Domain 5 of the Head Start Child Outcomes Framework is The Creative Arts, which includes four elements: music, art, movement, and dramatic play. Each of these Domain Elements supports children’s imaginative thinking and self-expression and enhances their progress in other Domains. For example, children may count musical beats, experiment with mixing colors to make a new one, create dialogue for a story drama, or move like the animal characters in a story. In such activities, they are learning in several Domains and using a variety of social, cognitive, and creative processes.
The creative arts engage children’s minds and senses. They invite children to listen, observe, move, solve problems, and imagine, using multiple modes of thought and self-expression. Active involvement in the creative arts stimulates brain connections that support children’s learning. A growing body of research on the effects of early arts experiences shows their positive relationship to improved, overall academic performance. Research in the arts also demonstrates that when creativity is developed at an early age, its benefits are continual and are transferred to many intellectual tasks (Arts Education Partnership 2000).
All areas of creative arts can incorporate the diversity of children in the program. Dance, art, pantomime, and creative expression are areas where English language learners can be included without needing to rely on language skills in English. Music can be particularly effective since it can be fun for children to learn a song in either English or another language. Music experiences for young children involve listening to, learning about, and making music.
Children can listen and respond to different kinds of music by moving, dancing, painting, or talking about how it makes them feel, what instruments they hear, how it compares to other pieces they have heard, or what they do or do not like about it. They may use simple rhythm instruments to create music or to accompany live or recorded music. Children also enjoy singing favorite songs, learning new ones, and making up their own. Art experiences allow children to convey their ideas, feelings, and knowledge in visual forms. Individually and in groups, children use materials such as crayons, paint, playdough, clay, found objects, glue, tape, and paper, along with tools such as scissors, brushes, rolling pins, cookie cutters, and more. They explore the processes of art using materials, tools, and techniques and create products such as drawings, paintings, sculptures, mobiles, and collages. Developing an appreciation for and aesthetic awareness of art is also a part of this Domain element.
Movement includes dancing to music and moving in various ways to learn what the body can do or to express an idea or feeling. Children might imagine how an animal moves, then try to imitate it. They could focus on a specific feeling, such as joy or fear, and create movements to express the feeling. Movement facilitates spatial awareness and sensory integration, contributes to overall health and fitness, and promotes development of physical skills. Dramatic play and drama involve make-believe. Children take on roles such as mother, waiter, mail carrier, or doctor. They put objects to imaginative uses—for example, transforming a large box into a spaceship or cave.
Dramatic play also offers a wide range of opportunities for children to use and expand their cognitive, language, literacy, and social skills (as described in other Domain sections). To support children’s involvement in the creative arts, Head Start teachers need to focus on what it means to be creative. Individuals are creative when they take existing objects or ideas and combine them in different ways for new purposes. They use their ever-growing body of knowledge to generate new and useful solutions to everyday challenges. Early childhood teachers are creative when they invent new ways to individualize the environment, curriculum, and interactions with young learners.
In addition to understanding and recognizing the creative process—in themselves and in children—Head Start teachers can encourage learning through the creative arts by introducing children to excellent and varied examples of art forms. They can involve children in noticing, thinking about, and discussing artistic productions. Using open-ended questions, teachers invite children to examine critique, evaluate, and develop their own aesthetic preferences. Teachers also provide raw materials, props, tools, and appropriate spaces so that children can create in their own ways. They observe and respond to children in ways that communicate acceptance for creative expression. They can plan and offer integrated experiences to take advantage of the many ways creative arts support learning in other Domains.