Are children emotionally and creatively intelligent?

Why Is an arts centre in Spain KEEN TO influencE children's environments and experiences from birth?

According to the Botin Foundation in Santander, emotional intelligence is one of the most important faculties in the human brain, and therefore one of the most crucial aspects of learning. That's why they are building one of Spain's largest contemporary art centres in Santander with a core focus on the role of the arts in developing emotional intelligence in children. The even more exciting news about this development is that they will be extending their education focus to include early years, recognising the importance of influencing children's environments and experiences from birth.

I had the privilege to present some thinking about the way young children learn and develop at the Botin Foundation Summer School in Santander last week, entitled: Sleeping beauty II: Awakening creativity through the Arts and Emotions. Invited by the wonderful Fatima Sanchez, Education Director and soon to become the Executive Director of the new centre, I explored some ideas around what happens to the young brain when creative, social and emotional opportunities are not available, and how we can recognise emotional intelligence in children.

One research programme that is particularly pertinent in exploring this question is the work done by Dr Edward Tronick, Professor of Psychology and director of the Child Development Unit at the University of Massachusetts Boston, on the importance of communication bonds between parent and child. His video, the Still Face Experiment, highlights what happens when that social and emotional bond is threatened and the child's attachment arms her with a range of tools and strategies in an attempt to regain her mother's interaction. If this isn't a clear illustration of how emotionally intelligent this child is, then I don't know what is.

I have written more on what constitutes emotional and creative intelligence in another article: Where is the social, emotional and brain science behind our early education? This attempts to identify some of the deeper aspects of early brain development, and why this should be at the core of all our learning systems.

Amongst the eminent speakers at the summer school (which included Anna Cutler, Director of Learning at the Tate, London; Pablo Fernández  Berrocal, Director of the Emotions Lab at the Universidad de Málaga, Spain; visual artist, Carsten Höller; and Mario Alonso Puig, Doctor, Surgeon and international Speaker on Leadership, Communication and Creativity), I was also hugely impressed by the work of Zorana Ivcevic Pringle. Zorana is a research scientist and personality psychologist at Yale University and now contracted to be the first Principle Investigator at the Botin Foundation on their new collaboration with Yale and Banco Santander - Emotional intelligence, Creativity and the Arts.

The Botin Foundation's work is incredibly forward thinking and Earlyarts will be keeping in touch as they explore the role of emotions and emotion skills in the creative process. In the meantime, do have a look at the more detailed article on the role of creativity and emotions in early brain development here.

Author Ruth Churchill Dower is the Director of Earlyarts