Creative arts in early childhood

Artistic pursuits such as music, dramatic play and the visual arts contribute to how children understand creativity and develop their own sense of identity.

Popular theories in this field suggest that children’s artistic abilities are often underestimated; and that when given opportunities to explore artistic practice and creative thinking, they generally have stronger outcomes in other subjects such as science and maths.

Spend a minute on the arts in early childhood. Be inspired by different artists and the techniques they use. Take some time to consider how music can be inspiring due to the way it shapes and stimulates brain development. Reflect on the arts, how it enables creative expression and how embedding arts pedagogy can support educators to engage in critical and reflective practice.

Know your artists

When educators take the time to explore different artists, they gain insight into how various media, methods and techniques can be used to support children’s interests and holistic development. Doing this, therefore, will add the richness of arts-based pedagogy in everyday learning experiences. The ECA Learning Hub Module, Visual Art and Creativity in your Curriculum, will help educators nurture their own artistic skills and use creative arts within the curriculum to strengthen philosophies and practices that lead to a rich learning environment.

For those of you who have not watched Anh’s brush with fame on the ABC, it is worth taking some time to do so. In this beautifully produced show, Anh Do seamlessly advocates for the value of art and how it can be used as a medium for showcasing individual stories. He uses art to explore how diversity should be celebrated, through the significance of colour and using visual art as a method to understand a person. Taking this as inspiration and applying it to an early learning context, educators can draw on how Ahn uses oil paints, colour-mixing, brushes and pallet knives to capture art and identity. An interesting way to explore these ideas with children would be to use this Art Time episode of Play School. This series explores self-portraits with children using a variety of different media. Other episodes in the series could aid in exploring artistic concepts such as puppetry, pattern, light and shadow, shape, landscapes, printmaking, watercolour and collage.

Online research can be a great way to learn about a lot of different artists and decide how to explore their work in an early learning context. The Google Arts & Culture webpage, for example, is a helpful resource for educators and can be used to explore Van Gogh filters, look at the finer details and colours in Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ series, or use music to hear what a Kandinsky painting would sound like. Having a rich knowledge of different artists will foster arts pedagogy and support children in engaging with different types of creativity.

The Research in Practice Series title, Creativity and Young Children: Wondering, Exploring, Discovering, Learning by Dr Amanda Niland, examines how understanding creativity and its connection to development is important because every child has a different way of expressing themselves. Creativity can be fostered by physical learning environments, open-ended resources, the use of natural materials and adult modeling and interaction.

Explore different media

ECA’s Learning Hub Module, Music in Early Childhood (presented by Dr Niland), analyses how music has long been regarded as an important part of early childhood education. This module explores how music is an integral and vibrant part of life in most families, communities and cultures, and examines how it can be used as a powerful tool for children’s learning and development.

Amanda Niland also wrote an article on music and inclusion for The Spoke, which speaks to how music can stimulate brain development, memory and communication and reduce stress in children. Some of the other ways you can explore music in your learning environments is through ABC Kids Listen and the Indigenous Lullabies, which are a part of the Lullabies program. These relaxing pieces might be used to set a calming mood during sleep or rest time. There are so many different ways to explore music with children we cannot list them all here, but some broad ideas to think about include: inviting families to share music they listen to at home; setting up an art experience, listening to music and observing how the children respond; and exploring a wide range of instruments, styles, types and languages with children.

It is difficult to have art without making a mess. The book Messy Play in the Early Years is an essential resource that will support educators in understanding the value of messy play. Providing children with materials that have specific sensory qualities, for example, can encourage problem-solving, scientific thinking, creativity, self-regulation and self-expression as children discover and make sense of new phenomena.

The arts and reflective practice

The research states that educators engaging in reflective practice is a critical way of extending professional knowledge. Element 1.3.2 of the National Quality Standard states that Critical reflection on children‘s learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, drives the program planning and implementation.

In terms of arts-based practices, critical reflection fosters a culture of learning and is a powerful tool that should be used to introduce children to new experiences. Critical reflection allows educators to deconstruct experiences, thus supporting children more effectively and supporting their colleagues to be innovative in their practices and approaches.

In the article, “Just People, Legs, Arms and Heads”: The Process of Arranging, Organizing and Fitting Together with Reference to Emilia Reggio and Deleuzean Theory, practitioner-researcher Ann Margaret Coballes looks at projects that draw on children’s creative expression. One project, The Creations, explores how rough-and-tumble play can be a form of creative expression and can be seen as a way to explore sculptures by asking just the right question. Coballes invites educators to reflect on how creative play can be seen differently when the right questions are asked. The challenge here is for educators to change the way they view children’s creative processes and support children in understanding the relationship between art and creativity.

Incorporating arts pedagogy and supporting children in finding their own understanding of creativity and art is something that most educators would do on a daily basis. The information in this Spend a Minute aims to support educators to think critically and reflect on different forms of art in their early childhood settings, but it is by no means an exhaustive list of suggestions and resources.


ECA Recommends

Creativity and the arts with young children
By Rebecca T. Isbell and Shirley C. Raines

Creativity and the arts with young children, (3rd edn), is written for early childhood educators as well as those who work with children from birth through age eight. The text focuses on helping educators make the vital connection to the arts—including music, movement, drama, and the visual arts—throughout all areas of the classroom and curriculum, and on developing creative teachers who will be able to foster an artistic environment. Purchase here on the ECA Shop.

Early Childhood Australia

Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has been a voice for young children since 1938. We are the peak early childhood advocacy organisation, acting in the interests of young children, their families and those in the early childhood field. ECA advocates to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children aged birth to eight years.

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