For your child’s first two years, she learns primarily through her senses and her motor development. Then her imagination starts to develop. Creative play precedes and is foundational to the process of abstract thinking. Opportunities to explore stories, fantasy, pretend play, art with her hands, and music help her build this foundation.
Creativity and innovation are based on the ability to see new and original relationships between concepts or objects that already exist. Qualities that support creativity include the ability to be aware of the needs in a situation, flexibility, and willingness to take risks or to do something new.
The process of creativity yields a product or result that evokes emotions. Innovation is not just about artistic design; it exists in many other domains, such as problem solving, social studies, math, and science. As your child starts to develop her imagination and creativity, she uses her higher mental functions and discovers her personal passion and purpose.
The creative pathway overlaps and is integrated with the other pathways of whole learning because open exploration and play are the basis for creative problem solving and lifelong learning. The flow of creativity fosters flexibility, calmness, and confidence in learning and accomplishing goals. On the other hand, tension, fear, anxiety, and stress undermine creativity.
You can support development of your child’s creative pathway by providing open space, open-ended toys and materials, and unstructured time for her to play. Offer her opportunities to use new materials and ideas to construct new knowledge and skills.
Imagination and art
Imagination and art are both expressions of reinvention; they are creative activities that combine new ideas or concepts. For a child, putting a silly hat and sunglasses on a dog or making a puppet with her finger expresses imagination and art. For the purpose of the pathways, I have categorized imagination and art into using hands and eyes for artistic expression, fantasy or pretend play, and storytelling.
Through artistic expression, your child learns about herself in order to dream, to imagine, and to form her relationship with the world. She learns about all the pathways and can develop as a whole person through art—fine-motor skills, spatial awareness, problem-solving skills, interaction with others and herself, and connection to nature. Art can help your child develop both sides of her brain for whole-brain integration. It also helps her develop confidence, self-discipline, and emotional and social intelligence.
To help your child engage her emotions and feelings, say, “Tell me about your picture” instead of “What is that?” Encourage her freedom to make mistakes so that she does not feel that there is a right or wrong way, or that she has to be perfect.
You can help your child develop her creative pathway by encouraging spontaneity and creative play and by providing a space for unstructured activities. Some craft activities are designed to make a certain product with specific materials and instructions, but art activities are open-ended, without a specific goal or result. To help your child engage her emotions and feelings, say, “Tell me about your picture” instead of “What is that?” Encourage her freedom to make mistakes so that she does not feel that there is a right or wrong way, or that she has to be perfect.
For artistic expression using her hands and eyes, your child can explore a variety of colors, forms, and textures with various art forms—crayons, watercolors, finger paints, clay, pencils, markers, and paper. With fantasy and pretend play, she can use her imagination and simple props, such as scarves, hats, glasses, and costumes. For another type of pretend play, she can reverse roles with you or her doll. Storytelling offers opportunities to develop linguistic and imaginative skills. When you tell stories, include fairy tales, nursery rhymes, songs, and spontaneous stories that you or your child creates. Storytelling is enjoyable in many contexts—for example, at bedtime or while riding in the car.
Music involves organizing sounds in combinations to create rhythm, melody, and harmony. Rhythm is a natural part of daily activities, movements, and language. Through the ages, people have used music for social purposes, rituals, worship, emotional expression, coordination of movement, and community entertainment.
Listening to sounds is part of your baby’s language development. Just as music has notes, rhythm, and melody, language has words, clauses, and sentences. Songs help make it easy for your child to remember sounds, words, and meanings. Music overlaps with all academic curricula and helps develop all seven pathways—sensory through listening to sounds, movement through dance, interaction through playing or singing together, language through setting language to melodies, cognitive through learning to play instruments, and naturalist through feeling the rhythms and listening to the sounds in nature.
Music can lift your child’s mood by increasing endorphin levels and promoting a sense of safety and well-being. It can help her brain by slowing down and equalizing her brain waves, strengthening her memory and learning skills, and enhancing her sensitivity to symbols and images. Music can have a balancing effect on your child’s body by regulating her pulse rate and blood pressure, increasing her stamina and endurance, and boosting her immune function.
You can help your child develop her music pathway by singing or playing together, dancing, taking her to performances, and providing instruments for her to play. Play a variety of kinds of music for her to experience. Pay attention to her sensitivity to and connection to music, and ensure that it is not too loud for her sensitive ears.