Child Creativity

Child Creativity


In exercising his creativity, a child develops intellectually and emotionally, determines his relationship to and place in life, acquires experience in group interaction, perfects his work skills with various instruments and materials, and improves his ability to use his body, voice, and speech. Under socialism, child creativity helps to meet one of the primary tasks of upbringing and education—the development of the creative potential of the future builders of Communist society. Child creativity also provides material for the study of age characteristics of children and the complex of laws that govern the formation of personality.

Technical fields. Creativity in technical fields is one of the important means of polytechnic education and professional orientation. It promotes persistent interest in technology among children, the development of an inclination for efficiency and invention, and the development of technical thinking. The scientific level of education is also raised by child creativity in technical areas. Schoolchildren are drawn into creative work as they study the principles of science and become acquainted with industrial and agricultural production and scientific and technological achievements. Child creativity in technical areas is usually manifested in the construction of models, gadgets, mechanisms, simple machines, and other technical objects. It is exercised primarily in extra-curricular studies in school and extrascholastic institutions (for example, young engineers’ stations, palaces and houses of Pioneers and schoolchildren, and young engineers’ clubs), as well as in manual training and other subjects.

A clear distinction is drawn between four stages in child creativity in technical fields: the formulation of technical tasks, the gathering and study of the necessary information, the quest for a concrete solution for the task, and the material implementation of the creative concept.

The primary and most prevalent form of organization of child creativity in technical fields is the technical group. The type of technical group and the nature and contents of work carried out in it are determined by age group, the level of preparation of the schoolchildren, and the level of the material and technical base. The youngest schoolchildren do not yet have firm technical interests; their most clearly expressed interest is in machines in general, and this can be developed in groups for general technical model-making (the simplest models and mock-ups of planes, ships, automobiles, and rockets, using cardboard, wood, and various semifinished and finished components). Children in the middle grades become fascinated with amateur radio and various kinds of sports and technical modeling. Among students in the upper grades, interest in practical design, educational-production experiments, experiments in making production more efficient, and modeling prevail. With the help of production specialists and scientists, scholarly pupils in the upper grades are able to do serious creative work in the areas of efficiency and research. In sports and technical modeling, design and construction of low-horsepower automobiles, motor scooters, launches, and aerosleighs prevail. In rural schools, small agricultural equipment is built for educational-experimental plots of land (for example, small tractors, motorized plows, and cultivators).

The mass organization of child creativity in technical fields in the USSR dates to the early 1920’s. In 1923 a section of young friends of the air force was established under the auspices of the Society of Friends of the Air Force, thus initiating the mass development of children’s aircraft modeling. In 1924 the first aircraft modeling competition for schoolchildren was held; the first province-wide exhibition of technical child creativity in the Soviet Union was opened in Tula. In 1926 the first children’s technical station (DTS)—a specialized instructional-methodological and advisory center for child creativity in technical fields—was opened in Moscow. (It is now the Central Station for Young Technicians of the RSFSR.) In the late 1920’s and 1930’s, DTS’s were organized in many cities throughout the country.

In 1938, Soviet schoolchildren set a number of world records in aircraft modeling. In 1939 the works of young Soviet technicians were shown at the World’s Fair in New York, and in 1941 they were displayed at the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) young technicians took part in the repair and manufacture of agricultural machines and equipment and the establishment of radio communication facilities for hospitals. Many stations for young technicians organized workshops to fill military orders.

In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, child creativity in technical fields devoted much attention to questions of the mechanization and electrification of agriculture. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s creative student work in making new devices, models, and various technical mechanisms was widely developed in schools and extrascholastic institutions. (Students made automated and remote-control models and devices to operate small agricultural transport machines and electronic instruments.) In the 1960’s meetings and contests were held to encourage the improvement of efficiency among schoolchildren, develop the creative activity of children in industrial and agricultural production, and improve training aids and equipment. Schoolchildren have the opportunity to develop skills in improving efficiency primarily in extracurricular studies or in combination with manual training.

The late 1960’s were characterized by the appearance of new organizations for child creativity in technical fields: scholastic design offices and organizations of the Ail-Union Society of Inventors and Rationalizers and school clubs for various amateur interests in technical fields. Since 1967 judgings of the creativity of young people in technical fields, which includes child creativity in technical fields, have been held regularly in the USSR. The best creative technical works by children are exhibited annually at the Exhibition of the Achievements of the National Economy (VDNKh) of the USSR, and they are recognized by awards of the VDNKh, the Central Committee of the VLKSM (All-Union Lenin Communist Youth League), the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, and the ministries of education of the Union republics. Exhibitions of creative technical works by children are held annually in the capitals of all Union republics and in oblasts and krai centers.

In the late 1960’s the theme of outer space was intensively developed in child creativity in technical areas, and the building of model rockets was emphasized. In the USSR the first competitions for young model rocket enthusiasts were organized in 1962 in Moscow Oblast. All-Union competitions for model rocket enthusiasts in the schools have been held regularly since 1968. The basic Soviet journals on child creativity in technical fields are Modelist-konstruktor (Model Designer, since 1966) and lunyi tekhnik (Young Technician, since 1956).

In the USSR child technical creativity is a unique training ground for creative work in production, technology, and science, and it has been taken advantage of by many inventors, production engineers and innovators, designers, and scientists, including the academician B. E. Paton, aircraft designers S. V. Il’iushin, A. S. Iakovlev, and O. K. Antonov, and the cosmonaut-pilots G. S. Titov and A. V. Filipchenko. Among those who have contributed to or are promoting the development of child technical creativity are the prominent Soviet scientists N. D. Zelinskii, S. I. Vavilov, M. A. Lavrent’ev, I. I. Artobolevskii, N. N. Semenov, and A. A. Liapunov and the cosmonaut-pilots Iu. A. Gagarin and A. S. Eliseev.

Child technical creativity is being successfully developed in a number of foreign countries. In the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and the German Democratic Republic, public state systems of developing child creativity have been established to promote the highest possible participation of schoolchildren in the study of production efficiency, prepare children for creative work in various fields of technology and science, and encourage their participation in the work of creative adult groups. Preference is given to the study of electronic technology, automation, technical cybernetics, and machine and machine-tool building. In Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Yugoslavia, model building is stressed and practiced in clubs and other institutions of youth leagues, trade unions, enterprises, and sports-technical and other organizations, as well as in educational institutions. The sports-technical trend is fundamental in child creativity in technical fields. Journals on model building and amateur technical activities are published in all socialist countries.

Child technical creativity is well developed in a number of capitalist countries (for example, Great Britain, the USA, France, Finland, and Switzerland). It is primarily exercised on an individual basis, with amateur clubs and various types of organizations playing a secondary role, and its orientation is usually sports-technical. A great number of journals are published on various kinds of model building and amateur technical activities.

Arts. Children express their creativity in the arts through improvisations (stories, poems, tunes, dance movements, and games), as well as drawings, small plastic models, needlework, appliqués, literary works, artistic compositions, and montages. As they become accustomed to doing creative work, children make judgments about cultural phenomena with greater consciousness and interest. Child creativity in the arts actively contributes to the cultivation of aesthetic tastes in children and their artistic education.

Improvisation is a distinguishing feature of artistic creativity in very young children. However, this does not necessarily mean that child creativity in the arts precludes guidance from adults. From the standpoint of socialist pedagogy, child creativity in the arts is primarily a phenomenon susceptible to mediation and guidance. Spontaneity and individuality have a great significance only in highly talented children. However, even gifted children need serious guidance. (Indeed, they need more guidance than average children.)

The problem of pedagogical guidance is the basic scientific practical problem in the development of child creativity in the arts. The questions traditionally resolved in this connection involve the interrelationships of professional art and child creativity, age characteristics, the reciprocal influence of teacher and pupil, and the mastery of artistic skills and traditions and an independent reflection of life.

The intimate correlation between the various forms of child creativity in the arts was most convincingly interpreted in the theory of so-called sensitive periods in child development, which was proposed by L. S. Vygotskii and B. G. Anan’ev. The theory focuses on the child’s inclination toward various forms of artistic creativity and perception, which varies with age; on the successive changes during childhood and youth in the priority of interest (periods of actualization) in dramatic dance, fine arts, literature, and music; and on changes in perception.

Child creativity in the fine arts became the subject of scientific pedagogical investigation earlier than other forms of spontaneous activity. The artistic merit of a child’s drawing and its significance as a document reflecting the age characteristics of the child’s psyche attracted the attention of scholars as early as the late 19th century (C. Ricci in Italy, J. Sully in Great Britain, and K. Lamprecht, S. Löwenstein, and G. Kerschensteiner in Germany). In the 19th century instruction in drawing was characterized by the mechanical transfer to children of the methods of adult professional artists. Progress in knowledge of children and their creativity led in a relatively short time to a revision of the methods of guiding children and the formulation of new pedagogical and artistic theories and systems.

Bourgeois pedagogical theories were influenced by formalistic artistic trends and idealistic views on the history and spiritual development of man (biogenetic theory, Freudian psychoanalysis, and Jung’s archetypes). In the 1920’s the Austrian teacher F. Čížek proposed the idea of the freedom and inviolability of children’s artistic expression in drawing. This idea led his followers to try to eliminate completely the instruction of children in drawing and to advocate pedocentrism and “pedagogical nonintervention.” Between the 1930’s and 1950’s bourgeois theories of child creativity acquired a philosophical-psychological bias (V. Lowenfeld in the USA, H. Read in Great Britain, and C. Freinet in France). The theory of the natural development of artistic potential also spread (G. Britsch in Switzerland). The American school was most influential. In the 1960’s there was a noticeable return to realistic currents in the theory and practice of guidance of child creativity in the fine arts. At the same time, a narrow pragmatism oriented toward the education of a passive “cultural consumer” of artistic values has become popular.

In the USSR a state system of artistic education of children has developed. Its foundations were laid by N. K. Krupskaia and A. V. Lunacharskii. One of the first Soviet theoreticians of child creativity in the arts was A. V. Bakushinskii. After a brief period of enthusiasm for the biogenetic theory and the practice of pedagogical nonintervention in the 1920’s, Soviet artistic education shifted to the systematic accumulation of facts relevant to the development of child creativity under purposeful guidance on the basis of the child’s mastery of realistic representation. Analysis of worldwide experience in the theory and practice of guidance of child creativity in the fine arts has confirmed the correctness of this orientation. In many countries teachers and methodologists actively study the theories of child creativity in the fine arts that have been developed in the USSR by E. I. Ignat’ev, N. N. Volkov, L. S. Vygotskii, V. I. Kireenko, G. V. Labunskaia, E. E. Rozhkova, N. P. Sakulina, and E. A. Flerina.

Creativity in the representational arts is most widespread among children who have not reached adolescence. As a rule, children begin to portray recognizable objects at the age of three or four. Pictures drawn by young children are visually effective. In addition to drawing, construction and plastic forms of representational arts are particularly accessible to children up to four years old. Later, children’s drawings are graphic stories, similar to plays and with plots. At age nine or ten, the young graphic artist begins to show an active interest in meaningful graphic skills. If the child does not receive adequate instruction at this point, his drawing ceases to respond to his more mature standards, and he abandons this activity. With regular instruction (or active self-education) adolescent representational art smoothly enters the period of “object drawing,” with details carefully worked out. The experience of the best teachers, such as V. S. Shcherbakov, shows that object drawing by younger adolescents usually acquires new creative qualities. Adolescents and youths show heightened interest in questions of artistic mastery, and some of them feel that they may have a vocation in art. The growing spiritual resources of the adolescent contribute to the formation of his full-fledged capacity to perceive works of professional art and of the world artistic heritage.

The child shows elements of literary creativity from the moment when, having mastered his native tongue, he begins to manipulate words, play with them, and form them into various combinations that sometimes merely convey a mood rhythmically. In the early stage, from about age two to five, literary child creativity is a part of play. During this period it is difficult to draw the line between lyric and epic elements in child creativity. Furthermore, it is difficult to separate literary creativity from other forms of creative activity: the child draws and simultaneously composes verses or a story on the theme of the drawing, sings, and dances. This reflects the syncretism of child creativity.

As they grow older, children become more deliberate in their literary creativity. A concept of the social value of literary works appears, and the creation of such works becomes the goal of the creative process. Inclinations toward various literary genres—poetry or prose—are more clearly expressed in older children. Under the guidance of a teacher, young authors test themselves in such genres as the essay, reporting, the interview, and the review. The creative principle is also displayed in the most widely practiced form of literary creativity among adolescents and young people—the school composition. The creative literary abilities of students are developed as they participate as authors in school wall newspapers, manuscript anthologies and journals, and literary groups.

In music, child creativity is viewed not as a process of creating works of art but as a method of musical education. The prominent Soviet musicians, teachers, and theoreticians B. V. Asaf ev and B. L. Iavorskii paid a great deal of attention to child creativity in music. Problems of child creativity in music are studied at the Institute of Preschool Education of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the USSR (N. A. Vetlugina). Among those who have made significant contributions to musical training and children’s education are D. B. Kabalevskii, V. N. Shatskaia, and V. S. Loktev.

In many countries the so-called relative system of musical instruction, in which improvisation is important, began to be applied in the 1960’s. This system was developed on the basis of national musical traditions by the outstanding Hungarian composer Z. Kodàly and later by teachers in a number of other countries, including the USSR.

In the 1960’s children’s amateur photography and film-making became very popular. These activities also develop children’s artistic and creative abilities. Children showed their individuality in selecting themes and composition and in making up film scripts.

In the children’s activities in the performing arts (theater, dance, choral, orchestral, and other amateur groups), there are extensive opportunities for development of creative abilities and for originality in the interpretation of an assigned role, a musical work, or a recited text.

The development of child creativity in the arts is promoted by lessons in singing, rhythm, drawing, and plastic modeling, which are offered in kindergartens, by lessons in literature, music and singing, and drawing, as well as optional lessons in art in general educational schools, and by various students’ art circles and groups in schools, out of school, and in cultural educational institutions. Child creativity in the arts is also encouraged by the system of music and specialized art schools for gifted children and by regular exhibitions, arts’ festivals, and contests of children’s artistic works and activities. The role of the family in the creative development of children is becoming increasingly noticeable.

In the early 1930’s houses for art education and special scientific-methodological institutions were established in the oblast, krai, and republic centers of the USSR in order to aid schools and extrascholastic institutions in the aesthetic education of children and the development of child creativity in the arts. Groups and workshops for different forms of art and children’s amateur art groups operated in the houses. In 1952 the houses for artistic education merged with the palaces and houses of pioneers and schoolchildren. (In 1946 the Central House of Artistic Education in Moscow became the Institute of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the RSFSR—now the Scientific Research Institute for Art Education of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the USSR.)

The study of child creativity is concentrated in the scientific research institutes of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the USSR. Child creativity in technical fields is studied in the Scientific Research Institute for Labor Education and Professional Orientation, and child creativity in the arts is studied in the Scientific Research Institute for Art Education.

There are museum collections of works of art by children in a number of cities, including Leningrad, Kiev, and Yerevan. There are major centers for child creativity in the arts in India (New Delhi), Yugoslavia (Novi Sad), France (Sevres), Italy (Florence), and the USA (for example, at the Museum of Modern Art and Columbia University in New York). Since the late 19th century there have been international organizations that promote the development of child creativity in the arts. More recently, UNESCO’s activities include projects to encourage child creativity in the arts.


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