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Stages of Creative Development in Children and How to Develop It

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Stages of creative development in children

Children are born creative, and they learn to express that creativity early on. From scribbles to schemas to realistic art pieces, children are expressing themselves while nurturing their emotions.

Young children are still learning how to communicate properly, and their creative development can promote skills essential to social, mental, emotional, and physical development.

Children need their imaginations nurtured, and they need to be given opportunities to experiment with the world around them.

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Creative development in young minds

Children are particularly impressionable during their first few years of life. The key to how to develop child creativity first understands the stages of creative development in children.

Ages 1 to 2.


During their first two years of life, children observe a lot about the world. These ages are all about expressing the self and explaining the way they see the physical world.

​One- and two-year-old children learn about the physical senses and notice things like basic colors, shapes, and patterns. Children around this age take part in a lot of creative play.

​This is the stage where they pick up on language structure and some nonverbal communication. They communicate through gestures, facial expressions, and other sounds which eventually turn into words.

​They also make sounds like music and dance to the (developing) rhythm. At this stage, the only art pieces they produce are collections of scribbles, and the only acting experience they have are the dramatic adventures they have with their toys.

​Toddlers are not neat by any means, and they aren’t interested in drawing anything in particular. However, they are extremely imaginative and ready to explore the world.

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Ages 3.


When children approach age three, they enter Piaget’s preoperational period (the ability to use representational thought).

​Three-year-olds have developed enough motor skills and observed enough of the world to know that he can make representations of real-world objects (e.g. draw a picture of a tree, build a house with blocks).

​This pre-schematic stage is a time for children to master their basic shapes and learn how to put them together with others to embody physical objects. They are going to make mistakes and get frustrated, but in overcoming that they learn to solve problems.​

​This is a huge milestone for children since they learn to draw with an intention (i.e. they intend to draw a house, so they begin with a square and eventually decorate it with a roof and a door). This intention is present in other art forms as well (like music and dance).​

Ages 4.


By age four, children learn ways to make their artwork more complex. They learn how to draw in greater detail and represent basic emotions.

​Four-year-olds can even create their own stories. They can act out dramatic scenes and build from their accidental additions.

​Children at this age begin to understand that their artwork is representative of themselves (among other things), and they acquire a sense of ownership for their creative pieces.​

Ages 5.


By the time children are five, they attempt to construct more realistic creations. They add more details to their work and further develop their own creative style.

​By this age, they have gained better control of their fine motor skills, and most can add words to their picture stories.

​​They are more attentive to distinguishing characteristics that make objects (or people) different (like gender and age).

​They notice differences between other things like four-legged mammals (e.g. the differences between cats and dogs).

​Five-year-olds have learned what they can from scribbles and shapes, and they are ready to incorporate things they learn in the real world into their creative endeavors.

​Stages of creative development in children are never ending; it is a lifelong process, one that should be encouraged.​

Art forms that enhance creative development

By the time children are school-aged, they can use the world around them to create on the spot.

They can see different perspectives, and creative activities help children understand the world’s subjectivity. The more they are encouraged to explore their creativity as they age, the more likely they will be innovative and enterprising in their adult lives.

As children age, they learn more about the world, and while all children have the potential to develop their creative abilities, many don’t reach the final stages of art development.

Young children can make up skits and stories; act out lyrics, and role-play to help them solve problems.

With music, children understand that different sounds and rhythms make them feel a certain way and can be used to tell stories.

Peter and the Wolf” is a classical music piece that most school-age children enjoy as it assigns the sounds of different instruments to the story’s different characters. Some children this age can learn their musical notes and how to use them.

Children are also able to dance to the lyrics of songs they listen to, becoming more expressive the older they get. Over time, their rhythm improves, and they learn to react differently to the various sounds they hear.

They actively communicate their feelings and ideas through their creations. This gives parents the opportunity to observe what their children are feeling and what interests them.

Talking about what they make is a great way for children to learn to communicate their process of creation and the way their finished project makes them feel.

What is the creative development?

Creative development involves engaging in activities that promote creativity (e.g. visual arts, music, drama, and dance).

Embracing their creative side gives children the opportunity to express themselves openly; their creations reflect their individuality, their originality. Creative activities provide opportunities for problem solving and experimenting with new ideas.

Children who regularly exercise their creativity may find it easier to explain themselves and the world around them. Developing creative abilities also promotes cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.

When children develop their creativity, they also gather fundamental knowledge of the world, gain better control of their bodies, and express thoughts and feelings they are unable to verbalize. Additionally, talking about their projects can be a great chance for them to share their creative experiences.

The first few years of life are detrimental to all forms of development, so parents who want their children to reach their potential need to encourage diverse experiences at an early age.

Stages of art development

Listed below are the five stages of art development, though not all children reach the final stages:

  • Scribble stage. Between two and four years old, children learn art by scribbling, particularly on big blank sheets of paper with dark colors.
  • Pre-schematic stage. From three to seven years of age, children begin to draw their first symbols: lines, squares, circles, and triangles. However, they have not developed schema (e.g. using shapes to draw a house, a car, or a cow).
  • Schematic stage. Between six and eleven, children learn how to use symbols to identify familiar physical objects. They also desire variety in their artwork after they have established basic designs for schemas.
  • Transitional stage. Around nine years old, children produce artwork that is drawn with greater detail and looks more natural. However, they usually draw a few natural-looking objects and a few which are still representative of the schematic stage.
  • Realism stage. Around twelve, children learn to express themselves more realistically. During this stage, they are more conscious of their ability to create convincing art pieces.

What is a schematic diagram?

Architects and inventors use schematics to draft their projects before spending thousands building them. Likewise, children use drawing schematics as opportunities for analyzing the world around them before investing too much time in one project.

Children who aim to make their art more realistic are motivated to learn more about the world around them. For example, children who want to draw a tree become interested in the tree’s components (e.g. trunk, branches, leaves) and how to properly represent them (e.g. structure, color, texture).

Just as a schema is a recognizable representation of a physical object, a schematic diagram is a drawing that encompasses all the significant parts of an object.

After children dabble in schematic drawings for some time, they learn how to make their art more concrete and less representational.

When children are first exposed to art (in various forms), they learn the fundamentals before they understand how all the pieces fit together. Their artistic minds aren’t yet restricted to the concrete world, but they are beginning to understand it.

What is art to a child?

One of the perks of making an art project is sharing the finished product, but for small children, the best part is making the art.

Art is a process of creation, a way to explore and express the self. Even on days when children don’t finish a project, learning is still taking place.

Creating art can be a freeing experience, a chance to experiment with the ways of the world and the ways of the mind.

Art is an opportunity for free expression; it is something done for its own sake. Asking children to concentrate on a finished project, especially when they’re really young, can limit their creative development.

A lot of basic motor skills are implemented when children use art materials (and clean up afterward). Their little hands get the exercise they when they use markers, scissors, paints, yarn, and other things that help develop the motor skills necessary for writing.

Creative development is a continuous process, which promotes the development of other important skills.

​Children who express themselves freely are more comfortable with them and have greater confidence in their abilities.

​Parents should encourage creative activities and pay attention to their children’s creations; they will often find hints to their children’s interests and emotional health

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Develop children’s creativity

Creativity is a process of self-realization and, eventually, self-reflection. Children develop their creativity by participating in creative activities.

Some creative activities appeal to children differently, and each child’s development is different than the last.

Attentive parents who understand how to develop child creativity encourage their children to do creative things for the sake of participating (not creating a product).

Tips for developing children’s creativity

Listed below are some tips for helping your children develop their creativity:

  • Give them an art spot. Designate an area for them to create. They don’t need an art room; they just need a small space to call their own for their imaginations to blossom.
  • Give them the resources they need. In addition to giving them their own space, provide them with art supplies and (generic) toys.
  • Facilitate their interests. Help keep children interested in creative expression by providing them with the necessary tools and showing an interest in what they’re doing.
  • Don’t forget about free play. Especially during the first few years of life children should spend time playing freely with their parents and other children. Depriving them of this free play could hinder their imagination and ability to create.
  • Don’t restrict their play. Keep creative play simple; there’s no reason to restrict their creativity with commercial products or a list of rules and guidelines. This should be time for them to escape limitations and embrace creative thinking.
  • Don’t order them to play. Telling children, they need to play restricts their creative minds. Encourage creative play without managing it.
  • Know their most creative times. Ask them when they feel they get their best ideas. Designate time for play when they are feeling most creative.
  • Limit time spent on technology. Focusing on a screen is more a model of passive learning (i.e. believing what is seen but not questioning it or having any original thoughts about it).

These children also spend less time learning about the physical world and the people in it, and they fail to take time to learn how to use their bodies.

Parents who encourage children to step away from the television so they can experience their environment are likely to raise more independent children who can think for them.

While technology can be used for active learning, most of the time it only provides escape from the present and whatever challenges children are trying to avoid.

  • Encourage story telling (and story creation). Reading helps children develop their verbal communication skills, but it also offers the chance for children to exercise their imaginations while wondering how the story could play out.
    Often, stories present dilemmas or problems that children try to help the characters in the story solve. Story creation is a great way for them to learn about different perspectives and solve the problems of their newly created stories.
  • Ask open-ended questions that make them think. Children are far from understanding everything, but that doesn’t keep them from having opinions.
    Most of the time parents ask their children questions with only a few possible answers. Asking open-ended questions that start with phrases like “what do you think about…” makes them think harder and usually brings about some creative answers.
  • Participate in verbal activities. Playing verbal games with children teaches them how language works and the different things they can do with words (like forming riddles or developing rhymes).

These activities also help children broaden their vocabulary while they learn new ways to have fun with words and sounds.

  • Encourage art creation. There are various art forms, and each has multiple mediums of expression. Children continue their creative development by learning to create something.

Painting, collages, and shaping objects out of clay help nurture their imaginations and express their emotions and ideas. Other forms of art include drama, music, and dance, and each of these helps children experiments with their freedom and develops their concentration skills.
Self-esteem is a big concern for parents. Participating in activities that allow children to create something and make it their own builds confidence in their abilities (e.g. make a representative drawing, develop a new dance move).

Since children’s development relies on new and differing experiences, nature may offer the best playground for the imagination.
Children who regularly think about, question, and even take guesses on the ways of the world are also exercising their creativity and problem-solving skills.

  • Engage in inventive play. Parents who encourage games that thrive on children’s inventive skills promote social and verbal skills as well.
    Parents who engage with their children in this type of creative play pick up on their interests and ways of thinking. It also gives parents the opportunity to teach their children how to broaden their imaginative horizons.
  • Familiarize them with different environments. Taking children to the library or the museum utilizes all their senses and gives parents the opportunity to ask children what they imagine the world is like.
  • Encourage problem solving. Once children are old enough, teach them about using mind-maps to brainstorm their ideas and help them find logical solutions.
  • Teach them there is more than one way. Help them look for other ways to get the same solution. Additionally, encourage them to find multiple solutions to the same problem.
  • Don’t reward creativity. External motivation inhibits creativity and restricts thinking. Find activities that they are intrinsically motivated to do.
  • Teach them that making mistakes is only human. Share recent mistakes you’ve made, so they understand that they’re not the only imperfect ones. Encourage them to find humor in their mistakes and embrace how they are different.
  • Embrace your own creativity. Share your creative interests and let them see you expressing yourself creatively. Children learn through observation, so you can be sure that if they see you doing something they’ll want to do it too.
  • Stop looking for the end result. When children first draw a picture or build with blocks, they are learning about the world around them as much as about themselves. They are concerned with the process of creating instead of what they create, and so should you.

What creativity is?

There are many discrepancies about what classifies as creative, but most agree on some necessary parts of the creative process:

  • Imagination.
  • Production of original ideas.
  • Generation of a variety of ideas.
  • Use of knowledge and imagination to solve problems.
  • Creation of something with intrinsic or extrinsic value.

Some think creativity is a generic human trait, and others think creative people are especially different from those who struggle creatively. However, all people are perfectly capable of creating something, of being creative in some area.

Creativity is distinctly different from intelligence. For example, children who score higher on IQ tests are not any more or less creative than children who score lower.

Children don’t have to be talented to be considered creative. Every child is creative.

Talented children are those with high aptitudes and developed skills in a particular area, but this does not they are original.

Children are born creative, and as they get older, they learn more about communicating that individuality.

What is creativity in children?

Every child has creative potential and the ability to be original. Children’s creative abilities greatly rely on what developmental stage they are undergoing at the time.

For children, being creative is about being free; free to express the self without the fear of judgment. Children uncover things they didn’t know about themselves (which is important for their development).

Children express their creativity to manage their personal feelings and experiences. The process of creation is a chance for children to nurture their emotional health as well as their creative development.

Creative activities provide opportunities for thinking in new ways and embracing diversity.

Children who learn how to make activities their think for themselves and this is why children should be encouraged to make some of their choices.

What is meant by the term creative play?

Children who play creatively learn to use the familiar in different ways and regularly engage their imaginations. Parents should avoid involving themselves in their children’s creative play, as children should manage themselves during this time.

Creative play is spontaneous and recurs throughout the day; this type of creative activity is especially beneficial for toddlers.

Playtime is perfect for children to learn about their bodies and their physical senses. It is also a great way for them to get some exercise and relieve stress.

One of the biggest benefits of creative play is improved social development. Acting out stories and role-playing is a great way for children to learn about social roles and how to interact within those roles.

Through interaction, children learn the different perspectives and needs of others.

The importance of creative development

The ability to invent and create is highly desirable in today’s society. Children who learn to express their creative side find they have a lot to offer the world.

Developing creativity aids in other forms of development: physical, cognitive, emotional, and social. Children who don’t embrace their creativity aren’t incapable of proper development, but they are perhaps less inclined to do so.

Creativity is not something children learn: it is something they are born with. Rather, creativity is unlearned, as children feel pressured to inhibit their own creativity over time.

All children develop at different rates, and how they express their creative side is affected by their individual experiences and life chances.

Conclusion

Parents with creative children need to nurture their creativity by being present at some play times and intentionally absent at others.

Children benefit from dabbling in all art forms; each form teaches different skills and provides them with different experiences.

There are hundreds of creative activities that will help children with their creative development; they just need to be exposed to them.

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Hannah Tong
 

Hannah Tong is the founder of Omaby.com, a blog dedicated to providing accurate advice to mothers regarding childcare. She loves taking care of her kids and teaching them the right things. She is also enthusiastic and loves sharing her experiences to teach others about how to care for their families’ health.

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