Submitted by Judith Sullivan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Music Education, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN
Young children are holistic. Their distinction between body and mind is blurred, if it exists at all. Likewise, they have a blurred distinction between creativity and art, play and experimentation.
As adults, we can usually identify and describe a person who is considered to be creative. But, is creativity taught? What is a creative art? How does it fit in a music and movement curriculum for young children?
We can probably agree that creativity means to create or bring about something original, or at least has our own touch or "mark" on it. While creativity can go beyond the arts, we have a tendency to look at the arts---dance, music, visual art, literature, drama-as creative endeavors. Because we are human, a dance,a performance or a painting will never come out the same way twice even if the original creation was another person's. Creativity is fashioning something new, or embellishing something that already exists, but in a unique way.
What do the creative arts allow a child to do? Most importantly, the fact that there are no single, correct answers allows the child to use his or her imagination to create something that is unique, which translates to a personal expression.
Rather than teaching, perhaps our role is more of fostering, encouraging, and facilitating creativity. Creativity can be fostered by singing, dancing, and musically playing with children. Children develop a repertoire of songs, movements and musical pattems from which to create. As adults, we can encourage them by showing interest and scaffolding their creations. We facilitate their creativity by setting aside space and appropriate materials for unimpeded play.
Music education often involves teaching songs, dances, and instrumental pieces, teaching a skill such as a specific instrument, or listening to music and identifying composers, instruments or historical facts. However, music also needs to be a creative art for all children-adults, too!
Parents and caregivers can provide children with playthings that do not play themselves. Think of an appliance box that becomes a house or a space ship! Develop vocal expression by reading stories together, changing your voices for each character. Sing and dance together. Provide a space in the kitchen where pan lids become cymbals, inverted bowls become drums, and wooden spoons become mallets. Various sizes of flower pots become bells!
Music teachers can set up instruments for children to play with during unstructured time. How many ways can a child discover to play a xylophone? Encourage the creation of spontaneous, original instrumental pieces and songs. Dramatize a story with songs, movement and instruments. If parents and teachers encourage children's natural creative impulses, they need only to step back and watch the making of stories, songs, dances, and artistic masterpieces.
What difference does it make if a child learns to be creative and to think creatively, especially through the creative arts? Imagine what our world would be like if human beings could only repeat what others had done before. Where would inventions come from? Who would solve problems in agriculture, public policy, transportation, or architecture? Who will create the art that humanizes mankind?
Play involves experimentation, experimentation leads to new ideas; new ideas lead to creation. What better medium than music as a creative art to foster the naturally playful experimentation and creativity of our children!