HAPPY LESSONS 5 – HOW TO BE A BRIGHT SPARK!
HAPPY LESSONS 5 – HOW TO BE A BRIGHT SPARK!
DEVELOPING CREATIVE THINKING IN YOUNG CHILDREN
I hope you have been enjoying reading these blogs as much as I have writing them! The opportunity to still be involved in education despite not being able to be in the classroom is really rewarding and to put 20 years’ worth of experience into words is proving both challenging and interesting. So this week I am going to tackle developing creativity in young children.
By its very nature Creativity is not something that can be taught in isolation or even easily defined. In essence it is about "thinking outside the box" and problem solving, combined with being able to explore and express your ideas and feelings through a wide variety of media. The earlier children become creative thinkers the better, as the most successful people in any activity use these skills to resolve the obstacles in their way.
When helping your children develop creative skills it is essential not to undervalue the role of creative play and to provide ample opportunity for your child to explore this. Creative play can incorporate Music, Art, Role-Play, 'Small World Play' and Visualisation.
The following ideas are just to get the Creative ball rolling, as there are so many different ways to help your child develop creative skills that I am not able to include them all.
Solving simple problems helps your child to think creatively. Problem solving games are an easy and fun way to develop these skills. Initially encouraging your child to build the tallest tower or make a toy boat that floats in the bath will help them to try different approaches to solve a problem and help them become creative thinkers.
You can set slightly older children a challenge to build a bridge from either their construction toys or junk modelling equipment that is strong enough to hold their favourite toy.
Making your own problem solving games is easy. Simply cut out pictures of familiar objects from a magazine and then cut the picture into quarters, gradually show it to your child one picture at a time and see if they can guess what the whole picture is. A similar game can be played verbally by giving your child a series of visual clues until they can guess the fruit or animal you are thinking of.
Your child's initial awareness of music may come from Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes but the opportunities are boundless. Children love to experiment with sound from their first experience of shaking a rattle.
The aim is to help your child to investigate sound, tempo and their emotions through music.
Once your child starts to talk, help them to match sounds to their experiences, animals or even the weather outside.
Try listening to a piece of music together and enjoy dancing freely to it.
Alternately they could paint how the music makes them feel or what it makes them think about.
Take pleasure in singing familiar songs together and have fun playing around with different tempos, words and volume levels (faster, slower, louder, and quieter). This often appeals to a child’s sense of humour and they can put their own stamp on a familiar tune.
By helping your child relate to music through their different senses, you are giving them the tools to play creatively with and through music.
Many children love 'Messy Play", especially the feeling of paint squishing through their fingers and even their toes, but some don’t, however it is worth persevering and encouraging them.
Water soluble paints, crayons, brushes, sponges, straws and glitter all make great tools to investigate, shape, colour and texture.
For simplicity try and collect a box of odd bits of coloured paper, crayons, pictures cut out from magazines, dried pasta, rice, ends of wool, glue sticks and bits of tin foil.
Remember that self-esteem is vital in developing creativity, children need to feel happy to take risks and experiment. Taking pride in their creations will give them the confidence to experiment and develop further in the future.
Children love the ability to manipulate materials that 3D creative play presents. Here is an area where their imagination can run wild and objects can be so much more than they seem.
A set of large boxes can be moved around to create a bus, plane, castle or cave and then later flat packed for easy storage
Playdough can be manipulated just for fun or to provide props for play, from pretend food to deadly spiders in a garden adventure
Children love junk modelling, they will happily spend ages sticking old cereal packets, yoghurt pots and egg boxes together to create anything from robots to the 3 Bears house
Pre-bought construction toys such as, Duplo/Lego, Knex and Mobilo are also great creative media, as they allow your child to create a huge variety of imaginative props for their own play.
Remember, at first their creations may not be obvious to you as they are to your child, but your encouragement and your involvement will help them to take risks and learn through exploration, which are the building blocks of creativity.
Role-play and Small World Play
Role-Play and Small World Play are fantastic ways for your child to develop their confidence, story language and imagination and their value should also not be undervalued.
The main difference between the two, is that in Role-Play your child will actively become a character in their story, where as in Small World Play they will use small props, such as toy knights, cars or fairies to act out and direct different scenarios.
Young children especially like to mimic and from an early age they will enjoy pretending to be you, whether it be using a toy Hoover, kitchen or toolset. So instead of throwing out your old clothes and accessories, put them in a ‘dressing up’ box. This way you are providing the key to some wonderful adventures and their creative play can even be extended by you joining in for a little while and modelling story language and drama.
As their imagination develops, they will take their role-models from their favourite stories and the world around them. You can enhance this play by collecting some simple props, such as a toy till or food for a supermarket or just collecting some old cards and envelopes for a Post Office. Although these bits and pieces may take up a little room, they provide fantastic opportunities for developing oracy and creativity. This will also keep your child occupied, leaving you time to get on with some of life’s other demands.
Both these type of play also provide a good opportunity for your child to develop their language and social skills. If your child can tell a good story, later on they will have the necessary creative skills to write a good story. Remember when children are involved in role-play or Small World Play with their friends it is important to help them understand they everyone has to get a fair turn at taking the lead, developing the story line and using the props.
Initially your child may need help to share their favourite cloak or to not always be the mum in the story, but once again, with repetition and support, they will learn how to resolve these early problems and develop good social skills.
Visualisation is a very useful creative tool. It is all about being able to see things and manipulate them 'in your mind's eye'. From an early age you can do fun activities with your child to help develop this skill.
This activity is simple but children love it. One of you draws a shape on a piece of paper and the other person has to turn it into something different, for example, a triangle could become the roof on a house or the top of a rocket. The same type of activity can also be done with Playdough or any construction material such as Lego or Knex. You will probably be surprised how good your child will be at these activities, as they often see things more openly than adults.
Visualisation is a great way of helping your child understand some mathematical concepts such as teaching your child about shapes and their properties. First show your child some shapes, tell them what they are called and count the sides, corners and points together. Now draw some 2D shapes or put some 3D shapes in a bag. Tell your child that they are going to be a Math detective and that you will give them clues but not show them the shape. Then describe the shape to your child by its properties and encourage them to try to see it in their minds eye. Can they be a shape detective and work out the hidden shape?
Visualisation is fun, but is also a great creative skill which can be used in many ways over your child's lifetime. Sports Psychology and Life Coaching utilise visualisation to help you see yourself reaching your goal. Any activity requiring design uses visualisation to come up with ideas, also visualisation is a vital tool in any form of problem solving.
So remember, it is essential not to undervalue creative play and to provide ample opportunity for your child to explore, make mistakes, have fun and develop their creative skills.