Many assume that creativity is something that you're born with; either you have the creative gene, or you don't. Inherent creativity is the first misconception. No one is born entirely creative, or for that matter completely uncreative. Being creative is a skill rather than inborn talent; therefore, it is possible to develop creativity, and furthermore, parents should foster creativity in their children!
The second misconception is to assume that creativity equates with artistic talents and expression exclusively. Equation with art is simply not right. While it is a fact that most artists are creative beings, art is just one of the many manifestations of creativity. You don’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, or the new Picasso, or an Oscar-winning actor to be creative. Creativity is the essential core component to the success of everything we do — it is necessary for science, math, social, and emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, no matter what they do, which makes them more able to adapt to advances and deal with change — as well visualize new opportunities to their fullest potential.
A third misconception is that the creativity quotient (CQ) is not as essential to educational and life success as the intelligence quotient (IQ). I am not sure why most people consider IQ and not CQ when referring to the academic prowess of an individual, but to say CQ is not as important to IQ is blatant misinformation. Fifty years ago, psychologist Paul Torrance invented the test that has become the gold standard for assessing CQ in children. Millions of children all over the world have taken the test, consisting of more than 90-minutes of discrete creative tasks. The longitudinal studies conducted in the half century of data from the testing found that children who tested high in CQ grew up to become highly renowned and groundbreaking entrepreneurs, computer developers, scientists, mathematicians, artists, researchers, and political leaders. The correlation to significant lifetime achievement was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity (CQ) than childhood intelligence (IQ).
Until 1990 the CQ scores of children steadily rose — as a result of healthy family relationships and quality education, both key components to helping children develop creativity. Since 1990 the creativity scores for children have been on a steady decline. Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary has been analyzing creativity scores among children and said about the decline, “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant." She goes on to qualify that it is the scores of younger children in America — those from kindergarten through sixth grade — for whom the decline is “most serious.”
It is an indisputable fact that children who grow up to make significant creative contributions as adults develop their creative thinking propensity in the stability and order of cohesive families and supportive schools that channel, accept, and broaden the child’s talent. Sadly, our public schools of today have rid their curriculum of creative development as a core competency, in spite of it being the strongest predictor of success in adult life. Unfortunately, America — unlike China and Europe — is failing to understand that the old education model of 'read, recite, regurgitate' needs replacement with a model rooted in problem-based, hands-on learning. Policy makers in China and Europe understand that a generation devoid of creative thinkers is highly unlikely to create a prosperous future.
It is all too easy to look in a general sense at the overall picture and point exclusive blame to a lack of quality family time and a faulty educational paradigm. While there is no argument that these are contributing factors, modern day researchers also believe we have fundamentally changed the experience of childhood in such a way that impairs creative development. In this vein of thought, we can't ignore the pointless preoccupation with the electronics toys and devices that we provide for our children, which are diverting them from engaging in more creative play and activities. Toy and entertainment companies also feed kids an endless stream of prefab characters, images, props, and plot-lines that allow children to put their imaginations to rest. Children no longer need to visualize a stick as a sword in a game or story they’ve imagined — their playtime is often more contrived. For instance, they can play Star Wars with a mass-produced light-saber and costume designed for a very particular role. These things too are contributing to the overall numbing of creativity for modern-day children.
The other consideration is that children, as they age, rapidly lose the ability to develop their creative thinking skills. By the time a child reaches adolescence, the way in which their brain creatively processes is largely fixed. The more you encourage your children to use their minds to think more creatively, especially at a young age, the more likely you are to raise exceptionally creative children.
So as parents, what can we do to foster creativity in our children at any age?
• Allow time for and encourage unstructured, child-directed, imaginative play — especially for young children. There is nothing better to foster a child's creativity than unscripted creative play.
• Be sure to purchase open-use toys for your children that encourage unscripted play. For instance, bins of random Lego pieces allow children to use their imaginations more and therefore are better at fostering creativity than the Lego sets that script building one very specific thing.
• Make your home a Petri dish for creativity. Designate spaces for creative messes made when doing creative projects, like art. Although you don't have to be an artist to be a creative person, art is a great activity to help children develop their creativity. Again, purchase toys and games that promote creativity rather than mindless activity.
• Creating creativity should be an on-going discussion and process in the home. Brainstorm creative ideas together, as a family, according to everyone's interests. Every idea for creative time is a good one, and none should ever be discounted.
• Teach your children that making mistakes is okay because children who are afraid of failure will curb their creative thoughts for fear of chiding and/or ridicule.
• When children do make a mistake and let's face it, they are bound to — don't correct them with a reprimand, rather ask them why and talk about what they have done. This reaction on your part will not only correct your children and teach them the right thing to do, but it will also teach them to question things. And questioning things is paramount to the creative mind.
• Celebrate their creativity! Make sure you proudly display any evidence of creative expression and boast about their creative accomplishments to others.
• Don't incentivize creativity. An example of this would be, rewarding children for practicing their musical instrument. That just doesn't work; creativity can't be coaxed or bought, it must happen naturally.
• Remove any external constraints — in other words; it's okay to color outside the lines! Allow children total creative freedom.
• Provide opportunities for divergent thought. Differing opinions is a good thing when it comes to problem-solving and can show children that there may not always be just one answer to a problem or one path to discovering the correct answer.
• Respond to your children's questions with a question, rather than providing them with the answer. Encouraging your children to seek out knowledge by gathering information and making deductions based on the information they gather is a form of creative problem-solving and crucial to the creative mind.
• Reward efforts rather than results. Remember that the learning process is what enhances creative thinking; therefore, celebrate that process regardless of the success or unsuccess of the outcome.
• Limit electronic devices and screen time! Instead, encourage reading and participation in creative activities.
• Problem-solve and fix things as a family. If something breaks around the house, resist the temptation to run out and purchase a replacement. Instead, problem-solve to find a creative solution for fixing.
No matter what activities you provide your children with to develop their creativity, from art to Legos, remember that it is possible to and you should foster creativity for them. Chances are their public school isn't doing it, and you taking this task on is a way to ensure your children grow into inventive, imaginative, and innovative adults who think outside the box.
We'd love to hear how you foster creativity in your children, please comment below. We’ll send the first ten people who comment a free set of our high-quality acrylic paints in glass paint pots!
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