Young children are creative dynamos. They surpass adults in their openness to possibility and their willingness to explore without fear. If you give toddlers a drum they immediately create rhythms on it; if you give them paint and a brush they instantaneously drip and rub and mix. In my experience, when most adults sit down in the same kind of open-ended situation, they worry about what they are supposed to do.
Toddlers and preschoolers do not share that worry. They are unmistakably ‘in the moment’. They don’t yet have a firm understanding of the past or the future. While this may present challenges for parenting, it uniquely situates the child for exploration of art and music. As Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Creativity and Play
Renowned developmental psychologist Jean Piaget taught us that children learn best through self-directed play. Children naturally seek out what they need to know. They create worlds through their play that help them to understand the things that confuse them. They physically construct their knowledge of the world. What they learn through physical exploration is more complex than being told with words could ever be.
Children need an open environment where they are free to follow their own interests in their own time. Play is this ideal open setting, and playfulness should be weaved into everything a young child does. They will be more happily engaged, and when kids are happy their parents are happy too. Dr. Greene has many examples of the importance of play on this website.
Music, Art and Creativity
Music and art are ideal activities for your young child. Making art and music is physical in nature, and thereby naturally engaging for young children. The creation of art and music requires us to be in the moment, and artistic process is largely nonverbal. In the right context, art and music making celebrate a child’s creative side while minimizing their inexperience with language.
For 25 years at Church Street School for Music and Art we have specialized in music and art classes for young learners that promote the development of creativity through physical experience in an open environment. With this approach, they learn and also feel good about themselves at the same time. And their creative genius shines.
How do we support creativity in our children?
Creativity requires trying things that you’ve never done before. Creativity involves making mistakes and solving problems. In order for children to feel free to create they need to know that anything they try is ok. It is the job of educators in the arts to provide an environment of acceptance, not correctness.
As parents know, this means supporting and acknowledging your child’s work without expectation. It means recognizing that your child has created something unique and new, and that they did it themselves. This is a very powerful message for children, and helps them to have the courage to create again.