Creativity is not a rare ability. It is not difficult to access. Creativity is a fundamental aspect of being human. It's our birthright. And it's for all of us.
At SLCC, we believe every child is a competent learner who deserves our respect. We value the wisdom of pedogogista Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, who stated, “The child has a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts, a hundred ways of thinking, of playing, of speaking.” We must provide a variety of learning experiences that meet the needs of each individual child in order for them to fully express themselves and develop to their fullest potential.
Based on the latest research in early childhood education, SLCC implements a multitude of collaborative learning experiences which spark creativity and equip children for a future of skillful problem-solving. Experts in the field of developmental psychology describe creativity as a skill that not solely speaks to the arts, but also encompasses everyday risk-taking, problem-solving, and flexibility of thought. These are the creative faculties we employ when solving problems in the real world. At SLCC, we believe creative skills are the essential tools needed for the future. Learn more about the research behind creativity below.
The Science Behind Creativity
Childhood is a magical time when cardboard boxes can turn into castles or spaceships, and teddy bears can request extra sugar in their tea. Creativity may be a hallmark of childhood, but it is not just child’s play. In fact, research suggests that identifying and nurturing creative potential in the early years of childhood is crucial for raising the next generation of innovators whose mindset and problem solving skills will solve today’s (and tomorrow’s) greatest challenges (Cramond, MatthewsMorgan, Bandalos, & Zuo, 2005; Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 2006; Runco, Millar, Acar, & Cramond, 2010).
Fostering creativity in early childhood is at the heart of the work we do at SLCC. We know that creativity does not solely define our artistic endeavors but also requires the use of scientific theory, mathematics, and communication. The following cognitive skills have been defined by researchers as measurable creative faculties in the brain and are linked to stronger problem-solving skills in future academic life. Additionally, these six critical components for creativity are empirically linked to stronger reading, math, and prosocial skills.
Six Critical Components of Creativity
1. Flexibility of Thought
The interaction of intelligence and creativity often begins with the flexible combination and modification of prior concepts or strategies to produce new representations. Children can experience flexibility by seeing from different perspectives, remaining open to new and challenging experiences, or (especially as they become older) gaining awareness of how only seeing from a single perspective can limit their creativity. -Inspiring a Generation to Create, Center for Childhood Creativity, 2015
A child’s ability to be flexible develops their theory of mind, empathy, collaboration, and negotiation skills. These skills are also defined as prosocial skills in the field of early childhood education. In other words, these skills are a part of the tool kit children need in order to play with others, resolve conflicts, and communicate their needs in socially constructive ways.
Little and Sweller (2014) found that having natural elements in the outdoor environment provides a certain element of risk that allows children to express themselves, explore, and learn about their bodies’ capabilities. Taking risk in play gives children the opportunity to test their own limits and discover new skills in themselves. -Risk-taking, pretend play, and resilience in early childhood, McKenzie Emery, Childcare Quarterly, 2017
A child’s ability to take risks allows for new experiences, knowledge, and meaning to be acquired. When children try new experiences, they develop a stronger sense of self and confidence as a result. Our ability to take risks in childhood propels our abilities to become strong leaders and innovators as adults.
3. Divergent & Convergent Thinking
Exploratory learning allows for divergent thinking (i.e., the creative process of generating many ideas before settling on a solution) followed by convergent thinking (an analytical process of selecting the most appropriate idea for the challenge at hand). By encouraging children to brainstorm possible ideas or approaches, adults teach that real-world problems rarely have one correct answer. -Inspiring a Generation to Create, Center for Childhood Creativity, 2015
These cognitive faculties equip us with more ways to solve problems, resolve social conflicts, and develop strong collaboration skills. To gain a better understanding of the difference between convergent and divergent thinking, watch this video with Harvard Professor, Anne Manning.
4. Active Exploration & Child-Directed Play
Studies show that children who are active participants in the discovery of knowledge and meaning through child-directed play are more likely to retain and recall new information. Additionally, children who are given ample time to direct their own play with a teacher’s guidance and developmental knowledge will most likely discover more ways to engage with materials and the world around them. Read what UC Berkeley Professor and Researcher, Alison Gopnik has to say about it here.
Pretend play has many benefits: it allows children to generate and enact original ideas; to practice self-regulation and perspective taking skills; and to get along with others. Research supports an important link between early childhood imagination and later creativity. -Inspiring a Generation to Create, Center for Childhood Creativity, 2015
Play is a child’s first language. It is the developmental fabric of childhood. Through pretend play, children make sense of the real world around them. What they observe at home, in stories, and in their learning environments are inevitably tested out through their imagination and play. This is crucial for the brain’s development and the integration of new meaning and information. Our imagination is also what allows for the neurological development of flexibility and divergent thinking. It is one of the driving forces of creativity.
Our abilities to work together, negotiate our varying needs, develop different perspectives, understand each other’s differences, build empathy, and sustain community require us to be collaborative. As a result, we are more able to solve the world’s problems with each other in the most creative ways possible. Within the classroom context, children are given regular opportunities to work together in small and large group settings. Mixed-age learning environments are intentionally designed to foster collaborative skill-building.
We invite you to watch one of Kathy Hirsh-Pasek’s lectures on collaboration. She is the Stanley and Deborah Lefkowitz Professor of Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. You can view it here.