Schools must devote most of their instruction time to reading, writing and math, leaving parents to wonder, where does creativity and critical thinking fit in the educational process? Many of us worry that imagination is not being nurtured as much as it should be to encourage creative thinking. Where do children learn to free themselves from the expectations of others, to pursue their passions?
Children’s creative qualities
Children naturally possess several creative qualities:
- Curiosity. Children are inherently curious. They want to explore to find their own answers to perplexing problems. Their probing nature is a creative characteristic.
- Flexibility. Children find unexpected ways to solve problems. While their solutions may be amusing or curious, a flexible approach to problem solving is essentially a creative process.
- Originality. Creative and critical thinking require the ability to explore, without prejudice, a brand new solution. For example, a child may come up with unusual ways to tie his shoes.
- Risk taking. Great thinkers and great artists took risks when they proposed new theories or painted or composed in new style. In the same way, children need to be allowed to pursue nontraditional solutions.
Promoting creativity in your child
Promoting creativity in children requires time and patience. It requires not answering every question a child asks, but asking children what their thoughts are about the question. It requires believing in and supporting your child’s natural desire to explore and be curious. Here are some suggestions for nurturing creativity in your child:
- Picture this. With young children, picture books are a great way to start. Look at the pictures together, then ask your child what he thinks is going on. Ask him to make up his own story about what he thinks is happening in the book. Show your appreciation for your child’s version of the story. Explain that there can be many different stories for the same book.
- Make it safe to dream. Ask your child to imagine things he would like to do or places he would like to go. On the way to child care or school, point at the clouds and talk about what birds or astronauts might see if they were looking down from there. Do they see the clouds, or are they too far away? Everyday sights are a chance to explore the unknown: I wonder if the people who operate that pizza restaurant ever go to Italy. Do you think they serve the same kind of pizza in Italy? Maybe we can go there some day.
- Encourage experimentation (the safe kind). Children love to express themselves with words, art, music and movement. Let them. Often, their satisfaction is in the process, not the product. With the emphasis on academics in schools these days, giving children the opportunity to “let themselves go” in artistic exploration can be very important in releasing the stress they may experience throughout their day. It may also play a critical part of their ability to do some of their school work. A little swing dancing can make sitting at the table and doing math problems a little more palatable.