“Creativity is as important… as literacy and we should treat it with the same status” Sir Ken Robinson, 2006.
I began my teaching career naively thinking that I could bring my creative instincts into everything that I taught – across the board, no holes barred. I’d learnt a lot in my training about child-led learning and exploration and play, which is exactly what we try to achieve as children enter school. Does it continue? No.
How many 10-11 year olds do you know who get to explore their curriculum through play?
Let’s face it, by that age they are tied up in the endless round of testing and assessment that lead them to different secondary schools, so they can be ‘batched’ ready to learn at the appropriate level.
Creative learning is lost.
What can we do about it? Well, if we were to try to radically change the learning in schools, it would take years and our children would be adults (and then the schools would need changing again!). That is not to say some aspects do need changing, but that’s another story…
What we need to do is look at how we can support our own children at home to develop a creative outlook that will encourage a new perspective from our next generations. To allow time for problem solving and opportunity to try different things that might spark a talent or passion. It might mean that sometimes we need to get involved or at least understand what to do, and if you don’t consider yourself to be creative, then how on earth can you support your child?!
Now, often, when we talk creativity, people assume we are talking art and craft. Well, those certainly help a great deal, but creative children can be talented in so much! Think about those little things that make your child who they are – they may respond to music in a way that causes them to immediately dance, or even grab an instrument (or the equivalent!) and play along. I used to watch in assemblies at school for the children who jiggled when music was played – they really couldn’t help themselves – it’s also fascinating to see that not everyone does this when you are also someone who’s feet (or hands) won’t stay still when you hear music!
In the early years of school, we praise and admire the children who can, for example, talk confidently in front of a class, sing or dance. We encourage exploration of types of tasks and try to develop interests in new things, whilst also celebrating the child’s knowledge and special interests at such a young age. Unfortunately, so many times, schools then ‘get on with the set curriculum’ and leave this learning and encouragement to parents, and only celebrate achievements when told about them.
So, with the restrictions at school (even out of a pandemic!), it’s down to us, as parents, to develop and find those activities that will inspire creative thinking and problem solving.
Where do we start?
We start by choosing to do nothing!
Let me explain…
Have you ever let your child play alone (or with a sibling) without intervention from you? In fact, are they able to do it? Some children find it incredibly difficult to do this simple thing. The reason being that we often feel as though we need to intervene all the time. I think we assume that we should be the guide and also show that we are engaging with our children and of course, we should be engaging with our children, but…
…we should also be giving them downtime - by this I don’t mean automatically allow them to head for the nearest gaming screen, which may be a habit, I mean real downtime, where they are allowed to do something different that they choose. This will encourage exploration and learning, but without us they will learn to create something independently, will learn to make mistakes and problem solve to make it right. It doesn’t matter what the activity is. Children need to make that decision. They need boundaries of course, so teach them that if they want to paint, they can’t use the walls; if they want to create bug houses, they learn how to use the tools properly first (with your guidance). I saw a post recently where primary-aged children chose to play with plain wooden blocks and created their own worlds – how’s that for imaginative play! I think that once children are out of the Early Years of schooling, we don’t offer them enough opportunities to go back to that way of ‘playing’, even at home.
Once you begin allowing this time (and it may be only 10 mins to start with if they aren’t used to it or complain that they are bored without even settling to anything), you will find that they might return to specific things. Do they often turn on the radio and dance? Do they choose to write a book? Do they head outside (whatever the weather) and start bug hunting? Are they more interested in coding (yes, on a screen, but with a purpose) or composing? There is so much that they can explore!
Btw, if they are “bored” and don’t settle, it may take some gentle guidance or modelling from you to get the ball rolling, but offer some different activities each time you try so that your child has a chance to find something that sparks their interest. Over time, you may find them engaging with it without your intervention and that’s the time to step away and let them get creative.
The most important thing to remember is that if we lead the activities all the time, children get dependent on us to make decisions for them. They aren’t able to think for themselves and will find it difficult to deal with working things out for themselves – this could show itself in learning tasks too. Creative children will develop a confidence to make mistakes without worry and then try to explore what went wrong. The more they do it, they better they get and just imagine how they will navigate life not only during, but beyond education!
Join the conversation. Reply to this post – let me know what you think, what struggles you have and what you do to develop creative learning. The more we share and discuss, the more we will help others to build creativity into their child’s life <3