Teaching Character Development in Early Childhood: Part 5 (Excellence and Creativity)

This is the fifth post in a monthly series that will be devoted to practical tips for using the Virtues language when teaching character development in early childhood. We’ll explain how we use this program in our classrooms, what it sounds like in conversation, and how you can use it at home in a variety of examples. We’ll be highlighting two Virtues each month, so be sure to subscribe to our blog for monthly Virtues tips that you can use at home!

If you missed the first posts in the series, you can catch up here:

And, if you haven’t already downloaded our mini guide — Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS, you’re going to want to do that now.

The Virtues Project™: Excellence

Excellence is doing your best, giving careful attention to every task and every relationship. Excellence is effort guided by a noble purpose. It is a desire for perfection. The perfection of a seed comes in the fruit. When you practice excellence, you bring your gifts to fruition. Excellence is the key to success.

THE VIRTUES PROJECT™

Think for a minute about a child who is just learning to tie their shoes. Consider how much focus and concentration is required to steady the hands, grasp the laces, follow the steps, mess up, get frustrated, and try again. Excellence calls the child back to an activity, gives them opportunity to practice and perfect new skills, and allows for further growth and progress in different areas. Excellence draws their attention to the feel of the laces, the shape of the loops, the gap between the loops, and exactly how much tension is needed to pull the two loops just enough to complete the bow and not end up with a knot. It’s a lot to learn!

Children practice excellence when they focus, concentrate, and pay attention to details. The Montessori classroom is set up to allow this concentration to occur and the Montessori teacher is trained to recognize the opportunities when they present themselves. It’s so much more than “Wow! Good job!” When we take note of excellence, we acknowledge that children are constantly fine tuning themselves; getting stronger and more capable each and every day!

Here’s what it sounds like when we talk about Excellence at school:

Acknowledgement: “I’m so proud of you for finishing the 45-layout! You worked hard with excellence to complete the whole thing by circle time.”

Guidance: “This part of the map is tricky. We’ll need to use excellence to make sure we trace each and every state so we can see them clearly.”

Correction: “I know it’s frustrating when your sewing work gets all tangled up. Try to pay close attention to your needle next time… up, down, up, down. Slowly, slowly, with excellence.”

The Virtues Project™: Creativity

Creativity is the power of imagination. It is discovering your own special talents. Dare to see things in new ways and find different ways to solve problems. With your creativity, you can bring something new into the world.

THE VIRTUES PROJECT™
Creativity lead this young man to practice writing his numbers in a different way. We love it!

Creativity is paint, brushes, scissors, glue, tape… and so much more! At our school it’s also dirt, sticks, leaves, and rocks! Creativity is fun and sometimes messy, but it’s so important. Using tools and resources in a new way allows children to think creatively by exploring alternate options, experiencing trial and error, and taking risks. By allowing children to try different ways of approaching a task or project, we allow them to develop strengths they may just be discovering.

As adults, it can be challenging to stand back and observe a child who is doing something new for the first time. Let them try first, before intervening! You never know what creativity can unlock!

Here’s what it sounds like when we talk about Creativity at school:

Acknowledgement: “You found a new way to use that work. I hadn’t thought of doing it that way before. You used creativity to try something different.”

Guidance: “I’m not sure what will happen if we try it that way. Let’s use creativity and find out!”

Correction: “I wonder what would happen if we do it another way? Next time, let’s use creativity to think of new ways we can make it work.”

Using Excellence and Creativity at Home

Above all, naming the Virtues when you see them in action is one of the best ways to draw your child’s attention to what he or she is experiencing. Name the Virtue! Describe it and give it context. Here are some examples of what we mean:

Excellence is present in the following examples:

  • Completing a multi-step task, like putting on shoes, jacket, and hat before leaving the house, or setting the table
  • Sweeping the kitchen floor or raking the leaves
  • Cleaning up the Legos and getting every. single. last. one. into the Lego bin! Every. single. last. one!

Creativity can look like this:

  • Solving a conflict with a sibling in a new way
  • Repurposing cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, etc for play
  • Cooking / baking / helping in the kitchen

Have FUN with creativity and HONE in on excellence! You’ll be amazed at what you see!

boy with drawing / character development in early childhood
Days we do our metal inset work the “right” way and other days we turn it into a baseball picture for our favorite team. (Go, Nats!)

For more information on the Virtues and for lots of examples you can use at home: Virtues 101: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the Virtues at CHMS. Next month we’ll talk about Thankfulness and Understanding, so be sure to subscribe to our blog  to stay in the loop!

Additional Resources:

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