How to Help Your Child Develop Creativity

Psychologists have compiled a list of features that describe an object or idea that is creative:

  • It must have novelty. It should be original and unusual (for example, inventing a skateboard was novel because no sim­ilar play object for children existed before the invention).
  • It must be appropriate. It should be sensible and suitable (for example, the suggestion that we can travel to work by fly­ing saucer isn’t appropriate because we don’t have access to flying saucers).
  • It must involve a transformation. It should involve a change in perspective, a new way to look at an old problem (for example, the invention of the hovercraft was creative because it introduced a craft that could hover above water rather than move through it).

  • It must involve condensation. It should incorporate many dif­ferent characteristics (for example, the invention of the modern video recorder was creative because it allowed peo­ple to record programs, play programs others had recorded, and plan their leisure time more effectively).

Many famous figures in the world of art and music showed signs of creativity in childhood. Mozart composed symphonies before he was five years old, and Leonardo da Vinci early demonstrated his artistic ability. Creativity, like all human char­acteristics, is present in every one of us to some extent. Every child has the potential to be creative.

A “genius level” of intelligence is not needed. Most highly creative people are of at least average intelligence, but beyond that the intellectual levels of creative minds vary widely. Forgetfulness is not a requirement of creativity—no evidence supports the stereotype of the creative individual as the absent-minded professor. Research has shown that creative children tend to take more risks, be less frustrated by their mistakes, be self-confident, independent, successful at learning tasks, social­ly competent, unconventional, and eager to experiment with new ideas.

Tests for measuring creativity are open-ended (they have more than one right answer). The problem with these tests, though, is how to score the answers. Suppose two children are asked to take a blank piece of paper each and make as many dif­ferent patterns on it as they can. One of the children might make five patterns, while the other might make six. Yet that does not necessarily mean that they differ in creativity levels— possibly, the first child’s five patterns are all completely differ­ent, whereas the other child’s six patterns are all similar. Such problems have made tests of creativity unpopular. Remember, too, that every child has his individual learning style. Some children simply don’t enjoy open-ended challenges, which doesn’t mean they lack creativity.

You can help your child develop his creativity:

  • Show respect when your child asks unusual questions. You may have a busy enough day without answering such questions as “Why don’t trains fly like airplanes so that they would arrive at the station quicker?” It’s tempting to dismiss such inquiries as unnecessary interruptions, but that attitude will discourage your child from developing his creative thoughts. Treat unusual questions seriously, and take time to answer them. If you can’t think of a suitable answer, then be honest and admit that. Arrange a trip to the library to find answers. Pay attention to your child’s thoughts, and ask him what he thinks whenever he asks questions.
  • Allow your child to express his imaginative ideas freely. Listen to your child when he suggests that cars should be made with engines that run on water because it’s cheaper than gas. If you show interest, he will not be afraid to voice other imaginative ideas in the future. Never ridicule your child’s ideas or be sarcastic about them.
  • Give your child opportunities to play in unstructured situations. Resist the temptation to turn all play experiences into some form of directed learning. Your child needs to play freely at times, in order to unleash and develop his creative skills through play. Provide articles for play that can be used in a variety of ways—empty boxes, dress-up materials, blocks, and art materials.

  • Explain to your child the practical implications of his idea. Research indicates that linking a child’s creative idea to its practical consequences encourages further creativity (for example, you can tell your child that having cars that run on water would not only be cheaper, but also better for the environment).
  • Allow your child to solve problems for himself sometimes, instead of always showing him solutions. One study of the problem-solving methods of children ages three to five involved each child determining how to reach a piece of chalk on the far side of the table at which he was seated. Each child had access to two short sticks and a clamp. Before each child was presented with the problem, he was either shown the long stick made out of two short ones or allowed free play with the sticks and the clamp. The investigators found that chil­dren who were allowed free play with the materials were much more innovative and creative in their solutions to the problem than were the other children.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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