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Childcare Education Institute

February 9, 2024

Three Questions for Cultivating Creativity

I want the children’s eyes to seek out what is beautiful. I want the children to use their hands to please their eyes. I want art to be part of their every day.
—Carol Hillman, Teaching Four-Year-Olds:  A Personal Journey

“Ask three questions about anything you are doing in the classroom: What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who is it for?” suggests Lisa Murphy, the Ooey Gooey Lady. “When you ask these questions about product art, the answers usually have little to do with child development,” writes Elizabeth Richards, in an article that forms the basis of the Exchange Reflections, “Art that Celebrates the Process.”

Richards adds, “If a teacher is controlling available types and quantities of materials, such as how much glue children may use, learning is restricted. It is the very act of experimenting that teaches them how much glue is too much, which materials they need to create their own vision, or what the word sticky means.”

In researching children’s creativity in natural outdoor classrooms, Chris Kiewra and Ellen Veselack found, “Too much teacher direction can shut creativity down before it ever develops. Teacher’s view of children’s creative capacities and respect for their experiences inform how they support imaginative play. There are many supporting roles that educators take with children ranging from observing from a respectful distance to being fully immersed in the child’s play. The most supportive role is one that balances the two extremes. Teachers should make themselves available and be nearby the children and then participate, as it seems necessary. There is a delicate balance that must be achieved by teachers: stepping back while still remaining open to engagement, and interacting with children without taking over.

They quote creativity guru Sir Ken Robinson who said, “Creativity is not the opposite of discipline and control. On the contrary, creativity in any field may involve deep factual knowledge and high levels of practical skill. Cultivating creativity is one of the most interesting challenges for any teacher.”

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