Early Childhood Education Journal

, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 845–853 | Cite as

Early Childhood Creativity: Challenging Educators in Their Role to Intentionally Develop Creative Thinking in Children

  • Nicole LeggettEmail author


Creativity is a topic of wide global interest, often discussed in fields such as education, psychology and business (Runco, Divergent thinking and creative potential, Hampton Press, New York, 2013; Yoruk and Runco, Journal for Neurocognitive Research 56:1–16, 2014). However, the relationship of pedagogical practices in early childhood education and care (ECEC) as it applies to the development of creative thought processes of young children is a relatively new area for investigation. This paper presents recent research that examines the role of the educator as an intentional teacher within Australian early learning environments and investigates the relationship of this role to children’s developing creativity. Theoretically informed by Vygotsky’s sociocultural constructivist approach (Vygotsky, Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1930, 1978) and neo-Vygotskian theories on creativity (John-Steiner and Moran, Educational Psychologist 31:191–206, 2012), this paper explores some of the beliefs and understandings of educators on creativity. Furthermore, this paper exposes some of the misconceptions of educators about children’s creative thinking as they engage in play-based learning activities. The evidence from this Australian study suggests that the role of the educator is pivotal in assisting children in the early development of creative thinking thus challenging their role as educators.


Creativity Creative thinking Intentional teaching Early childhood Play 


  1. Amabile, T. M. (1983). The social psychology of creativity. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, J. V. (1994). Creativity and play: A systematic approach to managing innovation. Business Horizons, 37, 80–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aretoulakis, E. (2016). Forbidden aesthetics, ethical justice, and terror in modern western culture. London: Lexington books.Google Scholar
  4. Boudah, D. J. (2011). Conducting educational research: Guide to completing a major project. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carlile, O., & Jordan, A. (2012). Approaches to creativity. A guide for teachers. New York: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  7. Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1994). The domain of creativity. In M. Csikszentmihalyi & H. Gardner (Eds.), Changing the world: A framework for the study of creativity (pp. 135–158). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  9. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2003). Key issues in creativity and development. In R. K. Sawyer, V. John-Steiner, J. Moran, R. J. Sternberg, D. H. Feldman, J. Nakamura & M. Csikszentmihalyi (Eds.), Creativity and development (pp. 228–229). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. DEEWR. (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. ACT: Council of Australian Governments: Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
  11. Doidge, N. (2007). The brain that changes itself. Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. New York: Penguin Group.Google Scholar
  12. Eliot, L. (1999). What’s going on in there? How the brain and mind develop in the first five years of life. New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  13. FDfEE. (2012). Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Department for Education and Employment. Retrieved from
  14. Feist, G. (2004). The evolved fluid specificity of human creative talent. In R. Sternberg, E. Grigorenko & J. Singer (Eds.), Creativity from potential to realisation (pp. 57–82). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Feldhusen, J., & Goh, B. (1995). Assessing and accessing creativity: An integrative review of theory, research, and development. Creativity Research Journal, 8(3), 231–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Feldman, D. (1999). The development of creativity. In R. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 169–186). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Flick, U. (2005). An introduction to qualitative research. London: SAGE.Google Scholar
  18. Gardner, H. (1982). Art, mind, and the brain. New York: Basic books.Google Scholar
  19. Gardner, H. (1988). Creativity: An interdisciplinary perspective. Creativity Research Journal, 1, 8–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Geertz, C. (1973). Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. In Y. S. Lincoln & N. K. Denzin (Eds.), Turning points in qualitative research: Tying knots in a handkerchief (pp. 143–168). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  21. Geertz, C. (1993). Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. New York: Fontana.Google Scholar
  22. Goswami, U. (2004). Neuroscience and education: from research to practice? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Guilford, J. P. (1950). Creativity. American Psychologist, 5, 444–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hargreaves, A. (2003). Teaching in the knowledge society. Education in the age of insecurity. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  25. Isen, A., Daubman, K., & Nowicki, G. (1987). Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1122–1131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. John-Steiner, V., & Mahn, H. (1996). Sociocultural approaches to learning and development: A Vygotskian framework. Educational Psychologist, 31(3/4), 191–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. John-Steiner, V., & Moran, S. (2012). Creativity in the making: Vygotsky’s contemporary contribution to the dialectic of development and creativity. Oxford Scholarship Online. doi: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195149005.001.0001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ladkin, D. (2004). Action research. In C. Seale, G. Gobo, J. Gubrium & D. Silverman (Eds.), Qualitative research practice (pp. 536–548). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  29. Leggett, N., & Ford, M. (2013). A fine balance: Understanding the roles educators and children play as intentional teachers and intentional learners within the Early Years Learning Framework. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 38(4), 42–50.Google Scholar
  30. Lempert, L. (2007). Asking questions of the Data: Memo writing in the Grounded Theory tradition. In A. Bryant & K. Charmaz (Eds.), The Sage handbook of Grounded Theory (pp. 245–289). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Litjens, I., & Taguma, M. (2010). Revised literature overview for the 7th meeting of the network on early childhood education and care. from OECD EDU/EDPC/ECEC(2010)3/REV1.Google Scholar
  32. Lubart, T. (1994). Creativity. In E. C. Carterette, M. P. Friedman & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), The handbook of perception and cognition (Vol. 12:Thinking and problem solving) (pp. 289–332). New York: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Malaguzzi, L. (1998). History, ideas, and basic philosophy: An interview with Lella Gandini. In C. Edwards, L. Gandini & G. Forman (Eds.), The hundred languages of children. The Reggio Emilia Approach-Advanced reflections (pp. 49–65). Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing.Google Scholar
  34. McCain, M., Mustard, F., & Shanker, S. (2007). Early years study 2: Putting science into action. Toronto, ON: Council for Early Childhood Development.Google Scholar
  35. Nutbrown, C. (1996). Children’s rights in early education. London: Paul Chapman.Google Scholar
  36. Plucker, J., & Beghetto, R. (2004). Why creativity is domain general, why it looks domain specific, and why the distinction does not matter. In R. J. Sternberg, E. Grigorenko & J. Singer (Eds.), Creativity from potential to realisation (pp. 153–167). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Richards, R. (2010). Everyday creativity: process and way of life - Four key issues. In J. C. Kauffman & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of creativity (pp. 189–215). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Robinson, K. (2001). Out of our minds. Learning to be creative. West Sussex: Capstone Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  39. Rodd, J. (1994). Leadership in early childhood education: The pathway to professionalism. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  40. Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Root-Bernstein, M., & Root-Bernstein, R. (2006). Imaginary worldplay in childhood and maturity and its impact on adult creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 18(4), 405–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Root-Bernstein, R. S. (2002). Aesthetic cognition. International Journal of the Philosophy of Science, 16, 61–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Runco, M. (1990). Implicit theories and ideational creativity. In M. A. Runco & R. S. Albert (Eds.), Theories of creativity (pp. 234–252). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  44. Runco, M. (1991). Divergent thinking. Norwood NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
  45. Runco, M. (1999). Tension, adaptability and creativity. In S. Russ (Ed.), Affect, creative experience and psychological adjustment (pp. 165–194). Ann Arbor: Braun-Bumfield.Google Scholar
  46. Runco, M. (2007). Creativity. Theories and themes: Research, development, and practice. Amsterdam: Elsevier Academic Press.Google Scholar
  47. Runco, M. (2013). Divergent thinking and creative potential. New York: Hampton Press.Google Scholar
  48. Russ, S. (1993). Affect and creativity: The role of affect and play in the creative process. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  49. Russ, S. (1999). Play, affect, and creativity: Theory and research. In S. Russ (Ed.), Affective, creative experience, and psychological adjustment (pp. 57–72). Philadelphia: Braun-Brumfield.Google Scholar
  50. Sawyer, R. (2003). Emergence in creativity and development. In R. K. Sawyer, V. John-Steiner, J. Moran, R. J. Sternberg, D. Feldman, J. Nakamura & M. Csikszentmihalyi (Eds.), Creativty and development (pp. 12–60). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sawyer, R. (2006). Explaining creativity. The science of human innovation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Sawyer, R., John-Steiner, V., Moran, S., Sternberg, R. J., Feldman, D. H., Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2003). Creativity and development. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Simonton, D. K. (1993). Foresight and insight: A Darwinian answer. In J. Brockman (Ed.), Creativity: The reality club (Vol. 4, pp. 465–494). New York: Touchstone.Google Scholar
  54. Siraj-Blatchford, I. (2005). Birth to eight matters! Seeking seamlessness - continuity? Integration? Creativity? Paper presented at the TACTYC Annual conference, Cardiff.Google Scholar
  55. Spriggs, M., & Gillam, L. (2008). Consent in paediatric research: An evaluation of the guidance provided in the 2007 NHMRC National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. Medical Journal of Australia, 188(6), 360–362.Google Scholar
  56. Sternberg, R. J. (2003). Wisdom, intelligence, and creativity synthesised. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sternberg, R. J. (2005). Creativity or creativities. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 63(4-5), 370–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. (1999). The concept of creativity: Prospects and paradigms. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 3–15). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Swanborn, P. (2010). Case study research: What, why and how? London: Sage.Google Scholar
  60. Sylva, K. (2010). Quality in early childhood settings. In K. Sylva, E. Melhuish, P. Sammons, I. Siraj-Blatchford, & B. Taggart (Eds.), Early childhood matters: Evidence from the Effective Pre-School and Primary Education project (pp. 149–165). Abington, Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  61. Torrance, E. P. (1974). The Torrance tests of creative thinking. Benesville, IL: Scholastic Testing Services.Google Scholar
  62. Urban, K. (2004). Assessing creativity:The test for creative thinking-drawing production (TCT-DP). The concept, application, evaluation, and International studies. Psychology Science, 46(3), 387–397.Google Scholar
  63. Vygotsky, L. S. (1930, 1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Wallach, M., & Kogan, N. (1965). Modes of thinking in young children: A study of the creativity-intelligence distinction. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  65. Ward, W. (1968). Creativity in young children. Society for Research in Child Development, 39(3), 737–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Weisberg, R. (2006). Expertise and reasons in creative thinking. In J. C. Kauffman & J. Baer (Eds.), Creativity and reason in cognitive development (pp. 7–42). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Yin, R. (2003). Case study research design and methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage publications.Google Scholar
  68. Yin, R. (2011). Qualitative research from start to finish. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  69. Yoruk, S., & Runco, M. (2014). The neuroscience of divergent thinking. Activitas Nervosa Superior: Journal for Neurocognitive Research, 56(1–2), 1–16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of NewcastleOurimbahAustralia

Personalised recommendations