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Children’s Creativity

According to Gillen (2003), creativity has been a topic of interest in the teaching of languages and other items. In different countries, the idea of creativity has been introduced into the curriculum, with fascinating results. An example is the United Kingdom where creativity was integrated into learning during the 1970s and 1980s. Various studies have identified that this introduction has improved achievement rates for children in the UK’s education system, particularly in learning languages. At this point, it is important to understand the concept of creativity further. Creativity may be defined in different perspectives. In the study of languages among children, creativity holds a significant correlation to the artistic field. In that respect, creativity may be defined as the use of art in the efforts of expressing a personal meaning of the subject. In order to convey such meaning, resources such as shapes and language are critical. Artists usually build their expertise through repeated use of such resources. This also correlates to children. They spend many years in learning languages, as part of their creative development. Childhood practices typically utilize language play to convey meaning to their activities and counterparts. In the study of children’s’ culture, their creative practices can be studied through different forms. For example, they use word play, storytelling and lore. This essay seeks to explore the lingual forms that are used and expressed by children as they carry meaning to other parties.

According to Gillen (2003), creativity in children develops even before they acquire language. This is demonstrated through the playfulness that they exhibit at infancy, as they interact with others. Such creativity is clearly seen through protoconversations during infancy. Children typically understand adult communication by observing the person addressing them. For example, they track the respective person’s eyes, mouth and face, while listening to the voice. In response, ‘the infant moves its face’. Similarly, they usually move their limbs in response. These actions happen as a result of internal wishes and emotions in the children. Through similar actions, children can communicate with adults. For example, similar utterances and gestures result into transmission of emotion and communicative feelings. This is known as protoconversations. Through such instances, it is seen that children are capable of demonstrating creativity in their communication. Despite poor understanding of formal language, infants are able to respond in their own ways hence highlighted their intrinsic creativity. Similarly, they demonstrate that playfulness is a tenet of human communication processes.

Storytelling is one of the means through which humans expose their creativity in language. In infants, this form of creativity has also been observed, despite relatively limited speech capabilities. This is seen through pre-sleep monologues whereby a child developed a narrative while in bed. In the narrative, the child is seen to attempt different means in the effort of making sense what she expresses. This creativity is further outlined by the child’s motivation for expressing herself, rather than conveying information to another party. Children absorb the speech that exists around them, and learn how the language is shaped by cultural influences. For example, they learn narratives from older relations and friends, and gain familiarity with language and events that have taken place in the vicinity of their respective environments. Through their own creative constructions of such events, children are able to demonstrate their social and personal stability.

Wordplay may be described as the manipulation of language with the aim of amusing or achieving a desired effect. It typically involves alterations to the meanings of words and their corresponding sounds. This phenomenon may be considered as an indicator of creativity, in its own right. For example, it highlights that an individual is capable of achieving a desired meaning in a manner that is devoid of conventional methods. Children usually demonstrate lots of wordplay in their language. This is seen through use of puns, palindromes, adjectives and other language forms. Their wordplay is influenced through the creative processes that are found in talk by adults within the children’s vicinity. In their early words, children maintain a liking for certain words and sounds. This is seen through reduplication, which is the repetition of similar syllables within a word.  In Gillen’s example of Charlie, great extent of phonological play was noticed. The child demonstrated creative use of English words as he simulates a telephone conversation. It is seen that children are able to demonstrate their literal creativity, without the necessity of another person in the vicinity.

Children’s wordplay is characterized by a number of features. Firstly, it incorporates extensive use of nonsense words. This use is attributed to the sound and accompanying effects. An example may be cited from Gillen’s example. The children extensively used the word ‘poo’ due to its phonology, after and following the use of ‘two’ his conversation. Secondly, children maintain a repetition in their words. For example, Charlie mentioned the word ‘poo’ multiple times. This use may be attributed to a pleasurable effect that accompanies their mention. For example, repetition of these words offers comical effect to their speech. This may also be highlighted as creativity in the children.

Thirdly, children usually modify the sounds within a word in their playful renditions of languages. In Crystal’s analysis, he outlined words such as smear, near and tear were used in place of the dear, another English word (Crystal 2001). The same can be observed in different languages and cultures. For example, Swahili children usually switch the words ‘papa’ and ‘baba’ in their play to achieve their desired results in speech. Alliteration refers to the use of similar sounds at the beginnings of words. Children also incorporate this feature of style into their word play. It allows them to maintain a phonological flow to their words, similar to the other results. Finally, children’s wordplay is characterized by use of rhyme. As they learn languages, items they learn in school and home improve their creativity. Nursery rhymes such as its-bitsy-spider are examples of rhyme in children. Similarly, they may form their own narratives that reflect their own culture or upbringing. In that respect, children develop their creativity in language. Performance of narratives that feature rhyme often involves clapping or movements that enhance their playfulness. It is, therefore, seen that creative word play is a necessary part of children’s lingual development. It allows them to develop phonetic awareness. As a result, they are able to distinguish uses for words, in various contexts (Sealey 2000).

Storytelling is an important aspect of children’s lingual development. It allows them to practice concepts that they have learnt from their environments, as seen by anthropologists. This practice prepares them for different roles and situations within the society. For example, they learn the use of words associated to their culture through storytelling. Similarly, they learn words from adults around them hence preparing for their later roles in the same capacities. It is important to note that storytelling involves a great deal of creativity, for effective presentation. Despite a child learning a story from a different party, their rendition will feature a unique approach that highlights their creativity.

Children usually maintain other forms of fictional activity, in addition to storytelling. For example, modern children are exposed to video games and other forms of play. Pretend play allows them to practice storytelling as they create their own narratives. This is usually carried out when the children are close to their friends. Each party takes a part and contributes to the development of the artificial narrative. Discourse between the children maintains the features of normal narratives. For example, they feature conventional opening and closing statements. Similarly, they feature a chronological sequence of events and a selection of the discourse material, which correlate to the structure of the narrative. Children’s corresponding contributions to the narratives are often spontaneous. They are characterized by responses to each counterpart’s creative action. Alternatively, children may partake in pretend play through virtual worlds in computer games such as Play Room. Through pretend play, children are able to participate in meaning-making. They associate different words with alternate ideas and roles within their environment (Gillen 2003).

In their make-believe stories, children express their creative versions of the real world. They contain the same complexities that they have seen from their environments. For example, the narratives may feature the same complex plots that the children observed from television shows. To maintain realism, they also adopt the same voices and lingual characteristics of actors from the re-enacted narratives. In that respect, it is seen that children maintain the same intertextuality that is seen in adult narratives. This means that children source their usage of language and related concepts from their environment. By engaging in pretend play, the children are able to socialize with one another. Similarly, they are able to identify their roles within the culture of their society. For example, they can learn the role of parents within the context of their culture through pretend play involving language and corresponding movements. In that respect, language serves to develop their adopted identity through playfulness.

Gillen states that play in children is dual in nature. It allows them to develop their identity, while partaking in socio-dramatic play. During such activity, they adopt different characters and their corresponding lingual traits such as voices. An interesting pattern is noted during such plays. The children usually highlight language patterns for their adopted personalities, and their corresponding contexts. In that respect, children demonstrate their ability to switch styles in language. Children are, therefore, sensitive to use of language use within multi-lingual societies. They are able to shift their use of different languages for alternate roles. This also highlights their creativity in use of language.

Children’s lore refers to the folk culture associated to individuals of the same age group. It includes the use of games played by children, rhyme, jokes, superstitions, wit, parodies and other forms. Child lore as a field is mainly concerned about the traditions and practices that are passed among children. Iona and Peter Opie are accomplished researchers in the field. Their work has encompassed rhymes and other forms that characterize children’s playgrounds across different historical and geographical contexts. According to Gillen, children’s low also highlights intertextuality. Various themes have been adapted from an array of sources, which typically reflect the environment in context (Opie and Opie et al. 1990).

In his research, Opie has noted that children’s rhyme has permeated across different countries, times and other contexts. For example, elements of popular culture have made their way into children’s games and rhymes. This is understandable considering that children incorporate elements of their environmental influences into their play and creative activities, in the lines of intertextuality. Intertextual references can be noted on multiple forms of lore. These are nursery songs, television and other platforms. Through such platforms, cultural and societal issues are incorporated into children’s knowledge. For example, Gillen highlights the foot and mouth epidemic that affected Britain a while back. Similarly, cultural and national rivalries may be incorporated into children’s lore. This implies that children’s lore maintains the capability to adapt to life in the modern world (Sealey 2000).

Through rhymes and other forms of play found in children’s lore, it is seen that children maintain innovation and creativity, which they utilize to achieve their desired effects. Similarly, it is seen that children’s lore has a role as a means for achieving continuity in the society. Through it, researchers have also been able to map historical and geographical patterns in children’s playfulness. Similarly, their adaptations of material such as music and folk songs from different source have also been mapped through research. Through these observed influences, children have developed the voices that characterize their creativity through narratives. For example, music influences allow children to ‘assume different stances and roles’. In Gillen’s example, children develop their roles as members of a church choir through influences from hymns. Children’s views in the context of their societies have been influenced through voices related to music. Different genres, words and lyrics, influenced children’s perceptions of roles. In effect, these influences provided inspiration for creativity in the children, as seen in their adopted narratives. Children constructed their lore in accordance to the influences that related to past, present and future. These influences assisted them in defining their future roles through understanding past contexts. Knowledge sourced from schools played an important role in influencing children’s lore, despite the role of popular culture on these narratives (Gillen 2010).

It is seen that children have maintained creativity with language. This creativity is expressed through forms such as word play, storytelling and lore. Children’s narratives are representative of their environments and related influences such as adults and popular culture. Through this knowledge of language and corresponding play, children are able to develop their identity and roles in the society. For example, wordplay enables them to develop meaning of their society and culture. Similarly, storytelling and lore allows them to understand their cultural underpinnings and develop their roles through practice. Innovation on the children’s part serves to develop their identities further.



Crystal, D. 2001. Language play. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gillen, J. 2003. The language of children. London: Routledge.

Gillen, J. and Cameron, C. 2010. International perspectives on early childhood research. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Opie, I., Opie, P., Avery, G. and Briggs, J. 1990. Children and their books. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Sealey, A. 2000. Childly language. Harlow, England: Longman.


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Originally posted 2017-08-09 13:17:42.



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