Our fast paced world requires people to constantly adapt and innovate. In 2020 alone, the world witnessed complex issues ranging from mitigating air pollution in cities to effective health responses to a global pandemic. Creativity, one of the 21st Century learning skills, is essential to nurture among children in order to better prepare them for the social and economical challenges of the future. Thus, creativity has the ability to help in future success (i.e. college and workplace readiness). Creativity has been valued throughout history, education, and culture. However, modern concepts and misinterpretations (myths) of teaching and enhancing creativity are still fairly new to parents, educators, and students.
Dr. Myles Lynch, Ph.D. in Education from the University of New Hampshire, hosted a seminar on “Understanding and Nurturing Your Child’s Creativity” during the Point Avenue’s Mid-Autumn events. Dr. Lynch is passionate about supporting parents and educators who want to foster their children’s creative skills. During the seminar, parents learned how to cultivate their child’s creativity through a series of creative activities and suggestions.
Creativity is a way of thinking differently, sometimes referred to as “thinking outside of the box”. Creativity varies from “Big C” or dealing with major world issues (i.e. pollution and poverty) to “Little C” in daily activities (i.e.navigating traffic, making meals, etc.). Interestingly, creativity is not age specific and it spans beyond purely arts and aesthetics and has more broad application towards fields such as math, science, and technology. Therefore, creativity is an ongoing process that involves more than purely risk-taking and individual work. Dr. Lynch explained that creativity is important because it promotes self-expression, critical thinking, problem solving, and at the same time reduces stress and boosts your mental health.
Well-known techniques to be more creative included: brainstorming, frequent exercise, divergent thinking and the Wallas model were discussed. Additionally, Dr. Lynch summarized the following methods to nourish your children’s ingenuity in accordance with six elements of creativity: Risk/Courage, Play, Exploration, Collaboration, Perseverance and Social Context.
1. Create a Space and Environment for Creativity
Creativity is enhanced when a child is encouraged to think differently and let go of complete certainty. Children should be given the freedom to be divergent in their thoughts and parents should provide a safe environment to be different and experiment.
Children’s screen time affects their creativity and is an aspect parents should consider. By limiting the amount of time spent using phones and watching TV, parents can make room for their children’s creative activities such as rehearsing a play, learning to draw, reading books, and creative self-expression.
2.The Value of Play
Parents and schools place a clear value and emphasis on learning in the form of getting good grades. However, unstructured play is an indispensable part of the development process. Parents are recommended to set up structured times and opportunities for unstructured, child-directed and imaginative play. In other words, when children are allowed to play freely, unencumbered by adults, they tend to be more creative and imaginative.
3. Explore and Fail Without Being Judged
As it takes courage to be creative and to fail, children should be encouraged by their parents and teachers to explore without being afraid of judgement and failure. An ideal environment for the development of creativity is when parents do not punish kids for providing an unexpected and potentially incorrect answer. Instead, parents should make sure their children feel comfortable experimenting and failing. In a creative environment, mistakes and failures are welcome as a part of the process and ‘weird’ or ‘strange’ answers should be encouraged.
Furthermore, as much as creativity is against punishment, parents should also not reward their children for being creative. Rewards for creative behavior create incentives that are actually interfering with intrinsic motivation to create and may not be placing emphasis on being creative for its own sake.
4. Ask, Share and Collaborate
Children should be given the opportunity to express and explain their creativity to different people. To enhance and encourage the creative process, parents need to ask and listen to what their child has to say with no judgement.
Asking the right questions is very important, because not only does this help better understand their child’s thinking process, it also boosts their critical thinking and communication skills. Therefore, rather than focusing on the achievement, parents and educators should ask questions that emphasize the creative process and instill the habit of self-reflection on children such as “What did you like the most about this activity?” or “Did you have fun?”. Always focusing on the result of creativity takes away from the process of being creative in the first place.
Adults as mentors should also integrate real-life issues and provide children with a chance to work with others and present their work to others. Creativity requires a level of social context and meaning outside of purely the classroom. Linking creative work to real world situations helps with intrinsic motivation.
In conclusion, fostering creativity for yourself and your children is no different from practicing a skill, planting a tree, or forming a healthy routine. Creativity takes the right mindset and a process of day-by-day work to master and refine. Therefore, creativity does not ‘just happen’ (like turning on a light switch) but rather takes years of work and progress to develop effectively. Dr. Lynch suggested that the earlier you start nurturing creativity for your child the better they will be prepared for the future demands of society. Adults have the opportunity to provide a creative environment for their child to help nurture the seed of innovation inside each person. Creativity must be allowed to grow using sufficient practice and an allowance for freedom.
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