Kathy: Hello everyone. Today, I am talking with special guest and my very own aunt, Dr. Connie Eslinger Connie is a retired kindergarten teacher, child psychologist, and an expert in all things preschool. As such, we are going to be teaming up this summer to share a mini-series specifically for parents of preschoolers
If this is you, tune in because each of these episodes is going to be filled with simple, yet powerful tools and ideas that you can implement right away. Okay. Connie, before we get started today, I know you’re awesome at what you do, but for those that don’t know about you yet, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Connie: Okay. I started my career in education by teaching kindergarten for 13 years. I loved working with that age and I was especially interested in these kids that just had difficulty learning. So that was my decision to go back to school and get my doctorate in school psychology. I then worked for 13 years as a school psychologist in the public schools before I opened my own practice, where I did assessments and counseling for nine years with kids as young as age two and all the way through high school. And then an opportunity opened up for my dream job. And that was working in a private preschool with kids ages two to five as their learning specialist. Altogether I have been an educator or in education you might say for 49 years.
Kathy: Well, that is awesome.
So you have a lot of places to gather resources and ideas from all that experience you have. So I know from your experience as a child psychologist, that something that was very important for you and very valuable to you was instilling creativity in kids? So can you tell me a little bit about why is creativity so important?
Why is creativity so important?
Connie: Of course. Now encouraging your child’s imagination and creativity, it may seem like nothing more than playing time to you just taking a break from the regular learning activities that you do. All those academic tasks that are so important, but you know, the truth is, creative activities are so much more important than you might realize.
In fact, they have a lot of developmental benefits. For example, they will allow your child to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills as they try out new ideas, and they help your child just learn how to express their feelings and their thoughts. And they also help build your child’s confidence. In fact research has shown that creative activities can improve your child’s mood and well-being and lead to stronger brain health. Those are great benefits! And furthermore, according to a recent survey, creativity is valued as the most important skill in the modern business world.
So you can see fostering creativity has so many benefits.
Kathy: I totally agree. I just recently read an article where it was talking about how one of the things that is lacking in the job market today is finding kids that are grown up that actually have creativity. Most of them are just wanting to check off the boxes to do what they have to do in their workplace.
So when is the best time to foster this important skill of creativity?
When is the best time to foster creativity?
Connie: This might surprise. But preschoolers are naturally curious. They love pretending and fantasizing and of course, experimenting and exploring. And according to Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, children begin to think symbolically and they start to use words and pictures and objects to represent something else, and this starts about age two or three. For example, this is when your child takes a block and pretends to let it be a car or a box becomes a boat, or maybe a rope becomes a Fireman’s hose. But with all of these new found abilities that they have with representational thought and using symbols, the preschool age is the perfect time to foster your child’s natural curiosity and imagination and help them become successful creative thinkers.
And we know this is so important in our world today.
Kathy: Absolutely. So what are some simple everyday activities that cultivate creative minds in preschoolers?
What are some activities that naturally foster curiosity and creative thinking?
Connie: Well, now that we’ve talked about some of them benefits, there are so many activities that kids engage in on a daily basis through their play that really foster creativity.
For example, things like manipulating play dough, playing with mud, that is one of my very favorite things, and remember when you were a kid making a fort out of blankets and chairs, those are examples of things that kids do every day through play, to develop creative thinking. Some other ideas are experimenting with art materials, splashing in puddles, pretending to fly, all these things are helping them to develop creative thinking skills. Even when they’re playing with blocks and dolls or vehicles, or even rocks and boxes, all these things allow your child to just exercise those creative thinking abilities by manipulating the materials, trying out new ways of doing things, and just imagining what they could do with all these different materials.
Kathy: That’s fantastic. Today my daughter, my youngest daughter, she had this bird house that she made probably a year or more ago, and she’s grown since then, and she was looking at that today and she said, mom, I want to paint that again. I have another idea. And it’s just the fun idea that just because you create something once doesn’t mean that’s the only way. She wanted to discover how many other ways she could make this birdhouse so it looked different. And so now instead of a few splashes of color here or there, it’s now a bright orange, bright red and bright yellow. She chose all those colors to blend together like fire so it really shine out in the sun and I thought that was really creative.
Connie: I do too. And I think one of the things you are going to hear. Talk about repeatedly for the next five weeks is that there is no right or wrong way when children are engaging in creative activities. We just want them to think outside the box and try new things.
Kathy: Absolutely. So what is one specific way or a specific strategy that parents can use to nurture creativity and thinking outside the box?
Foster Creativity Through Wordless Picture Books
Connie: One of my very favorite ways to encourage creative thinking in preschoolers is by sharing wordless picture books with them, or does picture books just really foster creativity and imagination.
But they even do more than that. They will really help build your child’s vocabulary and oral language skills. It helps with reading comprehension skills. And, of course, it really fosters their powers of observation because they have to focus on the pictures, and they kind of develop some critical thinking skills too.
Now, if you are new to homeschooling, you might be wondering how do I read a word, this picture book to my child? Well, I want you to think of it as sharing a book rather than reading a book. As I mentioned just a short while ago, there are no right or wrong ways to read a wordless picture book. It just provides an opportunity for these literacy rich conversations between you and your child.
And it really reinforces this important connection between the story and the picture. There are a lot of different ways that you can share wordless picture books with your child, but I just want to share a few tips with you for engaging your child in wordless picture books to stimulate a little bit of their creative thinking.
First of all, just look at the cover of the book. Talk about what you see on the cover. Talk about the title, kind of just guess a little bit about what the story will be about. Next, just take a picture walk through the book. Look at all the pictures. Talk about what you see. Just talk about what do you think might be happening without telling a story.
Then you can go back through the book again and create a story for your child by narrating the action. And of course, it’s so much more fun if you can use different voices or the characters, if you include a few sound of facts and, this is so important, if you can try to include some new and interesting words, phrases to just expand your child’s vocabulary while you’re doing this.
And of course your child will want you to do this again and again, and the story will probably be different every time. And that’s the great thing a,bout wordless picture books! So I also encourage you to have your child ” read the book to you,” and you can always help them add more details by using those familiar WH- questions, the who, what, where, when and why questions.
And when you get to the end of the book, you can always ask a few questions to stimulate your child’s creative thinking a little bit more about the story. Let me just give you some examples of questions you might ask. For example, “what was your favorite part of this story?” Or, “what pictures did you like best?” Or, “what would you like to change about the story?” But ultimately, sharing wordless picture books with your child is just a richly rewarding experience for the both of you. And at the same time you are fostering creative thinking skills.
Kathy: I love it. For those of you that are not familiar, I actually wrote a whole article on wordless picture books on Cornerstone Confessions. I’ll be sure to include a link in the show notes today. But some of my favorite wordless picture books will be listed in that article. And one of them is the book called Mamoko and even my middle school girls love the book Mamoko. It also instills a lot of creative ideas for creative writing because in the Mamoko book there are no words. It reminds you a little bit of a Where’s Waldo? kind of book. But there are different characters throughout the book that are acting out a story. And so you can actually have the kids come up with a storyline for each of the different characters. And that book would then turn out to be like 12 different picture books because there’s 12 different characters that are acting out a story.
And so I am all about picture books, as far as all ages, not just preschoolers for developing creativity. I think that’s fantastic. Well, we are out of time today Connie, but I am so glad to have you. And, I know that we’re going to be talking over the next several weeks about several different creative ideas for fostering creativity.
What’s to Come
How about you just give us a little bit of a summary for what we can expect.
Connie: I’ll keep it brief. Next we’re going to talk about how to inspire or foster creativity through storytelling activities. Then we’re going to talk about fostering creativity through block play. After that we’re going to talk about fostering creativity through loose parts play. And finally, the last episode, we’re going to talk about creating open ended outdoor place spaces to foster creativity in your child.
Kathy: So there you go. I am really looking forward to next week’s conversations for engaging your child in storytelling activities. If you are familiar with Charlotte Mason’s ideas concerning narration and story narration, this is going to be an episode of narration on steroids, and you’re not going to want to miss it! So we’ll see you then.