Saturday, 3 July 2010

Creativity in the early years

It is nice to think that the Early Years Foundation Stage is the one part of the educational system where children’s creativity is truly valued. Nice: but misguided.

First of all, many nurseries and reception classes still work under the misduderstanding that creativity is about mass-production. I am thinking of those rows of near-identical paintings of flowers, and outlines drawn by adults which are filled with tissue paper scrunched by industrious little fingers.

Then there are the displays made up of children’s drawings which have been cut around by an adult and stuck onto a background. I can remember spending almost a week’s worth of early evenings putting together just such a display as a class teacher nearly twenty years ago. It was all nicely mounted, spaced and proportioned. Parents and staff admired it, but I do not recall that the children took much interest. Years later, I heard Tina Bruce wondering how Van Gogh would have felt if his paintings of chairs had been cut out and used for a display about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It struck me then that a kind of violence is done to children’s drawing and paintings if we cut them out and use them for our own ends.

If it is to mean anything, the Creative Development strand of the EYFS has got to be about making choices and thinking creatively. After the children are taken to the woods to see the bluebells, surely they should be given a range of opportunities to respond – to draw, to paint, to dance, or to manipulate digital pictures and video, perhaps?

But that train of thought left me wondering if Creative Development is, therefore, all about processes, and leaving children to make choices and be free. But it cannot be. For example, I (truly) cannot sing in tune. Nor do I dance terribly well. Left with just me, no class or group of children could make much development in those areas. I would not be able to respond, model, take part or help them refine what they were doing.
A“free” approach to Creative Development is likely to be less damaging to children than inposing an adult agenda. But it will be no more educative. Young children need capable adults who can help them develop their skills and broaden their horizons, and who have the imagination and understanding to give them time, space and freedom for creativity.

First published in Nursery World

Reference: Cultivating Creativity in Babies, Toddlers and Young Children by Tina Bruce