I recently read the book Creative Schools by Dr. Ken Robinson. The book is a good discussion of issues that are facing educators today. In that book he discusses eight competencies that teachers should help students (of all ages) develop. The first is curiosity; teachers should help students ask questions and explore how the world works.
The second competency is related to the first one – creativity. A curious child will begin to develop ideas of things to do related to the things he is wondering. A teacher should look for ways to help a child generate a lot of ideas about the world and test out—practice—those ideas.
How can you create an environment that fosters creativity?
Provide lots of different materials. Offer crayons and markers and paper. Offer blocks and play dough. Offer dress-up clothes and dishes and dolls. Offer counters and manipulatives and puzzles. A variety of materials will provide children with tools they need to try out what they are thinking. Different children will need different tools.
Be flexible. Allow children to use the materials in unexpected ways. I’ve seen boys and girls build with picture cards instead of match the pictures in a matching game. I once watched children gather as many different things from around the room to stack (in a rickety tower) on a digital scale. Children have asked for scissors and tape and created something that was completely different from “my plan.” Look for ways to say yes, to allow children to follow their ideas.
Offer some creative choices. Bring in unusual items for children to use to make paint prints. Provide plastic lids with the blocks to encourage different building opportunities. Substitute one thing for another – if children need a telephone, find something to use as a pretend phone. This creative thinking could stimulate more from the children. Say: “I don’t have a beanbag. But I can use this paper ball instead.” Allow children to see your creative thinking as an example.
Encourage. When you see a child trying out an idea, comment on it. “You are using the plates in your block structure. Tell me about that.” Listen to their ideas. When a child surprises you, tell them. Say: “That is an interesting idea. I would not have thought to do that.” Make them feel comfortable testing out their ideas and they will do it more often.
How do you help your children be more creative?