Big C and Small c Creativity

I bet you didn’t know there are two different categories of creativity. I didn’t until I started looking into it. But those people who think about these things have identified and named these as ‘Big C’ and ‘small c’ creativity.

‘Big C’ Creativity
This refers to an elite definition of creativity. This is reserved for people who have come up with something that makes a difference in the world. This applies to all disciplines including the sciences and the arts. These amazing people (or geniuses) move thinking forward in their field of work and are generally remembered for their achievements – Einstein, Picasso and Curie to name a few.

But most people don’t fall into this category and it isn’t a very useful way of thinking about creativity when relating it to early years education.

Small c Creativity
So, ‘small c’ creativity is the definition we’re interested in. This is the kind of creativity we want to help support in the children we care for.

‘Small c’ creativity is when individuals find ways of doing things. It’s a process of finding a solution to a problem and is about the resourcefulness of ordinary people. You can think of ‘small c’ creativity as being about personal invention.

When thought of in this way it’s easy to see that we are all being creative every day. For example, a child may be trying to place a piece into a puzzle, and keeps trying the same way until suddenly he thinks to turn it a bit and then finds it slots in easily. That’s ‘small c’ creativity at work.

Our ‘small c’ creativity can be inspired by our environment. This includes the people we interact with, the places we go, what we read and so on. So you, as an early year’s educator, are important in nurturing children’s creativity. No pressure then.

Nurturing Creativity
I’ve already covered some of this in my blog post ‘What is Creativity?’ But that mainly relates to arts projects.

You can also help by:

asking open questions – see my blog on how to do that
tolerating ambiguity
being a role model
encouraging experimentation and persistence
praising children who provide unexpected answers.

Remember, creativity is not subject specific. It’s a way of approaching problem solving which can be applied right across the curriculum. So you can be nurturing creativity throughout the whole day.


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