Creativity experiences during early childhood can provide essential experiences for brain development and consequently affect the neural systems that process emotion and intelligence at a period when the wiring and sculpturing of the brain is taking place. Evidence from the brain sciences and evolutionary psychology suggests that art plays an important role in brain development and maintenance by integrating emotion and logic. Emotion and logic are important brain systems that are critical to attention, problem solving and rational cognitive behavior. Art helps maintain and strengthen the neural systems that process emotion and intelligence by stimulating them in pretend situations during periods when real life does not challenge them. Stimulation is critical to these systems since they weaken when they are not used.
Art can therefore have a positive long-term effect on intellectual abilities and behaviour. Art in early childhood is chiefly emotional and affords children the chance to explore their nature and express themselves creatively. Art in the early childhood program is not about talent, it is about process, and the focus should not be on accomplishing predetermined goals, or final products. To be truly creative children must be given the freedom to project what is significant to them, and should be allowed to “create” according to their individual needs. Someone else cannot determine these needs. Artistic activity should give children the chance to express important experiences, emotions, and feelings that are unique only to them.
In the Montessori Education System, children are free to pursue different artistic activities within a range of available materials of ink, colour, clay etc. Furthermore, children are free to use percussion instruments, participate in games. Children are also encouraged to use words that they invent. Activities involve the use of senses. It stresses individual development and does not judge by comparing one child to another. Children are free to work at their own pace with activities that they choose and can help themselves to materials. Adults in the environment act as facilitators. They introduce children to materials then leave them to work on their own.
There should be a part of the classroom that is set aside for art. Each activity should have its own working space within the art area and should be set-up to allow the children to choose according to their own needs. An example of the activity is ‘Colours’ (using water-based non-toxic paint). With the following purpose:
i) To become absorbed in the process of doing,
ii) To allow the act of doing to evolve spontaneously,
iii) To perpetuate freedom of expression that values creation for that which is created,
iv) To allow individual expression that provides appropriate relief to feelings.
Montessori program incorporates Music, a prominent part of all cultures and is biologically a fundamental part of mood emotion and desire. Music affects not only our emotions but also reasoning, and plays a very valuable role as a facilitator in acquiring other competencies. Exploring the neurobiology of music, researchers discovered direct evidence that music stimulates specific regions of the brain responsible for memory, motor control, timing and language. Overall, music involves the brain at almost every level. Allowing for cultural differences in musical tastes, researchers found evidence of music’s remarkable power to affect neural activity no matter where they look in the brain. Music affects our neurological, psychological and physical functioning in such areas as learning, language processing, emotional expression, memory, and physiological and motor responses. Learning music can help children to integrate different aspects of their personality since it involves the three aspects of human nature – body, mind and spirit.
Making music involves a physical activity – moving, singing and playing, produced by mental direction – matching a pitch or rhythmic pattern, and to convey a sentiment or idea. Montessori activities such as walking on the line, action rhymes and games involving skipping, galloping etc, help children associate certain rhythmic figures with bodily movements. Rhythm can also be taught through activities involving clapping, tapping knees, snapping, etc. Furthermore, through daily singing of songs, and nursery rhymes, children begin to acquire a sense of pitch. Playing different types of music to children helps them to discern different gradations of volume, therefore learning about intensity, since they can hear the difference between, a quiet lullaby, and a matching song. Listening to selected music also helps children to realize that there is a form to music. Children can also be introduced to different musical instruments and their various tone qualities by using tapes and photographs. They can learn the names of the instruments and their respective sounds – flutes, violins etc.
Craft is also a part of the Montessori program. Craft projects help children understand given concepts on almost every topic by making aspects of what they need to learn more visible and explicit in a way that abstract learning cannot. Craft projects that are linked to curriculum content can enhance the instructional process and help children learn both basic information and complex ideas. Craft projects can make learning experiences concrete. If, for example children are learning about the parts of insects, then they can participate in a craft project such as making an insect, making the insect parts, i.e. head, thorax, abdomen etc. They develop both a greater appreciation for and understanding of what they are learning.
The benefits of craft activities also extend to socialization skills. Craft projects facilitate productive socialization by having children work together on a common effort that yields to tangible product. When children work on a project together, they learn how to organize and convey information and make decisions together.
Craft activities improve fine motor skill through the use of pencils, scissors, paintbrushes and other tools that require dexterity and coordination. These activities expand educational experiences by incorporating creation, expression, and presentation of ideas, and help foster self-esteem and confidence through accomplishment.
Guy, Caron & Barratt, James. (2007). Montessori Workshop. Germany: Peter-Hesse-Foundation (Peter-Hesse-stiftung).