I have always considered that I am quite creative and that I offer my children creative opportunities. I have always valued process over product for example, very rarely do all the children make a version of the same thing. Recently I had my last assignment for my Montessori course to plan; it had to be a creative activity. I suddenly came up short.... I didn't ACTUALLY know much about children and creativity or how it should be provided for to achieve the best results for the children. Well I learned quite a lot!!
There are many different definitions of creativity but many include something along the lines of 'bringing past experiences into new situations, problem solving and creating something unique and original to the child'. It isn't just about artistic materials, creativity occurs in block play, speech, construction, cooking, just about everywhere in fact!
I mentioned above that I value process over product and there is indeed a process to being creative. It has two distinct stages; the first is exploring and getting the hang of new equipment and ideas, and the second is making new connections (i.e. being creative!!). Have you ever noticed that after introducing something new to a child, they explore it for a while then go off and take no notice of it for quite some time (hours, days, weeks or more) then all or a sudden they return to it and seem to be using it really skilfully? That is part of the creative process too, just letting it sit for a while and sink into the knowledge and structure that exists already within the child's brain.
Piaget described his theory of 'assimilation' and 'accomodation'. Assimilation is when a child comes across something that is new but fairly similar to what they know and understand already and the information is assimilated into the existing structure. Accomodation is more of a challenge for the child because this happens when something different occurs and the child's brain must alter the understanding it already has to accomodate the new information. An example would be a child that has experience of playing with wet sand. To extend the learning another day, water and flour are combined for the child to play with; this is different to the wet sand but the properties are not too far removed from what the child knows already and the experience is assimilated. Another day the practitioner puts out cornflour and water that behaves very differently to wet sand and flour. This requires more time as it has challenged existing understanding and must be accomodated.
The reason I have explained all this is beacuse there is a fine line between planning creative opportunities that are challenging, but not so very different from what the child alrady knows that they see it as threatening and won't get involved at all!! Just as in planning in other areas of the curriculum, planning for creative development should follow the child, building on what they know and can do already. I am working on improving this for the older children in my setting by enabling open access to a wide variety of materials for the children to follow their own interests for as long as they want to. Most of my plans won't be put in place until September after my veranda has been built as outdoors is a key component in my planning!