Creativity and Child Development

With families across the country suddenly being forced to home educate we understand that there may be worries about how much academic learning your children are achieving each day. With the weather improving many kids will be wanting to play in the garden too, and switching from parent to teacher can be a difficult transition that perhaps your children don’t want to take that seriously. With this in mind, we wanted to highlight the importance of creativity, which includes imaginary play, arts and crafts, dancing and singing and more. If your children seem to be doing more of this type of play than sitting down to read and write, rest assured that they will be gaining a whole host of skills and supporting their development the entire time.

We all know an adult who claims ‘I am just not creative’ or someone who has said that they wish they were. Then those on the other end of the scale to whom it appears to come so easily, who we envy for being so original and free thinking or able to take risks without being held back by fear. The truth is that humans are born creative, for it is of vital importance to our development! The apparent absence of this trait in adulthood may occur when creativity is not celebrated, encouraged and nurtured enough in childhood. With such a focus on cognitive learning, we are at risk of underestimating the value of creativity, but at Tribal Hearts we aim to provide children with more opportunities to create, through art, music, imaginary play and stories, to enhance their overall development.

The evidence for the positive impact of creativity on child development is overwhelming.

  • Cognitive Development: Focusing on a creative project that is enjoyable and engaging for the child develops attention skills and cognitive learning.

Creativity often involves:

  • decision making and critical thinking (what would work best, how can I overcome this problem to make my creation better, which is my favourite material or colour, which is smoother or heavier)
  • risk taking (trying something new, doing something differently, perhaps not achieving the desired goal but learning from the process)
  • mathematical thinking (matching shapes and colours which teaches one to one correspondence, how big does this need to be, if I fold this painting will it be the same on both sides, do I have more or less play dough than my friend)
  • language development (talking about what they are creating, learning the names of the materials, shapes and colours they are using, associating words with pictures and being asked open ended questions about what they are doing). Creativity is also linked to symbolism which can aid future literacy skills.

  • Emotional Development: Creative expression provides a safe outlet for children’s emotions, allowing children to work through and gain understanding of those emotions. Freud believed that fantasy play, for example, can reveal children’s ‘inner selves’ and weaken the effect of emotional pressure, enabling the child to assimilate traumatic experiences and feel in control of worrying situations. Drawing, painting, telling a story or writing a poem or song may help a child to express their feelings when they may not be otherwise able to verbalise them.  In fact, my daughter often draws how she feels when we have a disagreement or upset and then passes it to me quietly. She obviously feels more comfortable doing this than talking about it when the emotions are still so raw. Of course it is well recognised that many works of art (drama, music, painting or writing) are the product of an emotional journey, that can easily be seen, heard or felt within the end product.

Also, the fact that there is no right or wrong when creating is empowering for a child who will gain confidence through their own abilities and individual ideas (which is why it is important not to impart our own judgement on a child’s creation).

  • Physical Development: Movement, big or small, is a key area of creativity. Drawing, painting, weaving, threading, sculpting, dancing and drama all involve gross and/or fine motor skills that are refined through practise, and support other areas of development, such as writing and overall hand-eye co-ordination, by developing muscles and control over those muscles.
  • Social Development: Come to Tribal Hearts and see for yourself! Creating can involve more than one person, can encourage social interaction, can strengthen relationships through shared experiences, can develop understanding of culture and allows the child to contribute to a group in a positive way, helping them to develop their role within a community. When children work together they learn to share, they try out new roles such as leader or mediator, and learn to be open minded and respectful towards other people’s ideas and opinions. The arts also give children new opportunities to explore their world and the people in it, developing a greater awareness of other peoples beliefs, lifestyles and cultures, thus encouraging understanding, acceptance and compassion for others.

Every child is capable of creative expression and the ways in which they can be creative are endless. “Creativity emerges as children become absorbed in action and explorations of their own ideas, expressing them through movement, making and transforming things using media and materials such as crayons, paints, scissors, words, sounds, movement, props and make-believe.” – Every Child Matters, 2007.

At Tribal Hearts we believe that creative opportunities should be largely child led to ensure they have the best potential to enhance a child’s development. Children whose learning has always been adult-led may find it harder to think for themselves and not play so well, resulting in a lack of imagination, creativity and problem solving skills. Creativity is strongly linked with play – because usually for children creating IS simply playing! Tribal Hearts Festival provides plenty of opportunity for children to play, creatively or otherwise. “Play develops judgement, perception and decision making skills; it develops imagination and the ability to symbolise…more than anything, it develops the internal world of feelings and emotions – the bedrock for making sense of life and the world.” (Klein in Machado, 2007, p6)

We also now have some great creative ideas on Tribal Hub, although remember these are more structured, and we encourage you to try to allow children to put forward their own ideas and have free access to craft materials too. You can set up invitations to create and observe what they choose to do! There is no right or wrong way!