It’s been more than 200 years since Friedrich Froebel was a practicing pedagogue, but he remains an influential figure in early years education. To mark his birthday on 21st April, Christine Devaney reflects on how Froebel’s ideas about creativity are a fundamental part of Starcatchers’ Creative Skills professional development.
“Creativity is the essence of being human and is fundamental to learning. Creativity enables children to make connections between their inner world of feelings and their outer world of things and experiences” (Helen Tovey, 2013)
The importance of creativity to children’s development is mentioned in every main piece of guidance that underpins current early years pedagogy and Friedrich Froebel, a German Pedagogue who lived from 1782 to 1852, held very strong ideas about the links between the two.
Having participated in Starcatchers’ Creative Skills training in 2014, encouraging the development of children’s creativity is a fundamental aspect of my early years practice. Last year I was lucky to also participate in the University of Edinburgh’s Froebel in Childhood Practice course. From day one I noticed many similarities between Froebel’s teachings, and the core message that underpins the Creative Skills training – creativity is vital to healthy child development.
One of Froebel’s main ideas was the importance of children expressing their thoughts and feelings through creative experiences. He referred to this as ‘making the inner, outer’. Starcatchers’ Creative Skills training helps practitioners understand the importance of using the arts and creative experiences to allow children freedom of expression. According to Froebel, children’s development in reading and writing will grow from their desire for self-expression.
Froebel also speaks of ‘freedom with guidance’, allowing children to explore creative situations and experiences with an adult who is on hand to guide and support them. This was expertly demonstrated to me by creative movement artist Skye Reynolds. During a Creative Skills workshop she encouraged us to use music as a stimulus to connect with children and facilitate their body movements. Froebel speaks of music and dance as being of vital importance to children and encourages us to participate in rhythmic conversations with them. Connection is key when working with children, I am a big fan of Suzanne Zeedyk’s work on connection and how it helps create the right conditions for learning to take place.
The Creative Skills training is designed to bring out the playfulness in practitioners working with children. Froebel spoke very highly of play, stating that it was the highest phase of child development and holds deep significance for children. If we are to encourage play in children, as adults, we must also be playful.
In her book, Helen Tovey speaks about Froebel’s principle of ‘freedom with guidance’ and how it allows children, supported by adults, to use their own ideas to make their own representations in their own way, which sums up exactly one of the core messages underpinning Starcatchers Creative Skills training.
Play and creativity are absolutely critical for young children’s healthy development. Having taken part in Starcatchers’ Creative Skills training and the Froebel in Childhood Practice course, I feel that both are perfectly aligned when it comes to supporting children’s play and creativity.