You may well be used to collecting your child from nursery or school and being passed a sticky and drippy work of art, but are you aware of the hidden skills that your child has gained?
The Foundation Stage curriculum, which most children in England are following until they finish the reception year, has a section just about creative development. It is seen as an essential part of a child's experience in their early years education, for many reasons. First, it helps children to express themselves in a variety of ways, for example through paint, music and dough modelling. It also allows children to grow in confidence as they set their own challenges and learn how to do things for themselves.
What type of activities might my child be doing?
Your child should get the opportunity to join in a wide range of activities that encourage exploration and self-expression. This may mean using malleable materials such as clay and dough as well as more rigid modelling materials such as boxes, card and paper. You will also 'hear' your child being creative as she sings out tunes and songs and rhymes that have been done earlier in the day. As well as music, dance and modelling, your child is likely to be joining in imaginative play. This is the forerunner of 'drama', although in a child's early years, they will not be learning lines, but just enjoying taking on different roles and even putting on different voices.
Some of my child's drawings and paintings look very messy. I never know quite what to say!
Children's first drawings and paintings will not look like 'real objects'.
This is because they are still learning how to control their hand movements and are finding ways of showing the world that they see. If you listen to children as they draw, paint and make things, you will hear that they know what they are doing, and the 'story' behind their work is usually very interesting. A good starting point is to ask your child what he likes about the picture. Then value his work by putting it up on show.
Should my child be bringing something home each day?
While it can be reassuring for you to see what your child has done, expecting something home each day is not very realistic. It can also create a lot of pressure. It is important to remember that creativity is not just about 'producing' things. Children who have simply enjoyed playing with fabrics and ribbons will have been just as creative as a child who has been drawing. It is also worth remembering that creative development also includes imaginative play such as dressing up and playing with farm animals or play people.
How will my child learn to draw and paint properly?
Being creative means finding an individual or original way of doing something. Children are naturally inventive and it is thought that the best approach is to allow children to experiment with colours, marks and textures. By 'teaching' them formally to draw or make something a certain way, there is a serious danger that children lose their confidence.
Is there anything that I can do at home?
Creativity does not have to stop at the nursery gates! Have a collection of paper, glue, paint and other bits and pieces that can be put out on the kitchen table so your child can make models and draw. You can also encourage your child's imaginative play by providing him with some large boxes and sheets to use for making a den. Finally, don't forget about music and rhymes. Young children have a good sense of rhythm and naturally enjoy dancing and singing. Plastic bottles filled with rice or pasta make excellent shakers, while the traditional saucepan lid and spoon, though painful on the ears, is always a smash hit!