Why is it important for educators to nurture children's creativity?

Published on Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Last updated on Thursday, 09 July 2020

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The Oxford Dictionary defines creativity as 'the use of imagination or original ideas to create something.' Although we often think of creativity in terms of painting and drawing, when we look at the bigger picture, creativity is also an important part of how children interact with one another, approach new situations, respond to challenges and think in innovative ways.

Here we look at the notion of creativity in more detail.

How does creativity benefit children?

Creativity plays an instrumental role in children’s mental, emotional and physical development. It helps youngsters to:

  • Imagine and create through activities like role-playing and art

  • Gain new skills by mixing colours and playing music

  • Think in new ways

  • Express themselves and explain things to others

  • Problem-solving like negotiating practical problems or social disagreements

  • Have meaningful experiences

  • Think reflectively

As well as offering an artsy outlet, creativity is an important part of growing up. It helps children make sense of the world and teaches them important life skills too.

How can educators promote creativity in an early learning and care environment?

There are many ways that educators can help young children embrace their creativity. And whether that creative spark is encouraged through a child's physical environment, learning opportunities or social interactions, Early Childhood Australia has the following practical suggestions.

To inspire creativity using the indoor and outdoor environment, educators can:

  • Offer a variety of open-ended, natural and 'found' materials, and improvise with them

  • Provide artsy materials like paint, glue, paper, crayons, pencils and play dough

  • Show children attractive objects like shells, baskets and fabric

  • Encourage children's sense of responsibility by letting them choose and care for certain equipment, materials or room areas

In terms of learning opportunities, early childhood educators:

  • Teach children practical techniques, such as squeezing out just enough paint or making a play dough sculpture that balances on its own

  • Offer babies and toddlers sensory experiences, like this 'alphabet soup' sensory bin or 'peek-a-boo' sensory board

  • Show them different forms of quality creative expression, from fine art and scientific inventions to tap dance and Renaissance architecture

  • Include a variety of music into the curriculum

  • Expose children to beautifully written and illustrated books

  • Free up large blocks of time for creative activities and spread some projects over days or weeks

  • Apply a creative approach to everyday routines like helping children to create a 'Day Care Café' to eat in

To nurture creativity through social interactions, educators can:

  • Plan activities where children work with one another and see different viewpoints

  • Involve youngsters in solving real world problems and ask them open-ended questions

  • Encourage children to come up with their own ideas, answers and interpretations

  • Allow children to learn by making mistakes and encourage them to try new things and take the initiative

  • Show that they value difference and diversity

  • Encourage youngsters when they’re thinking or acting creatively

How can a curious nature benefit older children?

With creativity comes curiosity, and according to a recent study, a curious nature can benefit school kids from all socio-economic backgrounds.

Researchers at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and the Centre for Human Growth and Development looked at data from 6,200 kindergartens and found a link between higher curiosity and better academic achievement.

And although researchers said there is often an 'achievement gap' between children from higher and lower socio-economic backgrounds, this study suggests that curious children from poorer backgrounds performed as well as those from richer backgrounds.

Lead researcher, Prachi Shah says, 'Curiosity is characterised by the joy of discovery and the desire for exploration' and adds that, 'Promoting curiosity is a foundation for early learning that we should be emphasising more when we look at academic achievement.'

This is all the more reason to promote creativity – and curiosity – in the early learning environment. And with painting and problem-solving comes a world of possibility.

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