004: How to encourage creativity and artistic ability in young children – Interview with Dr. Tara Callaghan


I’m so excited to welcome my first guest on the Your Parenting Mojo podcast: Professor Tara Callaghan of St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.   Professor Callaghan has spent a great number of years studying the emergence of artistic ability in young children and she shares some of her insights with us.  This is a rather longer episode than usual so here are some places you might want to skip ahead to if you have specific interest:

3:55: The connection between individuality and creativity, especially in Western cultures

9:00: What is “symbolic representation” and why is the development of symbolic representation an important milestone for young children?

12:10: Is it helpful for parents to ask a child “What are you drawing?”

15:25: When do children understand symbols?

31:15: What can parents do to support children’s development of symbolic representation in particular and artistic ability in general?


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Callaghan, T.C., Rackozy, H., Behne, T., Moll, H, Lizkowski, U., Warneken, F., & Tomasello, (2011). Early social cognition in three cultural contexts. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 76(2), Serial Number 299. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mono.2011.76.issue-2/issuetoc

Callaghan, T. & Corbit, J. (2015). The development of symbolic representation. In Vol. 2 (L. Liben & U. Muller, Vol. Eds.) of the 7th Edition (R. Lerner, Series Ed) of the Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science (pp. 250-294). New York: Wiley.

Callaghan, T., & M. Rankin (2002). Emergence of graphic symbol functioning and the question of domain specificity: A longitudinal training study. Child Development, March/April 2002, 73:2, 359-376.

Callaghan, T., P. Rochat & J. Corbit (2012). Young children’s knowledge of the representational function of pictoral symbols: Development across the preschool years in three cultures.  Journal of Cognition and Development, 13:3, 320-353. Available at: http://www.psychology.emory.edu/cognition/rochat/lab/CALLAGHAN,%20ROCHAT,%20&%20CORBIT,%202012.pdf

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Jolley, R.P. (2010). Children and pictures: Drawing and understanding. Wiley-Blackwell, Cichester, England.

Jolley, R. P. & S. Rose (2008). The relationship between production and comprehension of representational drawing. In Children’s understanding and production of pictures, drawings, and art (C. Milbrath & H.M. Trautner (Eds)). Boston, MA, Hogrefe Publishing.  Chapter available at: http://www.staffs.ac.uk/personal/sciences/rj2/publications/Jolley%20and%20Rose%20chapter.pdf

Kellogg, R. (1970). Analyzing Children’s Art. Mayfield Publishing Company, Mountain View, CA.

Preissler, M.A., and P. Bloom. Two-year-olds use artist intention to understand drawings. Cognition 106:512-518. Full article available at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Rochat, P. & T. Callaghan (2005). What drives symbolic development? The case of pictoral comprehension and production. In L. Namy (Ed.) Symbol use and symbolic representation. Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc. Chapter available at: http://www.psychology.emory.edu/cognition/rochat/lab/WhatDrivesSymbolicDevelopment.pdf

Winner, E. (1985). Invented worlds: The psychology of the arts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard.


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