Whilst doing some reading this week I came across an article by Mary Ann Kohl, an author of books on children’s art. The opening paragraph, which seems so obvious, but is often overlooked in terms of education really stuck a chord with me. Here it is:
There's no doubt about it: Creativity is as natural and necessary for children as fresh air and sunshine! By exposing children to creative experiences, we give them the gift of a rich and memorable childhood while laying the foundation for a lifetime of creative expression – all topped off with a heaping helping of important learning skills.
Since then I’ve done a little more reading and reflecting on the creative opportunities we offer our children at Mairtown. Opportunities for creativity can be found anywhere; it can be found in the apparent obvious such as music, drama, dance and art or also in the less obvious such as science and play.
Of course when you are reading about something at home, you can’t help but transfer this to your work with children. Although I believe we offer many opportunities for children to explore and develop their creative skills, I have been working in this realm even more over the last few weeks. I have chosen to provide the children with a selection of ‘loose parts’ to do their exploring, shells, feathers, beads, buttons, stones and skeleton leaves to name a few. These open-ended materials are particularly effective because they can be used in many ways; they have no predetermined use.
Kia Mau ki nga mahi toi
Hold steadfast to creativity
Literally anything can become the base pallet for children’s designs. We have used tree cookies, small fabric circles and my new favourite these larger black felt discs. The larger circles require a child to use their whole bodies to create, they have to move around the circle, crawl inside it, stand above it to see what they are designing and of course also provide great opportunities for collaborative work amongst small groups of children.
As the children have worked I have been alongside them - listening to their spoken ideas, reading their non-verbal cues - but never ever rushing them. I can’t help but notice that as the children sit down to consider their creative work, it is as if time slows down a little. Their work takes consideration, a carefully observation and exploring of the materials they are using, arranging, and re-arranging of the many parts – work is at a very slowed down pace.
|Who can't resist listening to the sea in a shell!|
|Surrounded by your own creativity, beautiful!|
The goal of engaging in the creative arts is to communicate, think and feel…when children play with open ended materials they explore the look and feel of the materials. They develop a sense of the aesthetics by investigating what is beautiful and pleasing about the material…The more children use open-ended materials, the more they make them aesthetically pleasing by fiddling, sorting, and ordering, and the more they see the potential in the materials and themselves” (Drew & Rankin, 2004).
|I just love how Kate went beyond the restraints of her black felt circle in her design, extending |
her work by tucking feathers under the mat and using the surrounding carpet.
Through respecting creativity in children, children are able to explore their own ideas, helping them learn to think and solve problems for themselves. Children who feel free to make mistakes and to explore and experiment will also feel free to invent, create, and find new ways to do things. Fostering creativity in our children gives them a zest for imagining and learning which will last a lifetime (Mary Ann Kohl).
What next? Well as adults perhaps we should all spend a little more time exploring our own creative skills so we can value what our children create. I know sitting alongside some of the children these last few weeks, I also couldn't resist fiddling with the shells, feeling the bumps and noticing the patterns, and before I knew it I too was laying them down and creating my own design J