Creativity is a learned skill, not an innate characteristic. Curiosity fuels cognitive functioning and compels the mind to flourish. In child development, stimulating creativity through playful exploration can have a profound effect on learning.
Playful environments that fuel curiosity
Hands-on investigation – help learners take ownership of acquiring knowledge
Divergent and convergent approaches – generate useful ideas
Tinkering – embrace play that inspires curiosity and experimentation
Open-ended – ask questions that elicit multiple solutions rather than pushing child towards one answer
“Education is what people do to you, and learning is what you do to yourself.”
~Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab, from Medium by Denys Kulyk, 9/17/17
Prompts to encourage open-ended exploration
Tell me more…
“Wh” questions: What, Where, When, Who, Which, Why, and How…
How did you…?
What would happen if…?
Traits of exploratory learning: CREATE
Child-directed – learner initiates activity rather than adult giving instruction to the child
Risk-friendly – optimum learning occurs when the learner feels safe, emotionally and physically
Exploratory – playful experimentation fosters cause-and-effect relationships
Active – body movement during learning boosts creativity
Take breaks – curiosity thrives with a restful brain
Exchange of ideas – build off ideas from others
Factors that influence creativity
Time available and location constraints – if less time is available, more structure is necessary
Structure – dependent on activity. Consider starting with a framework, then ease as exploration progresses
Goals and objectives – purpose of the activity will guide layout and structure options
Learning style – affects the amount of structure needed
The learner is always the center of exploratory learning: let the child lead and the adult be the assistant. Probe with open-ended questions that can lead to multiple solutions. Encourage experimentation and add challenge. Try changing materials to extend learning. Above all, make it fun!
Visit the Kidsblog School Readiness series for specific strategies to enrich children’s early learning.
Galinsky, Ellen. Mind In The Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
Regalla, Lisa. (2019, June 11). Exploratory Learning: Maximizing the Creative Potential of Your Library Program. Bay Area Discovery Museum, STEM Learning & Innovation [staff workshop] at Marin Makerspace.