories of their pictures.  Of course, keep in mind that children develop at different rates.

Again, I want to express that for children to build creativity, free play needs to be encouraged. Too, as parents and grandparents, we need to get down on the floor to play with our young child. Do pretend tea parties, roll cars, trains around a track, zoom off into the air with an airplane or rocket or just lay flat on your back, look up at the sky and see pictures out of different cloud formations.

Always keep a supply of markers, crayons, paper, scraps of cloth, toilet tissue tubes, string, buttons, beans, seeds, old gift wrap, empty egg cartons, dress up clothes or old items around the house that children can safely take apart and put back together, such as old engines, radios, toasters.

Spending time with your children and talking to them ignites that spark of creativity. Don’t criticize or evaluate a child’s free creation. Let them freely express themselves with creativity; children are allowed to make mistakes.

Have a spot in the corner of your house where children are allowed to make a mess. You can even title it “Kids’ Corner”!

Friday, Jan. 28, is recognized as International Lego Day. Children love to build different projects out of Legos. It amazes me as an early childhood teacher what young children can build. A Lego family project is a good creative “together celebration”.

Saturday, Jan. 29, is National Puzzle Day. With winter cold driving us to be inside, planning family puzzle “get togethers” invites creativity in solving puzzles as a family.

The Winter Olympics are just around the corner which start in Beijing, China.  This is a wonderful time for families to come together to view the competitions. Many early childhood classroom teachers get so creative in making pretend paper torches which light the cauldrons to begin the Olympics. Too, they craftily make Olympic rings, make flags of different countries, do classroom parades, etc. Families can glean from the early childhood classroom. This is a time where young children and families can research and learn about different countries. It is bringing the world to your own back door! Young children love to focus on the different sports such as ice skating, snow skiing, ice hockey, etc. We have seen snow here in Lee County recently, but usually in our county, we don’t see a lot of snow. Families can still have snowball contests by making and wadding up white paper into pretend snow balls, or rolling up white socks to do a snowball toss. These white socks can be used to do pretend ice skating on floors of wood or tile. I know with older children pretend ice skating on wax paper has been fun. Families be sure to establish SAFETY RULES when enjoying these activities. When I was growing up in Opelika and we had snow events, the neighborhood would flatten out carboard boxes to make homemade sleds to slide down hills in our yards. This is a fun activity for children under the supervision of adults. 

Engaging in creative conversations about the Olympics, like what is your child’s favorite winter Olympic sport and why, will bring delight and insight into how your young child is thinking. 

As we creatively wrap up January, I hope these few simple suggestions will give you a running start of enjoying family creativity. 

Classroom Observer, Beth Pinyerd