Instilling Rather than Killing Creativity in Kids

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In his wildly popular TED talk, “Do schools kill creativity,” Sir Ken Robinson argues that the adult world needs to reimagine the educational process so that we are instilling rather than killing creativity in kids. Picasso, said Robinson, believed all kids were born artists until adults drained it out of them.

Or in one of our favorite quotes, psychologist Erik Erickson notes that: “You see a child play, and it is so close to seeing an artist paint, for in play a child says things without uttering a word. You can see how he solves his problems. You can also see what’s wrong. Young children, especially, have enormous creativity, and whatever’s in them rises to the surface in free play.”

Given that all of us – parents, coaches, counselors, teachers – are tasked with preparing our children for the future, it is incumbent on us to ensure that creativity is part of the extracurricular curriculum. Meaning that even if our child prefers sports, it is important, too, that we encourage him to consider art or dance or theatre. And, similarly, if our child favors painting, that we remind her of the creative potential of sport.

Research shows that truly creative people tend to be idea factories

Being the highly subjective topic that it is, finding definitive ways to foster creativity in kids is no easy task. And truth be told, there are tons of lists out there already. So we thought it best to be, uh, creative in our pursuit of creativity. Herewith, 5 non-intuitive steps to instilling creativity in kids.

1Ask What If?

To inspire creative thinking in kids, author Matt Richtel – he of Runaway Booger fame – uses “what if?” as a kind of “secret tunnel into the world of new ideas.” The secret, according to Richtel and child psychologists alike, is that ‘what if?’ inspires kids with a nonjudgmental, open-ended approach to problem solving. It also “helps children generate lots of potential ideas,” says Richtel, “and research shows that truly creative people tend to be idea factories.”

2Read Comics

In an era of digital-everything, it’s difficult to remember a time when kids routinely eagerly gobbled up comic books as early primers to longer forms of reading and eventually, literature. Comics still exist, of course, and more than a few artists got their start in the funny papers. And as Parents magazine points out, kids can be encouraged to create comics of their own as an early form of literary expression.

WHAT BEGINS AS A DOODLE … CAN KICK-START YOUR CHILD’S JOURNEY OF CREATIVE SELF-EXPRESSION

3Spare the Rewards

This one may seem a bit odd, but according to UC Berkeley, kids need to find – and express – their creative nature without expecting praise or reward from their parents. Children, says the school’s Greater Good Magazine, need “to develop mastery of creative activities that they are intrinsically motivated to do.” Otherwise, parents risk diluting the value of the creative process.

4Process Solve

It’s important to remember that the creative process, says Dr. Ben Michaels, is in fact a process. Meaning, that creativity is born out of our capacity to problem solve, see the world different, think outside the box. Michaels, a clinical psychologist, urges parents, coaches, counselors, etc., to teach children the value of problem solving. Urge kids – without helping – to think through a particular challenge and come up with a solution “and you will instill in them the joy that comes from imagining solutions to a problem.”

5Pay Attention

This one seems a bit self-evident, but apparently isn’t for the simple reason we adults tend to project our creative ideas (like everything else) onto our kids. So if you grew up painting or playing the piano, your inclination may be to encourage the same in your kids (with the added benefit of being able to help).

But as writer/mom Lori Garcia points out, every child is born with their own unique interests and passions. Remember, says Garcia, “What begins as a doodle on a folder, short story in a notebook, passion for performing, love of sports, or academic aptitude can kick-start your child’s incredible journey of creative self-expression.”

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