Creativity is a very important quality for the contemporary individual. Today, creativity is mainly viewed as the ability to make products such as music, poems, novels, pictures, photographs, and dance, although it is not right to consider scientists, politicians or philosophers less creative than actors or painters (Fumoto, Robson, Greenfield & Hargreaves, 2012). Any kind of talent is a sign of creativity. Talents can be stimulated through the development of one’s creativity on its early stages of growth, which occur in early childhood. Assisting children’s creativity my means of introducing them to creative practice is the best way to raise talented and curious individuals with active and sharp minds.
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As stated by Fumoto et al. (2012), creativity in general is rather hard to define, but in essence it is the process of searching for something that has not been made before. Sternberg (2006) noted that among the most important skills required for creativity are synthetic skills, which are responsible for viewing the problems in alternative and unconventional ways, and analytical skills, which allow one to recognise the solutions most suitable for the problems. I agree with this theory, and think that this means that creativity is not something one is born with, but something an individual can develop in childhood. Theorising about creativity Velikovsky (2012) examines three components included into it. They are a creative person, a creative process and a creative product. In this scheme the first one, the creative person, is defined by the biological, psychological, sociological and cultural factors, which means that the surroundings where the child grows up are what shapes them as a creative person.
At the same time, professor Craft (n. d.) adds one more important aspect to creativity – the possibility. I agree that in order to perform creative practice a child requires the surroundings that allow freedom for self-expression. I believe that children are naturally curious; this is why they cannot be locked up in neat rooms and limited in various ways. Creative practice and exploration for children involve getting their hands and clothes dirty, touching objects, building, making a mess, and running around. Possibilities for learning and creativity can be distributed by the adults supervising children (Craft, n. d.). This is why it is important for teachers, parents and care takers to approach this subject with open minds without creating too many rules and prohibitions.
Centuries ago a famous French educator and philosopher Rousseau proposed that children should be granted an opportunity to develop on their own under little supervision from the adults (Saracho, 2013). According to Rousseau, children should not be given any orders at all, and the restrictions should be reduced to the minimum. In my understanding, a supervisor is not to prohibit activities to children, but to prevent them from doing things in wrong ways. In other words, one should not say, “you cannot play with matches!” to a child, but instead they should say “home is not where you play with matches, so let us go and do it in the yard”.
Children start to demonstrate creativity at the earliest stages of growing up and development. This can be seen in their desire to explore the world and learn. Babies have an instinctual thirst for knowledge (Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), 2012). This is their natural desire to fill their brain with experiences and impressions. This is why one can often see babies try to touch things, taste them, break toys to see what is inside, stare at objects observing and learning them attentively. At this stage it is crucial for the children’s parents and care takers to start taking an active role in their education, as small children need to be directed and introduced to things and knowledge in order to be able to develop properly and learn effectively. For centuries some of the most well known educators, psychologists and practitioners such as Rousseau, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner have been trying to work out the best theories and techniques to stimulate children’s learning and development though individual approach.
Some of the main principles one must remember working with children are to always fulfill children’s needs, and remember that in early years education subjects should not be divided, as children learn in an integrated manner (Bruce, n. d.). This is why EYFS standards view play as the best kind of creative practice for children (O’Connor, 2014). Revised EYFS differ from the ones of earlier years due to distinguishing between three main areas of development, which are physical, emotional and communication (O’Connor, 2014). The new standards also note that play is the only way for children to learn, and focus on educating adults about children’s play and its efficiency. At the same time, the aspect that remained unchanged is the focus on observation, which is deemed as the source of knowledge and experience for the educational practitioners.
Play can be of various types. Children can play acting out scenes, doing drama, though such activities as re-enacting various professions among which can be doctor, salesman, cook, or teacher (Play & Learning, 2014). Children also can play with various objects and materials such as toys, clay, paint, paper, water, sand or dough. Creativity gets stimulated when children draw or make sculptures. They can also build something out of small details, for this purpose puzzles and constructors exist. All of these activities compile what is called creative practice. This is an activity that stimulates creativity and enforces physical, personal, emotional and social development of a child, together with the development of language and imagination. Supervised creative practice held under a professional care of an adult can be highly effective for the child development during the early years.
Source book called “Learning through Play” suggests a variety of activities, through which a child can engage into creative practice and an adult can make this practice interesting and challenging at the same time (Crosby, Crossey, Crow, Devlin, Heaney, McDermott & Warren, n. d.). This way creative practice becomes the most effective. The authors of this book notice that young children are highly expressive. Truly, children of early ages express themselves in a number of ways such as screaming, talking, running, playing, and creating. This way stimulation of creative practice is requited because this allows assessing one of the most important needs of young children, introducing the world to them, and teaching them how to interact with other human beings and nature.
The importance of frequent engagement into creative practice for the children in early years is immense. Babies and small children are incredible at learning (Learning, Playing, and Interacting, 2009). In the first several years of their lives children acquire the amount of information worth of decades of learning in adult life. This happens because brains of small children are designed to receive and process information very fast. This way, brains of little children are almost unlimited, and with the right approach one might achieve great success at teaching, which would not be perceived by the child as forceful or burdening. This is why more and more educators and practitioners of the present days become convinced that professional work with children at young age is crucial as it allows to address a number of skills and features children will need is adult life (Speedie, 2013). Among them there are language proficiency, self-esteem and confidence during communication, necessary knowledge about oneself and the world.
In early years children learn how to socialise. Communication is one of the crucial aspects of their lives. This is why one of the most important needs for them is having friendships and making friends (Asher, Oden & Gottman, 1974). The research conducted by Asher et al. showed that children that are socially isolated in preschool and elementary school tend to have more serious socialisation issues later in life. For example, they are likely to drop out of school, engage into violent behaviours, and have mental and psychological problems. In my understanding, since creative practice in early years allows children to acquire communication and collaboration skills, it is not only useful for building a talented person, but also for providing upstream treatment of psychological and mental issues in adult life. This is one of the reasons why creative practice is important.
The next reason is the development of hand and movement motor skills. Babies tend to grasp objects with just one hand. If they are offered one more object, they first let go of the previous object and then reach out for the second one (Parizkova, 2009). Analysing this observation, I conclude that letting children play with fine objects and flexible materials such as dough, clay, and construction sets targets the development of their brain function responsible for complex movement and precision, through the development of imagination and creativity.
According to Vygotsky, creative practice based on play works through the children’s dialogues with themselves (Play: The Work of Lev Vygotsky, 2012). Analysing this statement, I noticed that play is viewed as a process of internalisation of knowledge about the world as the child speaks to themselves about various situations. This way, for the young child play is an ultimate school of life. Vygotsky’s ideas clashed with Piaget’s understanding of development as the process preceding learning (McLeod, 2014). The perception of learning as the stimulus of development appeals to me. This is why analysing the views of Piaget and Vygotsky, I tend to support the latter. In my opinion, learning needs to be provided during the child’s early years as it is the key to development. Once learning stops, development becomes impaired.
For me, as an educator, creative practice is the base for development of the most important learning skills in a child, a highly effective method of teaching based on age-specific individual approach, and a way to develop my own professional skills through the improvement of the relationship with the students. In order to successfully involve children into creative practice an educator is to provide what O’Connor (2014) calls enabling environment. In this aspect O’Connor’s vision matches Craft’s idea of possibility as an important part of creativity. An educator acts as a supervisor in children’s creative practice. Their role is to provide safe and empowering conditions for the children to feel free to express themselves. An educator is to know children very well to create the best environment for their development (Know How Guide: The Progress Check at Age Two, n. d.).
The practitioner’s observation of children’s performance in creative practice allows learning their weak and strong sides, talents, and needs, and providing better and more efficient care (Dower, 2004). In my opinion, providing high quality creative practice in early years of children’s lives pays off later when a child matures. The latest research directed at detecting the meaning of creative practice for children showed that it is crucial that play is added to all subjects children of preschool age study (Skinner, 2007). An important aspect for an educator to remember is that a play as means of education can be abused, in this case it stops being effective (Zipes, 1995). This way, an adult supervisor should view play professionally and provide change of activities and subjects in order to maintain active learning without tiring or boring a child.
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Creative practice is an enormous field for the education professionals to explore. It includes a variety of means, ways, methods, techniques and interactions that can provide children with new knowledge in engaging and exciting ways granting active and efficient learning fast. Besides, play allows incorporating different subjects in one activity. Moreover, creative practice is important because it assesses children’s most important needs for self-expression, communication, acquirement of friendships and knowledge. Finally, it provides a person with a number of benefits for their adult life, among which there are better memory, healthy mind, socialisation skills, and higher language proficiency. This is why educators of nowadays consider creative practice as necessary method of education in early years and the most essential way of educating children and providing balanced and harmonious development for them.
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