How to Encourage Creative Thinking in the Early Years
As the school curriculum increasingly focusses on targets and assessments, parents and early years teachers have an important role in presenting our children with the opportunity to think creatively, and to experience the wealth of benefits being creative has. Whether it’s allowing our children the downtime to paint, draw and colour, or the tools to problem-solve and invent – there are many ways in which we can encourage creative thinking and help them have fun! Here’s how:
Present them with an invitation to create
Children are born creators. Curious and ready to experiment! As carers with the best intentions, we often want to give our children everything they need to create a specific outcome they can show off to others. When, children love nothing more than being given the tools and materials to make whatever they like!
Start giving them more ‘invitations’ to create by setting up stations of arts and craft supplies and allowing them the time to create however they see fit. You can gently guide them with a theme but try to resist giving them step-by-step instructions. Let their imagination free.
Focus on process over product
When you do provide a craft that requires an outcome (perhaps a greeting card design or handmade gift) pay attention to the process as they create. Encourage them to try new ways of achieving the same effects and celebrate the way they use creative tools – this all boosts confidence and reminds our children that the process of creating is as valuable as the end-product.
Let them explore new materials
Most children have access to pens, pencils, paper, scissors and glue – at home and at nursery. But how often are you letting your child have access to sticky back plastic, vinyl, tin foil, wood, corkboard? There’s no end to the materials our children can utilise to create exciting art pieces or produce inventive contraptions. Think about how you can let them safely explore new materials more often?
Often, it’s simply a case of putting our own reservations and anxieties to one side (particularly around mess!) and letting them have a go.
Let them get messy
Yes, the more mess the longer the clear up time… But most children love getting messy and enjoy the sense of freedom it provides them to: use paint boldly, engage all their sense with materials and simply have fun!
The more we restrict our children for fear of making a mess, the more we strengthen those inner voices that say ‘I mustn’t/can’t do that…’ – a real creativity killer.
Be creative about application
The same approach should be given to the tools we give our children for application. Don’t let them be restricted to the use of paint brushes and sponges. There are all sorts of things we can use to produce new shapes and textures. Try letting your children print with Lego bricks or kitchen utensils dipped in paint or draw with ‘grown-up’ pens like biros and sharpies.
Give them a different angle
Changing the angle at which your child approaches creating is another simple way to encourage creative thinking. Tape up large sheets of paper for a horizontal wall canvas or wrap cling-film around the legs of an upturned table to produce an unusual 3d painting surface children can easily share.
Take creative sessions outdoors
The natural world is a huge source of creative inspiration. Outdoors you can make use of different lighting, discover natural resources together, and make more mess without having to worry about kitchen/classroom clear up!
Show them you value their creations
Don’t forget how hard our little artists are working, even when they look like they’re just making a muddle! Early years children are developing motor skills, learning how to problem solve and experimenting with cause and effect every time they get time to create – so let’s celebrate this!
Take the time to talk through their creations – not forgetting the importance of validating their efforts and acknowledging the process – and consider how you show you value it further. Placing artwork on the walls is an age-old practice but how about photographing and collating art projects in an APFS Yearbook that can be treasured forever?
Which of these ideas are you ready to start embracing to help boost their creativity? Follow us on Instagram for more creative tips and ideas. And find further inspiration, you can find our Key Stage art lesson resources here.