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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

CREATIVITY AND TONGS REVISITED

In June I will be traveling for three weeks to the UK and the Netherlands  to do several presentations on sand and water  play around the sand and water trays.  For the next few weeks, I will be preoccupied with preparations for that trip.  Because it takes me so long to do an original post, I will revisit some earlier posts.  The first post I would like to revisit is  called Creativity and Tongs.  That post was written in October 2010.  Looking over the post, I am surprised that I had the audacity to think I understood were creativity comes from.  I do not.  I do know that if given the setup and provisions, the children try multiple schemes to complete their self-selected tasks.  Their solutions may be creative but where does that creativity come from?

Newsweek had an article in its July 10, 2010 issue referencing the decline in creativity scores of children in US since 1990.  The article can be found here.    With emphasis on testing and getting answers right, is there any wonder creativity suffers?

There is an easy antidote to this problem.  Here is a video clip of a child using tongs that illustrates the antidote nicely.  Two-year-old Teddy has a pair a tongs.  He is trying to pick up a rock.  He has not yet mastered opening and closing the tongs to pick up the rock.  He jabs at it and says: "I'm cutting the cupcake."  Then he picks up the rock with one hand and slips it between the open tongs he is holding in his other hand.  He has not yet mastered pinching the tongs to hold the rock, so in a sweeping motion with his hands, arms and tongs as one, he drops the rock into the water.

Tongs from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.


Teddy has not mastered the use of the tongs by adult standards.  What he brings to the task of mastering the tongs, though, are abilities, such as large and small motor capabilities, and concrete operational schemes, both of which are the wellspring of his creativity.  By allowing him to experiment with the tongs---instead of teaching them how to use them---he will master them.   By experimenting with them he will have more "tong scenarios" on which to bring to any new task using tongs or similar implements.  Can you use tongs to cut a cupcake?  Of course, especially if the tongs have a spatula type head and you do not have a knife handy.

The antidote to decreasing creativity:  Let them play!  And let them play with real-life, three-dimensional materials on tasks they set for themselves.

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