'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 31 July 2014

Review: Children's Imagination

Ursula Kolbe knows kids. An artist and internationally recognised author of books about children, Ursula has forty years’ experience in early childhood education as a teacher, university lecturer, writer and filmmaker. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Educational Project, Ursula has travelled to Reggio Emilia, Italy, on three occasions to visit the preschool and infant toddler programs. Her passion for harnessing the creativity of children is palpable.

In Children’s Imagination: creativity under our noses, Ursula presents adults with a richly crafted publication, intent on placing the ‘responsibility’ for creativity back on the child. In a world where children are booked to the eyeballs with contrived events and activities—where elementary creative concepts are presented to children rather than eked from their own imaginations, Ursula’s book takes us back to the ‘grass roots’ of creativity—and lo, she finds some extraordinary stuff there.

In part one, we learn what sparks the imagination of children. As with all entries in the book, the anecdotes and activities are completely child-sourced and initiated, and increase in complexity as the chapter unfolds. We start with ‘found objects’. When presented with an outdoor environment, for example, three-year-old Luna begins gathering seedpods, twigs and leaves. Asking her mother for a bowl, she announces she is going to make ‘soup’. Substituting carrots and onions for twigs and leaves, Luna is embarking on a development path that will lead her to think in more abstract ways.

Next in this section is ‘enticing spaces’ where we witness children filling empty spaces with imaginative concepts—whether it be a carpet covered with buttons, a floor spouting a monorail system or enormous cardboard sheets as large-space art installations. In ‘together in the moment’, we witness those lovely, unexpected, effortless times when working together inspires a creative outcome or connection. Think of the times your child invites you to have an imaginary cup of tea, and an entire scenario unfolds. ‘Graphic exploration’ covers the developmental importance of drawing, and ‘nothing is born of nothing’ talks of the source of ideas and how they are transformed and built upon.

In part two, Ursula uncovers the nourishment and support of creative thinking via a series of inspiring anecdotes from her direct interaction with children. She tells us that unless we understand the true value of spontaneous play, we can’t adequately support and respond in a way that nourishes and encourages. Essentially, Ursula believes that ‘being able to stand back’ and allow children to source their own inspiration and creative depth, is vital.

At the end of each section, Ursula enters into discussion with our very own KBR Managing Editor, Susan Whelan, who shines a motherhood light on the concepts that unfold. I found this ‘conversation’ between two very creative, child-centric women absolutely fascinating.

Children’s Imagination is a must-read for parents, educators and anyone intent on harnessing and growing the emotional intelligence and creative depth of children. The imaginative concepts featured in this book will help adults open the door to any child’s creative core, offering them learnings that will last right through adulthood, and, I truly believe, aid and abet the happiest life possible—that lived by the heart.

Order a copy of Ursula's book at www.pademelonpress.com.au.

Title: Children’s Imagination: Creativity Under Our Noses
Author: Ursula Kolbe
Publisher: Peppinot Press, $29.95 RRP
Publication Date: 20 January 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780975772232
For ages: Adult
Type: Non-fiction