Preparing creative thinkers for life
Want to encourage a sense of creativity in your child? Now is definitely the time to do it.
The kindergarten years are crucial to the development of our children’s creativity. During this time, tamariki are constantly engaged in play, and have a natural tendency to fantasise, experiment, and explore.
Play is fun, but it is also developmentally important. Creativity builds a desire to learn. Being able to think divergently allows young children to grow important skills like critical thinking, and problem solving. Through play, they have opportunities to practise collaborating with others.
When children use their imagination during play, they get the opportunity to express themselves and develop working theories about the world, says Kidsfirst Parklands Head Teacher, Helen Smith, “They look at issues from lots of different perspectives, learn to work with others and communicate ideas - all things they will take with them through life.”
Creativity is sometimes seen as a “soft skill”, but it actually may be one of the most important things we can learn, Helen says, “Creativity is a value, and many people don’t recognise the depth of it, because often it’s just associated with things like drawing and the arts – but actually, it’s about decoding messages, confidence, and being able to think in lots of different ways.”
Activities that engage imaginative thinking are what lead children to having unique ideas. When tamariki use materials, express themselves verbally and non-verbally, plan, act, and try different roles it improves their fine motor skills and can help concentration.
“It’s about setting up provocations that spark excitement and wonderment, and which invite children in to wanting to participate in the experience,” says Kidsfirst Selwyn Street Head Teacher, Gemma Cave, “It can be sensory experiences where children can get the opportunity to get messy and get their hands involved, or just anything that's going to let their imaginations run wild.”
Helen Smith says that development of creativity can happen anywhere, especially at kindergarten, “We encourage creativity in every part of our kindergarten – playing with blocks, painting, in the sandpit, outside, through carpentry, and even with our climbing structures. We colour between the lines that the tamariki draw.”
Helping nurture this kind of thinking will serve tamariki far beyond childhood, says Kidsfirst Greymouth Head Teacher, Tracy Jennings, “It’s about shaping different things together and thinking critically. Encouraging creativity is about giving children an opportunity to be themselves, and tell their own story, which then opens the door for new learning experiences.”
“There’s a whole lot of things that merge together, and flow on from one another. Creativity links into storytelling, writing, and reading for them. They are making connections between ideas, and gaining skills that will come to play during more formal education.”
When tamariki are exploring and testing ideas, they are not passively listening or absorbing. They are communicating, which aids in the growth of cognitive and social functions.
Kidsfirst Selwyn Street Teacher, Jessica Bazzarelli, says that every child expresses creativity in a different way, “It comes in many shapes and forms, not just in the way they draw, but how confident they are and the way they see things.”
Tamariki are constantly innovating, and doing things differently, reiterates Head Teacher of Kidsfirst Beckenham, George Pearce, “With children it's spontaneous: from what they’re building in the classroom, to exploring in the sandpit – it’s all about their discovery, and they can take that messy play and do all sorts of things.”
Kaiako look for opportunities in everyday life to encourage tamariki to think outside the box. “We take opportunities whenever we can,” says Keryn Stanley, Teacher at Kidsfirst Parklands, “If there’s a puddle because it has rained, we ask tamariki how we should get over it. Do we build a bridge, use a pallet or get a mat from inside? Anything that’s going to get them engaged, and thinking.”
Questions like these help tamariki to see that answers to problems aren't always linear, she says, “At kindergarten, we show them just because two-plus-two equals four, doesn’t mean you can’t get there by adding one-and-three. It’s all part of the learning process and it’s easy to implement while they're playing.”
This means that no day at kindergarten is ever the same, says Keryn Stanley.
“As much as we create a set program, we’re constantly modifying what we do and responding to interests so tamariki can do what they enjoy. Resources are open ended, and it doesn’t mean we let them run wild, but we encourage them to follow through with ideas.”
Want to encourage more creativity at home? We asked some of our kaiako for some of their top tips:
• Creativity comes in many forms
Whether it’s a game outside, playing with paint, or acting out a scene, creativity blossoms in many different scenarios – don’t limit yourself!
• Let tamariki lead the play
Children gain the most when the learning is led by them, and they are able to engage with their interests. Listen to your tamaiti – they know what’s best.
• Embrace the fun
Creativity can be messy, and exciting, or relaxed, and quiet. It’s all about embracing the different opportunities, and the fun that comes with them.
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