“Young children have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world”.[i]
There is a lot of talk about creativity and the importance of creative thinking. Creativity is seen as a key skill which helps people to discover, invent, imagine and innovate. Creative thinking allows us to problem solve, to explore and to come up with alternative solutions to challenges. As Ken Robinson, the well- known educationalist, author and speaker states,
“Curiosity is the engine of achievement.”[ii]
However, can we all be creative? Is this something all children are born with or is it just a talent for a privileged few? Can creativity be taught or at least encouraged in our children? Is creativity something that is inbuilt in our genes or do we all inherit this potential?
What is creativity?
Creativity is “the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something.”[iii] It also involves a process whereby new and imaginative ideas are turned into reality. It can encompass a huge range of activities from art and design, to music and theatre, to writing and to the harder to define aspects of ‘thinking outside the box’! It helps us to problem solve and to explore and create solutions. However, the most important thing to remember is that creativity is not about the product itself, but about the process: it is about the thought processes and skills that go into creating a product.
Children are born creative beings
Is creativity something that we are either born with or not? Science has shown that there is no such thing as a ‘creative gene’ which would allow some to be creative and others to be less so. Rather, we all have potential for creativity and we can all develop and strengthen our creativity throughout our lives.
Research also shows that creativity declines as we get older. This is particularly true of children from when they get to the age to go to kindergarten or nursery. As Ken Robinson explains,
“Young children are wonderfully confident in their own imaginations. Most of us lose this confidence as we grow up.”[iv]
This is down to a variety of factors – not least the education system that most of us grow up in, which focusses on standardised tests and ‘getting it right’!
Why is creativity important?
Creativity helps many aspects of a child’s development:
- Emotional health – creativity allows children to express themselves which encourages emotional well-being. A child who is able to express how they feel will have a greater sense of ‘self’ and greater self-confidence as a result.
- Cognitive development – creativity allows a child the freedom to come up with new ideas, to try out their ideas, to experiment and to develop problem-solving and thinking skills. These are all valuable life skills.
- Independence – encouraging creativity in a child, and creative thinking, will also help a child to gain independence. They will have confidence in their own abilities to think about issues, to experiment and to come up with solutions.
- Physical development – paints, glue, scissors and other tools associated with the creative arts will all contribute towards a child’s fine motor development and also their hand and eye co-ordination. This, in turn, will help with both their reading and their writing development.
How can we encourage creativity in our children?
Parents and carers can encourage their children to be creative from a very early age.
- Model it in your home through your own behaviour; reading books, listening to music, trying out new recipes, talking about interesting topics, rearranging the house furniture even!
- Provide the equipment and materials needed for creative arts – paints, glue, junk modelling, hand- made musical instruments etc. Giving your child the experiences which encourage creative expression is so helpful.
- Encourage mistakes! Let your children learn through their own mistakes. Talk about what has gone wrong and support them in finding their own solutions to the problems they face. As a tiny child, this might just be how to fit a round peg into a square hole but rather than doing it for them, let them try and help them to find other ways of achieving their goal.
- Encourage creative thinking – as your child gets a little older, help them to express their ideas and show an interest in their thinking. Avoid, as much as you can, the idea that there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way to do something. They may surprise you and come up with a completely new way which works!
- Provide free play time – when nothing is actually planned and the play is directed by your child. This is so important for a child as it allows them the freedom to organise their own play and to play in a way that is meaningful to them.
- Have lots of fun!
Creativity for the future
Children are natural inventors and creators. They have vivid imaginations and have a wonderful way of using things in a completely different way to the one that was intended. How many of us have seen a laundry basket become a pirate ship? Or a stick that is picked up in the woods become a sword for fighting an imaginary dragon? Encourage this and join in! It’s fun and you will be helping your child to develop the sort of brain that will help them to face the challenges of the workplace and 21st-century life. We need to try to capture their natural creativity and innovation when they are little, feed it, nurture it and help it to flourish into something strong and sustainable for the future. What are you doing to help foster the creativity of your child? Are you letting them be creative in all its forms or are you holding back because of the mess? Think about what you value at work, is it those who do as they are told, in the way that they are told? Or do you also need some people who think, dream, imagine, and create? Are you helping your child find their inner creative?
[i] Ma, J. (n.d.) founder of Alibaba, philanthropist and entrepreneur.
[ii] TED (n.d.). How to escape education's Death Valley. [image] Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley/transcript?language=en#t-4079 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2018].
[iii] Murray, J., Bradley, H., Craigie, W. and Onions, C. (1961). The Oxford English dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
[iv] Robinson, K. and Aronica, L. (2014). The element. New York: Penguin Books.