Creativity is more than art and music. It means trying new things and looking at a challenge with a different perspective. Montessori classrooms are filled with opportunity for creativity and imagination. Creativity in the Montessori classroom is about thinking outside the box.
Ever wonder how a child can spend three years in the same classroom and not get bored? Creativity! The same materials can be used over and over again in a myriad of ways.
Sometimes these are teacher-initiated, meaning that a teacher will give a child a second or third lesson on a material and show them something new that can also be done with that material. And sometimes the children creatively discover these extensions for themselves.
Extensions occur when two or more materials are combined and used together, as is possible with many of the Sensorial materials, or when additional steps are added to an existing lesson. These might include writing down a list of words related to an activity or drawing a picture or illustration.
Extensions usually take longer and require more patience, responsibility, and effort on the part of the child, which is why they are not introduced during an initial lesson. We lay the foundation with the first lesson and then, when a child has achieved mastery, introduce them to the next step or invite them to explore further.
By creatively thinking about new ways to use the classroom materials, children learn to look for possibilities. They start to see patterns and alternatives, which helps them learn not to accept everything at face-value and be open to new ideas.
This is an especially helpful practice when it comes to solving problems. When we give children the space to solve their problems themselves, they learn to trust their own judgement, ask for help when they need it, and learn from their mistakes.
How to Help Your Child be a More Creative Problem Solver
As parents, it can be hard to watch our children struggle. We want to help them figure it out and fix the problem, but that’s actually one of the worst things we could be doing!
The next time your child encounters an obstacle, do yourself (and your child) a huge favor, and just wait! Watch and listen and see what happens when you don’t jump in to help.
If your child asks for help, respond with open-ended questions that prompt them to think of that next step themself. Help them walk through the process and arrive at the solution themselves rather than offer the solution or provide the answer yourself.
Some good responses to keep in your back pocket:
- “I don’t know. Why do you think _____?”
- “Is there anything you could use to help you with that?”
- “What’s another way to do that?”
- “Show me.”
Sometimes creativity is about patterns and symmetry or color and lines. Other times it’s about answers and questions and making mistakes. When children are exposed to a variety of opportunities to think creatively, we all benefit.
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