The good news is that children are naturally creative.
The bad news is that science documents that creativity levels have been dropping in North American children for the last 20-25 years. I expect the same results, slightly delayed, in western European countries [source needed]. This means that many of today’s kids will not be ready to meet the challenges of the adult world a decade or two from now.
We know that creativity is a skill that every adult is likely to need, regardless of which profession he or she winds up in. The paradox is that our current education systems shackles creativity.
Thankfully, there are some things parents, teachers and other grown-ups can do to help kids retain and even build on their natural creativity. While some kids are more creative than others, all humans have a minimum level of natural creativity within them.
Gratitude for Early Inspiration
While not having kids of my own. This article is created in gratitude to the people helping build my creative foundation. The very foundation on which I’ve during the last two decades grown a career doing full time creative work. The following are reflections on a creative childhood and tips on how to inspire children to reach their full creative potential.
Exposing Children to Art
Expose children to a wide range of creative media. Classic art with various colours, characters and an interesting setting can be used as a springboard, as can a short animation, a piece of classical music, a photo or even a design sewn on a piece of cloth. The more exposure children have to various sources of inspiration, the more practice they gain, in using their inherent sense of creativity to think deeply about the world around them.
Talk About Creativity and Inspiration
My grandfather a bookbinder by profession had marvellous handmade art books, and often asked me what I thought about different works of art. Ask children to tell you a story about what they think is happening in a picture. There are few things as amusing than hearing a child explain a work by Dalí, Max Ernst or M.C. Escher.
Simply asking a child what he or she thinks about a particular work of art is not enough, as chances are the child will reply with a one½ -liner such as “It’s nice”, “cool” or “It’s OK.”. Instead, you will want to ask children questions such as “How does the main character feel?”, “How do the colours in this design/picture/animation make you feel?” or “Do the shapes in this work of art remind you of something in particular?” Naturally, you will want to tailor your questions to suit the age of the child.
Alternatively, you can have the child watch a short animation and then ask the child what he or she thinks will happen next. This activity is particularly fun when done with a group of children, as each child will likely come up with a different answer.
With a group of children, allow them time to ask and answer questions. When one child makes a statement, others should be allowed to ask for clarification, make comments and give their own opinions. Children often derive inspiration from one another, so do not deprive them of time to talk together about a particular work of art.
Finally, allow children to express their feelings and reactions to a particular work of art in the manner they feel most comfortable with. Some children have an aptitude for writing; such kids will often want to write down their feelings, observations and inferences rather than share them aloud. Others may want to draw a picture depicting how they feel; in such instances, a child could view a picture and then draw how the picture makes them feel, what the picture reminds them of, what they think will happen to the characters in the picture, etc.
Older children can be encouraged to create short animations. With great apps for smartphones, this is much simpler to do than it was in times past and is yet another great form of creative expression.
The importance of teaching children to think and express themselves creatively should never be underestimated. Creative thinking is about more than inspiring a child to be imaginative. It also enables kids to think critically, make connections and communicate clearly. Additionally, it enables a child to sort through ideas and determine which are the most logical and applicable. It does not take much time or work to help a child use his or her creative skills and the rewards are in my experience more than worth it.
- Give children chances to make age-appropriate choices for artistic expression.
- Expose children to a wide variety of quality art.
- Discuss the art with them, this is can be great fun for both of you.
- Encourage the development of the creative process over rote memorization of facts. If you are concerned about this, learn a mnemonic technique together with the child too.
- Teach children to challenge assumptions. (this might feel like it backfires when they hit the rebellion years ;-))
- Foster imagination and curiosity by exposing children to a diversity of situations and people.
- Give children plenty of creative opportunities.
- Get upset when children make mistakes. Mistakes are, in fact, one of the best ways to learn how to do (or not do) things. Business professionals* have found that their mistakes have led to ultimate success. (*me, and others)
- Cut children off when they ask questions.
- Expect that a child who watches TV or plays computer games all day long will turn out to be creative and innovative.
- Scold the child for being too inactive, Instead take an participatory role yourself.
- Do things for your child that he or she can do without help.
The Gift of Creative Courage Is Long Lasting
. Kids are very creative. When growing up, I learned not to stop.As a child I experienced elation, when my mother’s weird artist friends visited. Their hubbub and antics, today -many years later, is still a source of inspiration. Continuously I draw courage to create, by their daring to live creative lifes, by their openness, and their encouragement
Any grown up who works with a child has a golden opportunity to enhance that child’s creative skills. Teachers can help children learn processes rather than only helping them memorize facts. Parents can teach children how to make their own decisions, think critically and offer opportunities for children to expand their thinking and try new things. Grandparents, uncles, aunts and other relatives who interact with children can also play a role in helping kids retain and expand their creativity.
Creativity must be seen not only as something nice but as a necessity. The world of today requires it; the world of tomorrow will require it even more. Any adult who teaches a child to be creative is ensuring future growth, progress and innovation. While enjoying rich opportunities for having fun.
Thanks to the wonderful tweeps helping with feedback, inspiration and cool children’s drawings. In no particular order:
charl meyer, Truthright7, Ross Middleham, Bobbi Klein, Ross Middleham, Anders Munck.
Cover drawing by Sophie 8 years old.
More Information On Kids and Creativity:
TED: Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? (20 min.)
RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson
The Creativity Crisis (65 min.)
Kyung Hee Kim at The University of Georgia College of Education
Discovering Your Creative Side
By Bobbi Klein
As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity
By Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College
Smart? Yes. Creative? Not so much.*
By Erin Zagursky at William & Mary
The Creativity Crisis*
By Po Bronson And Ashley Merryman at Newsweek
*Previous two articles linked were based on research by Dr. Kyung-Hee Kim, Associate Professor of Creativity & Innovation at The College of William & Mary.