Introduction COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL
organization, patience, curiosity, imagination, and synthesis. Surely everyone’s
personality and preferences reflect some combination of these traits.
Society tends to recognize and reward the most accomplished, creative, and
organized types—those who might be described as “type A” or “alpha.” At the
bottom of the social scale might be the very busy and inventive little boy in my
class whose contribution to the year-end gift book for me was a mere scribbled
line and the dictated words, “I just don’t like projects.”
We have become very aware of how important it is for early childhood settings
to support children’s initiative and the unique ways in which they express it. We
understand that everyone has ideas they want to put in motion—from the most
naturally industrious or productive individuals to those who seem tentative, slow
to warm, resistant, stymied, or disorganized. In our efforts to support all children
and a wide variety of learning styles, we as teachers are learning to look at the
range of children’s strengths and preferences.
Initiative, productivity, and confidence are universal human characteristics
that each person can foster and cultivate in unique ways. Educators are beginning
to understand productivity as a matter of individuals and groups finding their
best fit as learners who support one another.
At the same time, early childhood educators have focused on the impor-
tance of creativity in children’s lives. This is part of our increasing sensitivity to
self-expression and open-ended exploration in the preschool years. As mind-
ful teachers, we want to help children trust and celebrate their own ideas and
impulses by honoring and celebrating those ideas and impulses ourselves. The
emphasis on creativity, like that on play, has been informed by a growing dis-
comfort with the push to extend our current, objective-based, standardized model
of elementary education into the preschool years. In addition, we see children’s
imaginations dictated and limited by commercial media.
This book is about helping different children nurture their own unique
ways of exploring and learning. It focuses on a narrow developmental period—
toddlerhood—and on one specific but fundamental aspect of the curriculum: art.
In doing so, I hope to offer not only a model for supporting toddlers’ transitions
from sensory exploration to organized projects but also a way of thinking about
and supporting the different intellectual and creative qualities of children. In
other words, this book is about thinking more creatively about creativity and
about examining underlying cultural expectations and values related to creativity
The ideas and activities presented here provide examples of how we can help
young children learn to be learners and learn to become themselves. I have been
lucky enough to teach toddlers for the last twenty years at The Little School in San
Francisco, an institution where families and faculty have a passion for partnering