“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.
As a teacher of young children, I love to extend seasonal joy by celebrating creativity in the quietness of winter. We, as parents, teachers and caregivers, are like artists who paint on the heart and life of a young child. Too, like a potter who molds and sculptures clay into many different life-like shapes and masterpieces, we must remind ourselves that young children are moldable and bendable by the words we say to them as they express themselves creatively. From the Hand of the Creator, He knit every little cell of our being, our bodies, hearts, emotions, spirits and personalities. Each of us — especially children — express themselves uniquely and differently. As we have always heard, no two snowflakes are alike. No two people are the same.
In working with young children, I never cease to be amazed that I can give them a construction paper shape and they can draw houses, people, cars, rockets, etc., just around a simple shape. 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 a young baby’s eyes are constantly looking around, exploring a person’s face or a room, grabbing a parent’s finger or object. When children are toddlers, 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 and resources, time and encouragement young children need 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, mom and 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 and gluing, that is preventing a child from being creative. This cramps creativity from a young child because they are dependent upon your directions and instructions. There is nothing wrong in doing this, but it is a “follow direction” lesson, not a lesson on creativity. Too, how we let a child express creativity depends on their age and development.
Creativity is reinforced when a child is allowed to “link” or make connections from their bodies in touching, seeing and 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 and markers around the house. As children turn ages three, four and 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 and 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 and other old items around the house that children can safely take apart and put back together. Old engines, radios and toasters are more great ideas.
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 and break rules.
Have a spot in the corner of your house where children are allowed to make a mess. You can even title it “Kids’ Corner.”
It is so heartwarming to see a smile or twinkle in a young child’s eyes when they are encouraged and praised for just who they are and what they do.