A few weeks ago I was in a setting when a little boy came up to the painting easel in search of some paper. I asked him "what kind of paper would you like?" He looked at me as if I had just stepped off a space ship! The practitioner supervising the area stepped in and pointed out "they only have this paper...." (gesturing to the old favourite rectangular off white painting pape that is a staple in ALL stock cupboards...usually as a friend of mine pointed out as a result of over ordering somewhere in the late 1970's!!!). When i pointed out a pile of nicely coloured different shaped paper on the other side of the room the little boy told me quite firmly that "thats for that table ...." pointing to an uninspiring table with a plate of sticky bits and some glue. After some reassurance from myself and the practitioner that it would be ok to use whatever paper he liked...he surveyed the room...thought long and hard...and then stated "i'll have that white one!".
At this the practitioner comments "oh my......they've been conditioned!!!"
This is an example of how, often without realising, we limit the possibilities we offer children by limiting their choice of resources. How much more exciting would that easel have been if they could chose from red or purple paper or round and star shapes?
I am an advocate of a "creation station" approach where children are offered a wide range of materials from which they can choose openly to fulfill their individual creative ideas....NOT making something and expecting all of your children to copy it!! Does every child need to make a Fathers Day card this week?? Or can they be offered the opportunity to makes something for their dads if they want....but what remains their choice. I know, having spoken to many parents over the years that they would prefer something that resembles a car crash and yet is full of individual creativity than something that looks like ist's come off a child sized production line!! One school i know even had parents complaining recently when christmas cards all came home resembling eachother!
In a creation station the role of the adult is NOT to show the children what to make by the help them to disciver HOW they can create their ideas.
When making provision for creativity we have to ask ourselves "are we creating to display or are we displaying creativity?"....................
While we are being reflective we also should have a look at what we offer in other areas and ask ourselves whether what we are offering is limiting the childrens creative possibilities .........Can a farm set really be anything other than a farm set? Can a princess outfit be anything else than a princess? and what can this be ???.......................
I have to say I revisited the setting a couple of days ago and long gone is the sticky table and in its place a lovely creation station with an array of materials for the children to chose from and the painting easel bares an assortment of shapes and colours of paper ...and the comments from the staff??? "i cant believe how long they are taking in that area" "I'm surprised at the variety of children now accessing this area" "They are really enjoying mixing and making what they want to"!!!