All children have the ability to demonstrate their own unique sense of creativity, a skill naturally inspired by what they learn and experience directly from their parents, early educators, and surroundings. The arts often serve as a creative force for children to express their feelings and emotions. Painting, music, dance, and drama are just a few of the countless ways children can flourish through inventiveness in an early childhood environment. But creativity is more than just expressionism, as it has tremendous potential to impact young children’s cognitive and physical growth (Goal II in the Child Development Associate (CDA) Competency Standards).
Creativity falls under Functional Area 7 which discusses how early educators can recognize and apply creative ideas and methods to promote a creative environment and individual inspiration in children since infancy. When children begin to acquire artistic inspiration in the early childhood environment, it creates opportunities for children to develop certain cognitive skills1:
• Explore actions through trial and error
• Observe new ways of taking on projects
• Develop problem solving techniques
• Take risks
• Observe a project development from beginning to end
• Collaborate with their peers
• Enjoy the experience as they create – which will encourage them to want to do it again!
Learning to incorporate a creative curriculum in your early childhood education program is essential to child development.
Deirdre Palmer, Coordinator of School Tours and Docent Programs, at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington D.C., trains museum tour guides who interact with educators and their groups of Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade students when they visit NGA. Palmer, who has a master’s degree in teaching, works with her team to successfully implement techniques for groups of young visitors to learn more about the exhibits displayed, the artists, and the inspiration behind the works of art themselves. Palmer shared some tips that parents and teachers can use in their interactions with very young children ages zero to five, or even older children.
Q: Why should art be part of the early childhood environment?
A: Looking at works of art provides children with opportunities to hone their skills in observing, describing, thinking, wondering, and reasoning. Creating art allows children to tap into their imaginations and make artistic choices. Both looking at art and creating art are effective tools to help children learn about a range of subjects (e.g. different cultures, the elements of art, art materials and techniques, history, math, and science).
Q: What are some simple ways of promoting creativity in the early childhood environment for children from birth to five?
- Tap into their imaginations! In exploring a painting, I often have young learners use their imaginations to “jump into” a painting. We then explore the painting using our senses. Based on what they can see in the work of art, I ask them what they might feel, hear, smell, and taste.
- Do art activities that allow children to make choices in terms of what materials they use and what they make (drawing, collage, sculpture, etc.).
- Have the children imagine what story is being told based on what they see can see in the work of art. Children can also create drawings that help to illustrate a story they imagine.
Q: What 3 factors can educators keep in mind when incorporating art/creativity into their curriculum?
- I have found that using a thematic approach is a successful strategy to teach children about art. For example, we offer a tour called Art Tales: Sky Color to explore landscape paintings. We read the book Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds, look at two or three landscape paintings, and then the children create their own landscape paintings.
- Looking at and creating art is a great way to connect to other subject areas. For example, if the children are learning about their community, educators can incorporate various works of art that depict different types of communities and talk about how each artist decided to show that community.
- Providing time and space for children to think and imagine. In both exploring artworks and creating art, children need time to slow down, process, and think in order to be creative.
For early educators, the beauty of creativity is the chance to lead children through teaching experiences that will eventually allow them to explore what they would like to do and think about the process behind how they’d like to go about exploring with their creativity. The sky’s the limit, and as educators, you too have countless opportunities to encourage and nurture the creativity of perhaps a future Picasso, Van Gogh and most importantly, the happy and creative minds of our future generations!
1Washington, V. (2017). Essentials for Working with Young Children (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: The Council for Professional Recognition.