The above link takes you to an article written by Trisha Riche for Edutopia, the educational foundation started by George Lucas (of Star Wars fame). The article is dated December 14, 2011, which seems like eons ago, but the ideas Riche shares about harnessing creativity in the elementary school classroom (At the time of her writing, she was a kindergarten inclusion teacher at R.L. Brown Elementary School in Jacksonville, FL.) continue to be applicable today.
In the article, she provides clear statements about what creativity is, such as that it is innovation, thinking outside the box, improvisation, and being a risk taker or mold breaker. The part I like best is when she states that “creativity is passion,” since if you aren’t demonstrating passion about what you’re doing, then you don’t inspire people to learn, change, or grow. She reminds us that creativity is not just about the arts, as most people would think, and that “being artistic is only a small part of creativity.” In the end of her article, she quotes Dr. Ruth who once said “Live life every day like a turtle,” since a turtle has to stick its neck out and take a risk to get anywhere. Riche uses the quote to tell us “take risks every day” since it’s the “only way to truly live and make a difference in the world.” For my purposes with my organization Operation Ready by 3, the kids I work with and my own kids, I would add that being creative and taking risks is one of the best ways to make a difference in the life of a child.
Riche gives 22 ideas in her article for linking creativity with learning in the classroom. Below are 10 ideas I had (inspired by her!) for being creative, beyond play-dough, glitter glue and crayons, with 0-3 year olds. The key in any of these suggested activities is to have fun and be flexible. If the activity isn’t working for a child, come up with something else that will. Throw in oddball activities (e.g., Add jumping to a word game) or blend more than one. The activity may not turn out the way you planned, so be prepared to stop and start over. Use the internet or other parents/caregivers to seek out great ideas that make sense for a particular child. Getting stuck when an activity isn’t turning out the way you thought means it’s time to ditch the idea and to try something new.
1) Play the animal name game. Say an animal name while you’re holding a ball. When the child tells you the name of animal, toss him the ball. Encourage him to toss it back to you after you name another one. As the game continues and you or the child run out of animal names, change to a different category (e.g., vehicles, clothing, body parts, names of people you know, etc.).
2) Use different voices or accents when reading stories to a child.
3) Use clothing, blankets/sheets, or costumes to become characters in a book or story that you make up.
4) Have a box or bin full of dress-up clothes and accessories for a child. Visit thrift stores or garage sales to collect age-appropriate items. Encourage the child to dress up as characters in books/stories or to create his own story about who he is dressed up as.
5) When a child is in a “phase” of being “all about ______” (e.g., trains, firemen, princesses, etc.), turn a corner of a room or play area into the environment of what he or she is into. Turn a space into a castle or fort using sheets and blankets. For a child who is into animals, use branches from outside to create a jungle in a corner or a box to create a zoo animal’s cage.
6) Make up songs about what the child is talking about. Even if a child uses only 3 or 5 words, make up a song with those words. Create songs about whatever a child is interested in.
7) With 2 pieces of string, yarn, rope or 2 lines of masking tape, make 2 banks of a river. Place the banks about 6-7 inches apart (closer for younger children). Encourage the child to jump over the river, from bank to bank, without getting wet. If he “accidentally” falls in the river, dry him off with a real or imaginary towel. Jump over the river together, while holding hands.
8) Make funny faces, speak in funny voices, or show funny body movements to the child. Keep track of how many different faces or ways you have to make him laugh. Try to find at least 5!
9) Use blocks to build different buildings. Encourage the child to build a house, school, church/synagogue/mosque, office building, barn, post office, grocery store. Encourage him to build a structure that doesn’t exist yet (e.g., a garage for a family rocketship, a house for an animal as big as an elephant that is long like a snake, etc.). Instead of blocks, use pillows, straws, rocks, or anything else you have available.
10) Use kitchen objects for uses other than what they are made. Pretend that mixing/cooking utensils are instruments in a band (e.g., use a whisk for a guitar, spoons as drumsticks, etc.) or construction vehicles (e.g., use a rolling pin as a concrete roller, a spatula as a forklift, etc.). Play “dress-up” with kitchen items (e.g., “wear” plastic plates as hats, plastic cups as mittens, etc.).