« Back to News

July 12, 2012

Fostering Creativity: The importance of Open-Ended Art Experiences

As teachers, we are frequently reminded of the importance of open-ended art experiences for our children and avoiding the concern of creating a finished product. We are also told of the importance of well-stocked classroom art carts to promote free exploration. But why? And what are the benefits? In Mary Ann Kohl’s article, “Fostering Creativity” found on the Early Childhood NEWS website, she provides great evidence of the importance of open-ended art and the creativity that it inherently fosters. Please take into consideration some of the following excerpts:

What is Creativity? 

Creativity focuses on the process of forming original ideas through exploration and discovery. In children, creativity develops from their experiences with the process, rather than concern for the finished product. Creativity is not to be confused with talent, skill, or intelligence. Creativity is not about doing something better than others, it is about thinking, exploring, discovering and imagining.

Creativity is found in the obvious – art and music, but can also be found in science and play. Because we think of art, music, dance and drama as examples of creative ideas, we may have forgotten that creative thought is found in all aspects of a growing child’s life and can be learned from daily. Just look at how creativity shows itself when a scientist discovers a cure for a disease, how a business owner decides to increase sales, how the grocery clerk bags the groceries, or how a parent finds a way to entice a reluctant child to head off to bed.

How Can Teachers Encourage Creativity?

Encouraging creativity in young children is a process where teachers must open their own channels of allowing, accepting and turning over some control to the children themselves. James D. Moran III, Dean of the College of Human Ecology at the University of Tennessee, suggests that teachers:

  • Emphasize process rather than product.
  • Provide a classroom environment that allows children to explore and play without undue restraints.
  • Adapt to children’s ideas rather than trying to structure the children’s ideas to fit the adult’s.
  • Accept unusual ideas from children by suspending judgement of children’s divergent problem solving.
  • Use creative problem solving in all parts of the curriculum, Use the problems that naturally occur in everyday life.
  • Allow time for children to explore all possibilities, moving from popular to more original ideas.


Teachers who respect children’s ideas help them learn to think and solve problems for themselves. Children who feel free to make mistakes and to explore and experiment will also feel free to invent, create and find new ways to do things. Grant the lasting gift of freedom to children – to make mistakes and learning from doing. The side benefit is that fostering creativity in our classrooms makes teaching more rewarding and fun and gives children a zest for imagining and learning to last a lifetime.

Fore more details on fostering creativity in your classroom, please refer to the whole article written by Mary Ann Kohl on earlychildhoodnews.com. Mary Ann Kohl is the author of numerous award-winning art idea books for children. Her books include countless activity suggestions that truly value the process of art more than the finished product. Consider going to your local library to look for some of her books, including: Mudworks – Creative Clay, Dough and Modeling Experiences or Preschool Art – It’s the Process, not the Product.

A special thanks to this week’s contributing blogger, Kelsey Kilgore, a teacher at our Webster Center. We welcome and encourage other teachers to blog as well. For more information please e-mail christina.fecio@doodlebugs.com.