Creativity Starts in the Crib
“It is becoming increasingly clear through research on the brain, as well as in other areas of study, that childhood needs play. Play acts as a forward feed mechanism into courageous, creative, rigorous thinking in adulthood.”
Tina Bruce, Professor,
London Metropolitan University
Babies and young children express creativity through play and the use of simple symbols. Playing peek-a-boo is often the first game the baby learns. As the parent covers and uncovers her face with her hands, the baby learns to pretend that his parent has disappeared and then returned.
Suppose mother calls to her toddler, but he doesn’t answer. She hears giggling coming from behind the curtains. The child has decided to hide as a joke. Mother can laugh and show her surprise and admiration at the good trick he has played, or she can act angry and disapproving. A positive response will let him know that his creativity has been rewarded. A negative response will discourage him from creative thinking.
Ages 2 - 5: Creative Explorers. . .
When we think of creativity in preschoolers, we often think of paints or crayons, but for many children, creativity is first expressed through fantasy. Through playing “pretend,” they make the world closer to what they want it to be. They may have very vivid fantasies, and what an alarmed parent may characterize as a lie is actually an imaginative story the child has created.
A 3-year-old may announce that she wants spaghetti for breakfast. A 4-year-old will put together a very colorful outfit for school. These displays of creativity may be a bit annoying for parents, but creativity is essential for solving problems and coming up with fresh approaches to all kinds of situations. By the time children turn five, they know much more about everyday reality. As their thinking becomes more mature, they begin to approach life in a more logical way.
Ages 5-11: Keep it Going
By the time they start school, children may begin to lose touch with their inner world and creative impulses. As their brains become more complex, they gain the ability to think in logical terms. An 8-year-old will carefully color the sky blue and the grass green, seeking to be orderly and rational rather than colorful and expressive.
However, the creative self if still important to school-age children. Playing with action figures, dolls or drawing, may help a child express his emotions. As the child begins to differentiate herself from her parents, she may dream about what she wants to be when she grows up.
There are many ways for a child to express himself. He may enjoy experimenting with cooking or decorating his room. The specific method of self-expression is not important, but the creativity is.
Tips for Parents
- Acting playful with your baby invites the child to participate in an imaginative world.
- Offer a toddler simple toys or even household items which he can play with in a variety of ways.
- Keep art supplies close at hand.
- If your child creates an imaginary friend, don’t try to talk her out of it. This is a healthy way to try out different aspects of her personality.
- Encourage a variety of interests. Music, art and creative play need not be totally replaced by sports or homework.
- Suggest stimulating recreation. Help the child come up with alternatives to video games and television viewing.
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