Another aspect of creativity is divergent thinking, which has been described as: “the ability to branch out from a starting point and consider a variety of possible solutions, involves fluidity of thinking, broad scanning ability, and free association. It is thought to be a major cognitive process underlying creativity (Guilford, 1968; Russ & Kaugars, 2001). While object play has clearly been related to divergent problem solving ability in young children, so too has make-believe, or fantasy, play. For example, Dansky (1980) observed ninety-six preschool children in a free-play situation, and categorized them as high or low in their pretend play ability. He then assigned them to one of three conditions: (1) free play, (2) imitative play, and (3) a problem-solving task. Dansky (1980) found that the children in the free-play situation performed the best on the divergent problem solving task, but only if they were spontaneously high in their level of make-believe play. He concluded that it is not play in itself that predicts problem solving skill, but the extent to which children become involved in make-believe when they are playing.
The following from Laurie Makin and Marian Whitehead (2004) supports this -“Play is a special way of exploring all kinds of possibilities and even taking big risks in a very safe context. So, as they pretend to be chased by monsters, or hide from lions, young children enjoy a small taste of fear and plan a few useful strategies for escaping the dangers they have invented. When they change roles and become the frightening shark themselves, they experience life from the other side. It’s a bit like trying on a mask or a costume in order to become someone else. Children often pretend to be other people they know such as parents and teachers, or the characters from stories, or even machines like vacuum cleaners and wind screen wipers! They seem to be asking, ‘what does it feel like to be someone or something else?’ All this imaginary activity helps children make sense of the world and the powerful feelings they have about people and what happens to them. It is also the best possible preparation for understanding stories and picture books and getting ready for reading. The oral stories we tell and the stories printed in books are ways of playing and pretending too and if we don’t value children’s play in the early years we are not helping them to become confident storytellers and readers. It has been known for years that children can learn surprisingly complex things in partnership with an interested adult who helps but doesn’t take over. Children actually think beyond their apparent abilities while doing it alongside an expert. So think of the ways that you scaffold learning and communication through your interactions with children. Document the pretend play and the oral language that is being strengthened as a result.”
What does this mean for us as teachers? Do we allow the time, space and environment for children to create complex story lines, rich in language, emotion and relationships? How are we recording the wonderful oral language, divergent thinking and story telling? Divergent thinking is also related to the ability children have to use a box as a car or a wooden block as a babies bottle. This reminds me of the importance of loose parts or divergent resources rather than only having convergent resources. Learning Story - Imagination, Toi Taakaro