Montessori & Creativity
“Human consciousness comes into the world as a flaming ball of imagination. Everything invented by man, physical or mental is the fruit of someone’s imagination … The secret of good teaching is to regard the children’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make children understand, and still else to force them to memorise, but so to touch their imagination as to enthuse them to their inmost core”
- Maria Montessori
Many people believe that there is a lack of creativity in a Montessori classroom compared to a mainstream classroom. If you carry out a search on the Internet on the meaning of creativity you will come up with 'the ability to develop and express ideas in new ways. Creativity is going beyond the usual, stepping outside the box. Creativity is often described as the exploration of ideas or problem-solving skills as well as how each person experiences life. The Montessori philosophy aims to offer a deep understanding of reality and how things look and work in the real world, which in turn develop the child's imagination and creativity.
To be truly creative children need to experience life and be immersed in real everyday objects and the reality of their environment and the world around them. How do children use their imagination to play 'mummies and daddies?' They are first introduced to the reality of family and school life, real objects used in everyday life and their experiences. But creativity and imagination do not stop with role-playing and art. Creativity in the Montessori classroom moves beyond dressing up, role-playing and drawing pictures. Children enjoy opportunities for creativity in both thought and expression in all areas of the classroom. The Montessori classrooms are well organised, which accommodate for young children's need for order. The environment is calm and orderly, with minimal pretend play materials, especially in the 3-6 classrooms.
The Montessori classroom supports children's creativity through beautiful and inspiring Montessori materials first and foremost. There is creative expression everywhere in a Montessori classroom, as creativity and imagination are closely associated with all kinds of learning. Creativity is not only displayed through arts and crafts but through the materials themselves, which offer children creativity and learning. Being engaged with the pink tower or building a tower with wooden blocks, children experience geometry and physics as well as work on their imagination and creativity. When we observe children engaged with the materials, we see their remarkable developing brains and their capacity for using materials creatively.
Montessori teachers structure open-ended lessons, which allow for discussion and exploration. The teacher demonstrates an activity and then allows the child the freedom to explore and apply their creativity to master the materials and activities in their environment. Children need to be offered information on different topics in such a way as to spark their interest, in order to be able to have the desire to learn more and explore. For example, when children learn about geography and volcanoes, they do not only see it in books and pictures. They get to experience how a volcano will look through our model volcano. Again, it is something that the teacher demonstrates but the children have the opportunity to revisit this activity and explore volcanoes as often as they wish. These hands-on activities spark curiosity in the child and thus feed their creativity and imagination.
Most activities in the classrooms as well as the discussions on the open-ended lessons do not stop there. We make every effort for cross-area integration so that children can apply their knowledge to different areas of the classroom. The child who was engaged with the volcano activity, once finished, might move to the art corner to paint their own interpretation of the volcano. After the Monday morning circle, where children share things about their weekend, a child might move to the creativity area of the classroom and make a book about their weekend trip to the zoo, illustrating the animals and writing about them. In this case imagination and language skills work together to develop a creative piece of work. The opportunities for creativity in the classroom are endless.
The arts and crafts activities that are incorporated into our curriculum focus on a subject or a purpose. Through painting and construction children are able to understand how things look or work in the real world. The teacher may for instance demonstrate the weekly arts and crafts projects, which remain on the art table for the entire week, allowing the child the opportunity to complete it or not at their own pace. The teacher demonstrates but does not correct the children on how to complete the project. Our aim is not to create a standardised project the parents will admire but instead give the opportunity to the child to create a project in the way they perceived the information. Nothing hinders creativity more than being told when and how to complete something. That is why in the Montessori classroom the children are free to create their own art when they feel inspired and ready to do so! All art materials are available for them throughout the day.
Creativity also comes with the child's developing skills. We provide materials that are appropriate for them, and that are not too difficult. This will build the children's confidence, especially with children who are still developing their fine-motor skills. We offer crayons for younger children who are still developing their pencil grip and when we observe that they are ready for pencils and scissors and so on, we go ahead and present these to them in order to be able to use them confidently and create their paintings and collages. We encourage children to use recyclable materials and we offer a myriad of them, such as scrap paper, yarn, pencil shavings, textiles etc, in order to be free to express their creativity the way they wish. These different materials also challenge the child's creativity and imagination as they need to think of different ways to use them and what kind of glue they need to apply. Here is when creativity and problem-solving skills work together.
When children are allowed to think of creative ways to complete an art project or new ways to build a tower and so on, instead of being told how to draw a picture, they learn to look for possibilities. They start to see patterns in the environment and start to think outside the box in finding alternatives. As mentioned above, creativity and problem-solving skills are interlinked, and when children are given the opportunity to solve their own problems, they learn to trust themselves and have the knowledge and confidence to ask for help when they need it. For children, most times the most important thing is the process of making or creating something and not the result. Children enjoy putting things together more than how it looks when they finish. Therefore, it is essential to comment on how hard they have worked instead of saying "You made a beautiful picture." Also asking children open-ended questions such as "Tell me about your picture," gives them the opportunity to talk about something they created and that they are probably proud of and want to share with you. It gives their process the importance it deserves.
Sometimes creativity is about colours, patterns and art tools. Other times it is about problem solving, questions and answers.
Big gem Maria Mathapoulou works with our toddlers in Little Gems' Larnaca setting. If you wish to learn more about creativity and imagination, please contact us and learn more about our amazing approach to this developmental area. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tele: 22 351319 or 96557661.