My 2-year old son has just made a drawing and proudly shows it to me. My first reaction is: ‘Wow, that’s beautiful!’ To which my 5-year old eldest son says: ‘It’s only a bit of scratching, that’s all he did.’ A small drama seems to be unfolding, which I could have prevented by giving a more specific compliment.
Fortunately, my 2-year-old hardly reacts and I get some time to recover. I take another good look at the drawing and say: ‘Wow, you've made a lot of stripes and you've used four colours: yellow, red, green and blue. Well done!’ A smile appears on his face and he grabs another colour to proudly create even more stripes and other shapes.
Giving well-founded compliments has many advantages. It feels sincere, contributes to self-confidence and, in this case, stimulates cognitive development (naming the stripes and colours) and language development. Besides, in this situation you stimulate the creative development, because he is challenged to continue drawing and trying new things, including shapes and colours.
At Bink, we work with the programme Developing through Playing, which we developed together with Utrecht University. Children learn throughout the day, especially by playing. By being aware of this and attentively supervising children at play (not guiding, but stimulating), we can give words and more depth to what the children do and discover for themselves. In this way we playfully contribute to their development. By using themes, there’s a lot of room for repetition and deepening. Children love repetition enormously. It offers safety and contributes to their development.
Within Development through Playing we always look at five development areas, creative development being one of them. When you think about creative development, you can think of colours, painting, cutting, pasting and playing with clay, but you can also think of music, singing, dance, theatre and photography. You can put your own imagination and your own ideas into it. The process is more important than the result. By stimulating creative development, children learn to deal with changes, they come up with creative ideas and solutions and become more innovative and independent.
We can contribute to children’s creative development by offering targeted activities and guiding them with attention. If, for instance, you’re going to make mud pies, you can look outside together for materials for the pies. You literally name what you see and what the child is picking up and is doing. While making the pies, you can ask open questions, like ‘What colours do your pies have?’ ‘What's in your pies?’ ‘What kind of pies have you made?’ ‘What else can you look for to decorate your pies?’
Another example is making a self-portrait on a mirror. Your child can paint himself or herself on the mirror while he/she’s looking in it. You can guide this by asking, for example: ‘What do you see on your face?’ ‘What does your hair look like?’ ‘What colour eyes do you have?’
Another nice example is using Loose Parts. Loose parts are all the loose material that doesn't have a direct (play) purpose and can be used together with other material for a purpose your child has come up with himself or herself. Think, for example, of boxes, ladles, toilet rolls, stones, leaves and branches. It provokes the creativity of children. By offering this material or by looking for it together with your child, you’ll stimulate the creative development.