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Encouraging Creativity In Children
All children are born with the potential to be creative. However, their potential can be stifled if we do not take the care to stimulate and nurture that creativity. Our creativity shows who we are as a unique individual. Have you heard the saying – “there is no such thing as can’t.” We can and we will! Creativity is an important facet to any personality. It enables to see things in a different and unusual way. This is an important problem-solving skill throughout anyone’s lifetime – the ability to think of different alternatives to solve a problem. Or to see problems other may not have noticed and come up with effective solutions to those problems.
What is creativity?
What do you think creativity is? Write a list or short paragraph of how you would define creativity.
What is Creativity?
Creativity is originality, expressiveness, imaginative, to give rise to, to produce, to portray, to give character to, to evolve from one’s own thoughts, to bring into being, to conceive, to parent, to throw together, to give rise to.
There are many different aspects to creativity. It is basically the ability to produce new and useful ideas from everyday objects, and solutions to everyday problems and challenges. It is a translation of gifts and visions to produce something new and useful.
There is no one agreed definition of creativity. Creativity is mainly researched within the field of psychology. In this, it is usually claimed that being creative means being appropriate and novel.
So what are the personality traits of highly creative individuals?
Personality traits of Highly Creative Individuals
Creative individuals will be able to look at every day and familiar things in a new light. They will be able to see things that are out of the ordinary, not obvious.
A highly creative individual will –
1. Produce a wide range of ideas or solutions to problems and questions. Often, they will be unusual or clever.
2. They will show a lot of curiosity about things, constantly asking questions.
3. They will have interests in many different, unrelated areas.
4. They may develop collections of things based on their interests.
5. They may be willing to take risks.
6. May show heightened emotional sensitivity, for example, being particularly sensitive to beauty.
7. Often, they are willing to express their opinions without inhibition.
8. They will be tenacious and persistent about their ideas and projects.
9. Can often be conceived as non-conformist.
10. They may appear chaotic or disordered.
11. They may not seem to be interested in detail.
12. They do not fear being labeled as “different”.
13. May be unwilling to accept authoritarian pronouncements without detailed explanations of
why the pronouncement is correct.
14. Be open to constructive criticism.
15. They will often have a good sense of humour and see humour in situations that may not be obvious to others.
16. Highly creative individuals will often show intellectual play, often daydreaming or imagining. They may come out with new ideas, then are able to modify or improve on their ideas or the ideas of others.
Encouraging Creativity in Children – What not to do
Children develop creativity because of what we SHOW them, not because of what we tell them to do or not do. It is amazingly easy to discourage children from being creative, but why discourage it. It is easy to steal experiences from children, experiences in their culture, education and upbringing, because we do not encourage their creativity. Hennessy and Amabile (1992, Goleman, Kaufman and Ray, 1992 – The Creative Spirit) identified some common “creative killers” that are commonplace in our schools and homes.
Evaluation – Constantly looking at what children are doing, evaluating them, commenting on what they are doing, worrying about what they are doing can make them worry and not realize the value of what they are doing. Also, it can make them lose the enjoyment in the actual process of creating some thing.
Surveillance – You know how you feel when someone is standing over you watching what you are doing? You probably hate it, or start to make mistakes or get flustered. This surveillance or constantly watching children can have the same effect on children. It can make them feel as though they are under constant observation. It may make them resist the opportunity to take risks in their creativity or hide their creative abilities.
Rewards – Offering rewards and motivations for their creativity can reduce the need for the child to create things for creativity’s sake – for the enjoyment of creating something.
Competition – Creativity does not have to be about competition. We all have creative skills in different ways. If we encourage children to compete against each other, to create the best picture etc, it can reduce their creativity. There will always be one picture that is better than the others, there will always be one bit of junk modeling that is better than the others. Anything created by a child should be praised for its own value and worth, not compared to the models or pictures of other children.
Restricting Choice – If we TELL children what activities to engage in, it can reduce their curiosity and passion to create. They should be allowed to explore and experiment with their own creativity and method of production.
Over-Control – If we keep telling children how to do things, how we think they should do things, this can reduce the creativity and originality of the child. It can leave the child feeling that what they are doing is not good enough, a mistake or it is a waste of time trying something new.
Putting Pressure on Children – By putting pressure on children, it can actually give them an aversion to creativity. If we expect amazing results every time a child creates something, this can put unnecessary pressure onto them. This can again restrict their ability to perform or to experiment. Also, if our expectations are too great, it may be because they are beyond the child’s developmental level.
So how can we encourage children to be creative?
1. Encourage children to keep trying – they may be the most creative child in the world, but if they do not keep trying and do not see any task through to completion, we will not know how creative they are and can be.
2. Show appreciation for their efforts – praise them!
3. Try not to help them too much. Resist the temptation to take over or to finish the task for them.
4. Try not to supervise too much. Allow them to be spontaneous. Having self-confidence is essential to the development of their creativity.
5. Provide a creative atmosphere. Allow the child easy access to creative equipment, such as clay, drawing books, pens, paper. Provide them with toys that encourage creativity. If you’re worried that they may start drawing on the wall, ensure that they understand there are only certain areas they can do their “messy” play, such as the kitchen, or conservatory. Tell them often enough and this will sink in.
6. Daydreaming – daydreaming is an important process. It enables the child to imagine things and different outcomes. Some aspects of day dreaming are important for developing problem solving skills. BUT don’t let the child day dream TOO much. If you feel the child is sitting day dreaming too much, ask them to fill you in on their daydreams, perhaps they can lead to fun activities. For example, they tell you part of the day dream, then you fill it in a bit more, then they add a bit more and so on. It can then become a game.
7. Let the child be “different”. Let the child know that there is no “right” answer to a problem, they should be encouraged to be unique and innovative. If it doesn’t work this time, hey, who knows it might work out with another problem.
8. Encourage problem solving and planning in many different areas of their lives. When they solve a problem (or don’t solve it), encourage them to look at why and how they solved it, so they can use the skills in other areas.
9. If the child doesn’t want help, don’t pressurize them, but if they ask, offer them the support they want.
Children, like adults, need rules to live their lives by. Children need to learn to control their behaviour according to the situation and rules of society. There are times and places where creativity may not be important, for example, colouring on the wall with felt pens is obviously not appropriate in most households. However, there should be a balance between the times when children can be creative, explore and experiment. Sometimes choices should be restricted and direct instruction given, but at other times, children should be given the choice to explore and develop their creative abilities. It is important that the child does not go through life only learning about rules and conformity, not creativity and joy.
Encouraging Creativity in Children – Drama and Playacting
Drama and Playacting
Drama and playacting are great ways to encourage children to be creative. There are so many ways you can do this.
Pretending to be Anything
Ask them to pretend to be something – a cat, a dog, a giant, a car, a lawnmower, the world, a pencil sharpener – anything they want to be. Get them to think about what it is like to be a lawnmower or the world or a cat or a dog. This can also be done within the context of story telling. See the article on Story telling.
Get them to make noises that they imagine the thing they are copying would make.
Cut out some pictures and ask each child to pick a picture. They then have to pretend to be what’s on the picture for two minutes – a cat, a dog, a car – whatever’s on the picture.
Try and get them to be spontaneous.
Have an Adventure
Pretend something exciting is happening.
Get your children to shut their eyes, tell them the car can fly when their eyes are shut and they wish long enough. When they open their eyes and say it’s not flying, you can say – “well, that’s because you opened your eyes!” Then get them to imagine where you could fly to.
You see a man jogging. Ask them why they think he is running. Is he running away from pirates? Is he the world’s fastest runner? Is he running around the world? Where is he going to? The questions are endless.
If you really want to get into this, you could encourage children to put on plays. Ask them to make up a story, then they can act it out to you. Perhaps put on fancy dress costumes, use silly voices, make some props. It doesn’t have to be expensive or look fantastic. They should be able to use their imagination to do these things.
If they don’t want to make up a story, perhaps they could act out a story they already know.
If they really enjoy this, they could perhaps do the play for friends or other relatives – grandparents, aunts etc.
Again, making the props or costumes or inventing the story are ways to encourage them to think creatively.
The Shy Child
You will always find some children who are reluctant to get involved in this sort of creative play. Start with small steps. Perhaps they don’t want to appear “silly” in front of their siblings or friends. If they don’t to take part, perhaps encourage them to watch you and the other children playing. When they see how much fun it can be, hopefully they will want to take part. If they don’t, encourage them to be involved in some other way, such as handing out cards, making props, etc. It may be that they are not children who want to be involved in drama-type play, but they may be creative in other ways – drawing, colouring, creating props etc.
Don’t stifle their creativity – just encourage it in another direction!
Encouraging Creativity in Children – Junk Modelling
Junk Modelling – get your household junk (well, the clean kind anyway), boxes, toilet roll tubes, kitchen roll tubes, cereal boxes, paper anything you can find. Give the kids some glue, some pens, some scissors (if they’re old enough or help them if not) and let them loose. See what they come up with. A hotel? A house for their dolls? A cave? A car? An animal? Whatever is in their mind, they can create. If they sit their looking blankly, encourage them to “see” things differently. Pick up the cereal box and say, “doesn’t this look just like a house” “or a car” “or a spaceship?”
Doesn’t this toilet roll tube look like a rocket or a snake or a telescope?
Give them the ideas and let them run with them.
Encouraging Creativity in Children – Telling Stories
Stories – Stories are a brilliant way of encouraging creativity in children. You can do this in so many ways.
You tell the story – tell a story without a book. If you’re not a natural story teller, perhaps you could read a child’s book first and then perhaps change the names and make it slightly different. Then sit down with the child and tell them the story without a book. Make faces, do silly voices, encourage them to do the actions. You might feel silly at first, but the more you do it, the more you’ll find your own inner creativity!! And besides it’s fun to be silly sometimes!!
If you’re feeling brave, you might like to make up your own stories. Kids love stories involving themselves. Make the characters have their names. If you’ve got lots of children to tell the story to, this might not be a good idea, as some children might feel left out. But if you’ve got one, two, three or four kids with you, I’m sure you can think of different characters with their names. Don’t be worried about giving their names to animals or aliens or cars or whatever. Children will usually think that is really funny. Bear in mind the child though, if you don’t think they’ll find it funny to be a pig or an alien, then think of something else.
Adults and Children
Tell a story together. You can start this in a simple way. You can all say a sentence, so you might start.
“One day, it was very dark and Bill was in bed when he heard a loud noise.”
Then one of the children says a sentence –
“Bill was scared, he didn’t know what it was.”
Then another –
“He thought it might be his pet alien, Nigel”. Etc etc
Let them be as silly as possible – being silly can lead to great imaginative stories. Then you can go on and on. Other adults can also be involved.
When doing this, be wary of it going on for too long and becoming boring.
If it seems to be going nowhere, start another story.
If the children don’t seem interested, get them to start the story instead of you. They might pick something that is more interesting to them then.
Ask the child to tell you a story. Ask them to make one up. You may find that at the beginning the stories are a bit short or a bit repetitious, but the more you encourage the child, the better a storyteller they will become.
If they struggle with this, get a picture book (without words if possible) and ask them to make up a story around the pictures. Or show they pictures from any book, such as a book about fish, or animals or houses and ask them to use those to make up the story.
If you’re feeling really creative, get the children to cut out lots of pictures from magazines or draw lots of pictures. Put the pictures on cards. Then sit in a circle. Each child (and adults) picks up a card and has to carry on the story from there.
If the children seem to find story telling really difficult, go back to basics. Show them a picture and ask them to imagine something. For example, show them a picture of an old man. Ask them how old they think he is, what they think his name is, is he friendly, is he grumpy, is he happy etc. Do this often and it will encourage them to think more about things they see around them.
Do the same with animals. Ask them to give a name to the animal, a personality, what do they like to eat – again encourage them to make up silly things, as well as “real” things the animal may eat.
Above all, books are still a VERY important part of the creativity process. Read to your child, do it whenever you can. Don’t just leave it until bedtime. Reading can be a great part of a bedtime routine, but it shouldn’t be the only time. Some parents may find that their child is really tired at bedtime and doesn’t want a story then, so why not read during the day. Sit down with your child anytime you can and read them a story.
If you struggle to find the time for whatever reason, ask another adult to read to them. If you have an older child, ask them to read to the younger children – this will improve their reading skills as well.
Above all, remember story telling should be FUN!
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