By Abha Ranjan Khanna
“As the spirit of the artist is in the things the artist makes… the spirit of the child is in the things the child makes.” -Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852).
As inventor of the kindergarten, Froebel’s emphasis on child-centredness and play were central to the progressive movement focussing on the whole child throughout the world.
Artistic and creative activities provide opportunities for trying out new ideas, new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Creative activities celebrate children’s uniqueness and recognise that every child is an artist as they express themselves through singing, dancing, moving, painting, crafting and making marks.
Creative play is expressed when children use familiar materials in a new or unusual way, and when children engage in role-playing and imaginative play. Nothing reinforces the creative spirit and nourishes a child’s soul more than providing large blocks of time to engage in spontaneous, self-directed play throughout the day. Play is the serious work of young children and the opportunity to play freely is vital to their healthy development.
Even as early as infancy, exploratory play fosters physical development by promoting the development of sensory exploration and motor skills. Through play and the repetition of basic physical skills, children perfect their abilities and become competent at increasingly difficult tasks.
The ability to be creative, to create something from personal feelings and experiences can reflect and nurture children’s emotional health. The experiences children have during their first few years of life can significantly enhance the development of their creativity.
The important value in any creative act is the process of self-expression. Creative experiences can help children express and cope with their feelings. A child’s creative activity can help caregivers learn more about what the child may be thinking or feeling.
Children need daily opportunities for creative play and creative thinking. Start by providing activities that your child is interested in. Offer a wide range of creative materials and experiences. Being creative is more than drawing or painting. There’s also music, outdoor exploration, working with wire, clay, paper, wood, water or shadows. The possibilities are endless, and the challenge is to not to be intimidated by the variety and diversity of artistic expression!
Encourage your child to make choices and appreciate the creative process by supporting his/her efforts. Be mindful and observant of new and original ideas and encourage your child to come up with more than one solution or answer.
Avoid toys and activities that spell everything out for the child and leave nothing to the imagination. Provide a good range and balance of toys, materials, time and equipment. Keep the environment exciting, surprising and fun by changing the materials frequently or changing their location.
Artistic activities in the outdoors encourages children to create a bond with nature. Louv (2005) explains that nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualisation and the full use of their senses. Learning and playing in the outdoors helps children discover their explorative and imaginative capacity.
Ideas for outdoor art and creative expression:
• Painting wall
• Chalk board with chalks
• Watered down paints
• Different materials to paint
• Make nature portraits using natural materials and glue
• Make paintbrushes using leaves, grass and flowers
• Paint with feet
• Bring music and dance outside
• Make noises and hear your echo
• Create pieces of art with various coloured leaves
• Lean paper against a tree trunk and colour with crayons to see what happens
Creativity is as old as the history of humanity and it leads to new hope, possibilities and new visions.
(The writer is an occupational therapist.)
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