Developing Creativity, Resiliency, and Emotional Literacy at Home
Posted on December 28, 2020 by CHS
Children learn through their senses. For the first years of their lives, they touch, taste, smell, listen, and see everything around them, and their brains start to store information. When parents and caregivers build loving relationships with children, they can support them by guiding exploration and providing information that will help children make sense of what they are learning. Through play and conversation, adults can support the development of creativity, resiliency, and the emotional literacy of children.
When children play, they absorb new information, practice skills, and expand their knowledge of themselves, their families, and the world. Play allows children to connect information with experience and use it to create something new, express themselves, solve problems, and develop confidence. As early educator Bev Bos once said, “If it hasn’t been in the hand, the body, and in the heart, it can’t be in the brain.”
Emotional Literacy and Resiliency
Encourage creativity through art and craft projects, music, dance or movement activities, imaginative play, and writing to help children build emotional literacy and resilience. Emotional literacy is the ability to identify and manage, or regulate, emotions. Children who are able to manage emotions demonstrate more confidence and are more likely to overcome challenges. When children have the opportunity to freely explore and express themselves through sensory experiences, they learn how to identify, process, and regulate their emotions, as well as solve problems.
Picture a two-and-a-half-year-old who has learned to pull his own socks on, but struggles to pull on his shoes because he hasn’t mastered pulling the socks up past his ankle, and the extra fabric around his heel makes his foot too big for the shoe. If he has had opportunities to express, identify, and manage emotions with guidance from a nurturing adult, he may begin to cry, make eye contact with the adult, and ask for help. He has learned that when he feels frustrated, a trusted caregiver can guide him through stressful situations.
When situations like this one occur, parents and caregivers can use the experience as a learning opportunity. Instead of simply putting the child’s shoes on for him, adults can identify the emotion by saying, “Your face and voice are telling me you feel frustrated.” Then the adult can model a coping strategy by saying, “When I feel frustrated, a hug helps me feel better. What will help you feel better?” Once the child has calmed himself down, the caregiver can now draw the child’s focus to the source of the emotion by saying, “Is something happening with your shoe?”
The next step is asking the child questions or making “I wonder why” statements that spark ideas for solving the problem such as, “How can we help your foot fit in the shoe?” or “I wonder if pulling your socks up higher would help.” Once the shoes are on, the caregiver and child can celebrate by clapping and build resilience by reviewing the steps. “You felt frustrated because your shoe wouldn’t fit. You took a break to calm down and think about the problem, and you solved it!” Children can use this problem-solving approach for any problem or challenge. With time and practice, they will be able to regulate their emotions, identify problems, engage in creative critical thinking to develop solutions, take pride in themselves, and feel confident in their ability to succeed.
How Creativity Builds Emotional Literacy and Resilience
Creativity is a sensory experience, and children are born learning through their senses. Whether it is the feel of squishing clay between your fingers, the sight of vibrant colors splashing onto a canvas, the sound of a saxophone playing slow and low, or the call of music to move your feet, there is no denying that creativity is a powerful tool for expressing ourselves, releasing emotions, and discovering joy. But creativity is so much more! When children have opportunities to engage in creative activities like the visual and performing arts, they are learning about language, literacy, math, and science. They are also building resilience, social-emotional skills, and improving their over-all well-being.
The exercise involved in dance and movement activities releases hormones that can help children let go of stress and experience a more positive outlook. The rhythmic patterns of music can soothe emotions and even improve relationships because singing or playing an instrument with other people requires children to listen to others, harmonize, take turns, and practice empathy. Families can enjoy dance and music experiences at home by singing favorite songs, dancing to music on the radio, playing homemade musical instruments, inventing handclapping games, or listening to different styles of music. Children can practice self-regulation skills by moving and freezing when music starts and stops.
Learning to play an instrument, follow a dance routine, or create art teaches children to push through mistakes, reevaluate their approach, find solutions, and keep trying until they succeed. The ability to persevere and believe that success is attainable is resiliency. Music, dance, and art experiences also give voice to children’s emotions, allowing them to fully experience and process how they feel. Allow children to freely explore art and develop their own plan for what they would like to make and how it should look. Ask them to describe their art and how they created it in order to review the emotions or stories in it. In child development, the creative process of art is more valuable to learning than the final product.
Art projects do not have to be elaborate to be valuable; fill a box with a few inexpensive supplies like paper, crayons, pencils, erasers, tape, child-safe scissors, and glue. Add old newspapers and magazines, recycled items like boxes, plastic lids, cardboard tubes, and items from nature like twigs, stones, and seashells. Invite children to spend time every day drawing and creating art using the supplies from the box. Children can also explore different types of art like sculpting with playdough, weaving, painting, or using sidewalk chalk to create murals on outdoor walls. Children can also explore famous works of art using free tools on the Smithsonian website. Engaging in artistic activities builds creative thinking skills that children can use to solve problems and strengthen their resiliency.
Another way to encourage creativity is to join children in imaginative play. Through imaginative play, children practice social skills, develop empathy, reenact experiences, learn about emotions, view things from different perspectives, develop new ways to use familiar objects, and create their own stories. Children can write down the stories they create in journals, or ask an adult to help by writing down their words for them. Preserving their stories through journaling allows children to revisit and reflect on situations and emotions they have experienced.
Objects that can be used in multiple ways during imaginative play are called “loose parts.” For example, children might use a large cardboard box for a house, boat, car, or bus. Children can create stories and endless art projects with loose parts. Adults only have to hold up a cardboard tube and ask, “What could we do with this?” to spark children’s interest and creativity. Using loose parts to play and create encourages children to be resilient problem-solvers and storytellers. Author Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t use up creativity, the more you use the more you have.” Below are a wide range of resources that can be used to support children’s creativity, emotional literacy, and resilience.
More Learning Resources
• California Alliance for Arts Education (Research Resources)
• Fairy Dust Teaching Art Activities and Imaginative Play Ideas
• How Does Music Affect Your Brain? Video Report by WIRED
• How Emotional Development Unfolds Starting at Birth by Zero to Three (Podcast)
• How Making Art Helps Teens Better Understand their Mental Health by Edutopia
• How Process-Focused Art Experiences Support Preschoolers by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
• Learned Optimism: A Critical Skill for Teaching and Learning by Community Playthings
• Learning Through Music: The Support of Brain Research by Community Playthings
• More than Dress Ups: Fostering Social and Emotional Development in the Dramatic Play Corner by Community Playthings
• Music is an Important Ingredient for Child Development and Parent-Child Relationships by the Child Development Institute
• National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Articles for Families about the Creative Arts and Music
• National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI) Emotional Literacy Resource Library for Educators and Families
• NCPMI Resources for Families (Informational Handouts in Multiple Languages)
• Nikki’s Jam Poetry Writing Prompts (Videos) for Kids by Author Nikki Grimes
• Nurturing Your Child’s Curiosity by Zero to Three
• PBS Arts and Creativity (Activities, Articles, and Ideas)
• Playdough Power by NAEYC (Activities and Recipes)
• Playing with Loose Parts Video by EcoKids
• Sesame Street in Communities: Exploring Emotions (Videos, Articles, and Activities)
• Sesame Street in Communities: Resilience (Videos, Articles, and Activities)
• Simple and Fun Crafts for Kids by Hands On As We Grow
• Ten Tips for Creating a Fertile Environment for Kids’ Creativity and Growth by KQED Mind/Shift
• Twenty Do It Yourself (DIY) Instruments for Kids to Make and Play from Artsy Craftsy Mom
• Twenty-Two Simple Ideas for Harnessing Creativity in the Elementary Classroom by Edutopia
• Unleashing Your Child’s Inner Artist by PBS
• Why Movement Matters by Community Playthings
• Writing Prompts for Elementary School Students by ThoughtCo