There is a popular myth that creativity is a quality that we either have or don’t have, like freckles or brown eyes. It is often being linked with being artistic, uninhibited, somewhat wild and expressive, but both ideas are just that: pure myth.
In reality, creativity is not a separate part of the brain that functions only in certain people. It is just as possible to be creative in science, technology, business and in the kitchen as it is in music, art dance and writing or indeed, in any activity that engages human intelligence real creativity comes from finding your passion. When we find a medium we love, and in which we thrive, we discover creative strength.
Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Children seem to lose their powers of imagination and creativity as they grow up. What happens? Unfortunately what happens all too often is children being to experience failure, this causes them to feel self conscious and begin to question themselves. Once this begins to happen the windows to the imagination begin to close. If children feel anxious about the outcome they are unlikely to employ the creative thinking skills, such as logic and reasoning, which will enable them to learn from the process.
The main purpose of education is to develop people who can cope with and contribute to the rate of change in this century, people who are flexible and have found their creative talents. Unfortunately most schools teach to pass tests and focus on academic ability. Academic ability essentially a capacity for certain verbal and mathematical reasoning. This is obviously important, however it does not represent variety of human intelligences and it certainly is not guaranteed to lead to the development of creativity.
In today’s pressured society children often grow out of their creativity! As Carl Jung puts it, the creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect alone but by the play instinct, when the creative mind plays with the objects it loves.
Is a lack of play the reason children grow out of their creativity? I believe the answer to this is yes! In order to help our children retain and further develop their creativity we need to develop their motivation, interest, effort and opportunities in which creativity thrive.
Creative ideas don't grow in a vacuum. Individual creativity is motivated by encouragement and stimulated by the ideas and achievements of other people, so children need parents, teachers, friends and mentors to support them.
Creative insights occur when risk-taking and experimentation are encouraged, rather than stifled. When children are free from pressure to perform they make connections between ideas or experiences that were previously unconnected, so conditions at home and at school can kindle or kill creativity.
People who have achieved great things in their field are often driven by a love of their subject, a real passion for the nature of the processes involved. To inspire curiosity about a wide range of activities, encourage your child's original ideas and interests, however quirky they may seem. We can raise children's levels of sensory perception by increasing experiences:
Going for walks outside, listening to music, going to the theatre, playing on the beach, mixing finger paints, cooking and encouraging physical activity.
Creativity takes mental discipline so set children a framework of positive discipline to guide them. Great works of art often come from working within formal constraints. Some of the finest English poetry is written in the sonnet form which has a fixed 14 line, rhyming structure which the poet must follow. Rather than inhibiting the writer's creativity, this sets a framework for it to achieve unique effects and original insights.
Creativity involves making judgments about ideas. There may be failures and changes before the best outcome is reached. Children will benefit from supportive, constructive conversations that enable them to evaluate which ideas work and which don't, make judgments and think critically about their efforts.
Creativity is enriched by a mix of knowledge, interest, feelings, intuition and imagination. Provide a wide range of experiences to enable children to find the right medium for their personal strengths, those that release their creative capacities. Allow them time, space and independence to develop their expertise and learn to control the media they choose. That means freedom to play, to experiment and take risks, opportunities for conversation to understanding their feelings, and parents who are prepared to say "yes" to mess!
It is through play that children are given the opportunity to explore, discover, experiment and make mistakes. These processes are vital in developing the creative thinking skills which a child can carry with him or her through life. Make time for all different kinds of play.
This is where children interact with others in play settings. During dramatic or pretend play children often substitute a real object with a pretend one, for example, using a block for a mobile phone. This indicates the ability for abstract thinking, which is a higher level of thinking. Children learn social rules such as give and take, co-operation and sharing. To function effectively in the adult world, children need to participate in play, like pretending to talk on the telephone, driving a car or cooking a meal; activities that the adults in their lives are often engaged in. The language used during pretend play is more imaginative, vocabulary is used at a higher level and language structure is more complex than a child would use during daily, routine activities.
Children learn a lot about the importance of social contracts and rules when they play games like “What is the time Mr. Wolf?”, “Simon Says”, or “Musical Statues”. They learn that the game will only be fun if they work together and follow the rules of the game. Creativity does require logical thinking and games can be a great way to develop that.
Building with blocks and other construction toys gives children the opportunity to discover different properties of materials, their sizes, shapes and weights. They learn about spatial concepts, sorting, patterning, comparing and classifying which are all very important for learning more complex mathematics as well as literacy concepts. As there is no single correct way of using these open ended, manipulative toys, they help to develop children’s diverse thinking and problem solving skills. All of this leads to the development of creative thinking.
A variety of containers and other objects made available to children along with a tub full of water provide an enjoyable way for them to experiment with pouring, floating and sinking. Filling up different containers, pouring water from one container to another gives them the opportunity to discover how much different containers hold, which two hold the same amount etc. thus, learning about comparing and estimating.
The interesting texture of sand, how it runs or flows when dry and can be sculpted when wet fascinates children. It provides endless possibilities for learning about measuring, digging, burying ‘treasure’, drawing maps, and hunting for objects. The amount of science and mathematical concepts which can be experienced and therefore fully understood during sand play are numerous.
Both sand and water play develop not only scientific and mathematical thinking skills but also enable children to explore and be creative at the same time.
Helpful hints to help develop creative skills at home
At Chiltern House review, students are taught to use their imagination and creativity in order to facilitate learning.
Q. My Preschooler seems to have an imaginary playmate. How do I handle this?
A. Imaginary friends are really quite common in young children and toddlers and are generally no cause for concern. They can be wonderful and trusted confidants and can make the best companions for imaginary and creative play. Accept the imaginary friend and do not openly disagree with his or her existence. This will mean your child may talk quite openly about his imaginary playmate and this will in turn give you unique insight into his thoughts and feelings which you might not have access to otherwise.
Be careful the imaginary friend is not the only friend and ensure your preschooler has lots of opportunities to mix with his or her more real friends and peers. Usually the imaginary friend slowly vanishes, or in some cases takes a sudden trip when your child is around 5 or 6 years old. Unless the relationship with the imaginary friend continues beyond this age and is getting in the way of other friendships I would not be anxious about this.
Q. I have absolutely no imagination and have no idea what to do with dolls. How can I best play with my little one to foster her imagination and creative skills?
A. Firstly, I am quite sure you do have an imagination you just need to unearth it! Your daughter will be able to help you there. If you are unsure on how to lead the play, one idea would be to start with a very familiar story, Little Red Riding Hood, or take Dora on an adventure. Your daughter will very likely be able to give you lots of ideas and storylines to follow. Just remember there is no right or wrong, Little Red Riding Hood can wear a rainbow coloured cape and be going to visit her best friend! Have fun!
Q. Can toys foster creativity in my child? How do I know which ones are worth buying?
A. Yes, certain toys do enable children to extend their creative play. The toys that do this allow for open-ended and unstructured play. Toys that do not allow for creative exploration are toys which have a very limited range, for example many toys which are tied to movies or TV shows have only one way in which they can be used. This restricts any possible creativity. Toys such as play-dough, all art materials, musical instruments, dress-up, wooden blocks and animal for people figures all allow for a great deal of flexibility in how they are used. In my house Lego is a huge hit and my 7 year old son has spent many, many hours engrossed in creating spaceship and time travel machine of increasing complexity.
Q. My son shows no interest in art, music or drama. Should I bother trying to get him to be creative or accept him for who he is?
A. Creative people have been identified as having several factors in common: a delight in deep thinking, tolerance for mistakes and finding different approaches, a passion for their work, a clear sense of mission or purpose, an acceptance of being different and a level of comfort in being a minority of one. Creative thinkers are needed in every area of life, not only the arts. Encourage your son to follow his passions, motivate him to try and try again and celebrate all his effort and lesson learnt. He can be as creative as any other person!