“We are all creative, but by the time we are three or four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.” — Maya Angelou
In his book “Under Pressure,” Carl Honore talks about the 21st-century family as a generation of parents whose lives revolve around their children. We want our kids to excel in everything they do. This is partly down to the media, which has fostered the idea of celebrity kids and football leagues that encourage kids to become professional athletes at the age of 8 or younger.
However, we have missed the most important thing in their education – and that is to build their character through everyday creative activities which encourage the formation of human connections.
Moving from kindergarten to elementary school
I often think about how nervous a first grader must feel after leaving the safe kindergarten playground and entering a strange new “grown up” world. The playgrounds are bigger, the kids are older, they have to line up to buy their first meal at the school cafeteria. The classroom has changed too: the desks look different, the books are bigger, and there are new challenges too.
For twenty years, I observed how children integrated in this new world. Some of them are thrilled to feel part of the older kids’ environment, others, of course, are frightened and insecure. They have to understand and accept all the new rules and regulations, which now apply to them too.
High expectations from parents must be met
We also have moms and dads worried for their little ones. They have high hopes for them. They want their children to become successful learners, multi-medal athletes, excellent readers, mathematicians or perhaps scientists…
Professor David Healy, director of North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine said:
“We want kids to conform to ideals based often on parental insecurities and ambitions.”
Elementary school has therefore become something resembling a battlefield, where children must thrive in spite of (and not because of) their interests. Only top grades and excellence in everything will make parents proud.
But what if a child is not successful? What if their reading skills are below average? What if their daydreaming about a trip about the moon doesn’t allow them to concentrate?
Then we have two lists of kids, the thriving kids with excellent grades and the other ones.
So how can we take the pressure off and help all kids to thrive? Here are some simple creative activities to help.
Reaching out to your students with a simple hello
When did we forget that education is about promoting playfulness, imagination, and creativity in order to build up their confidence?
My very first and most important recommendation would be this:
Before you start a class, give yourself a moment to say just: HELLO to each individual in your class. Take that moment to make eye contact with each and every student and see how they are doing that day.
Make this an important part of your routine. Then have them do the same with their classmates. You could even introduce phrases such as:
- Hello Greg, how was your day yesterday?
- Hello Pam, how are you feeling today?
- Hello John, what did you have for breakfast this morning?
- Hello Sophie, I notice you look nice today!
You can also try another creative activity. Ask your students to say good morning to the new day and think of something they are grateful for or someone they are grateful to. For example:
- Good morning Monday, thank you mom for my breakfast.
- Good morning, I am grateful because my classmates are all here.
- Good morning, I am thankful to be alive.
- Good morning, thank you moon for your light every night.
These are just a few simple creative activities. But the most important thing to take into account, if you want to introduce creativity in the classroom, is that every student needs to feel that they are in a secure and welcoming environment, free of criticism or judgement of their ideas. If you achieve this in your classroom, you will be well on your way to exploring your students’ creativity and building new connections with them.
- Under Pressure; Carl Honore
- Mindfulness, para enseñar y aprender; Deborah Schoeberlein
- Teach your children well; Madeline Levine Ph.D.