Anyone with a toddler (especially one in preschool) knows that projects involving crayons, markers, paint, glue, etc. are an exciting and messy part of the adventures. Toddlers learn through sensory experiences and projects are fun way to express ideas and learn new concepts. In our house, "project" refers to anything involving glue or a pair of scissors and has become a wonderful time for learning, skill development, and bonding. While we learn new information and explore topics through our various projects, I have recently wondered, "what exactly am I teaching our toddlers about creativity?"
In searching for the answer to this question I began with a look at my own definition of creativity. I believe creativity is important and part of our daily life, that it helps us put things together in novel ways or creatively solve problems. I believe there are innate talents that some are born with; however, anyone can nurture creativity and gain the skills necessary to succeed in creative pursuits. The guidelines established to define creativity in our home include the following:
We all have our comfort level with creativity, however, being with our children affords us the chance to celebrate our own creativity regardless of artistic ability or musical talent. It seems fitting that exploration of creativity requires us to be in the moment and to take advantage of finding our own inner toddler. It is through modeling our own enjoyment in the creative process that we invite our children to acquire the skills required for creativity.
My efforts to develop creativity in our toddlers is further defined by these three principles:
1. Freedom of expression. At this point, there is still a lot of scaffolding (or guidance) provided in many of our creative activities. Art projects are generally organized by the adult (including supply choice and general focus of the activity) and music experiences are guided by the adult playlist (although the StrongTots do frequently make requests for a favorite song of choice). Aside from the organization and general direction of the initiative, all other details are decided by the toddler. This often means the end results are slightly different than intended, however, the final outcome is always a masterpiece.
2. Emphasis on the process, not the product. Inevitably there is a lot of problem solving and critical thinking in our project initiatives. Everything from "what should we to first?" to "what color do you want to pick?" and "what comes next?" is part of an ongoing project-based dialogue that puts the toddler in the driver's seat. At times this leads to mistakes, messy outcomes, or the need for adjustments, but all of those incidents are an important part of the process. We discuss and explore each success and misstep as a learning opportunity of its very own.
3. Remain toddler focused. Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes, and given the amount of growth that transpires throughout the toddler years we make sure that each project invites participation on many levels. An invitation to paint may include finger painting or stamping for a younger toddler, while an older sibling or friend works with paint brushes or sponges. Some of the best unexpected learning has come from one toddler observing another in project opportunities.
The toddler years are the beginning of many things for our children, most of which is grounded in an innate curiosity for the world around them. We can only hope to provide the best foundation for a lifelong love of learning, and invite opportunities for creativity that will hopefully protect their natural curiosity and enjoyment of exploration.
What does creativity look like in your house? How do you support and promote creativity with your toddler?
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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Based on a work at http://www.strongtots.com