First off let’s begin by demystifying the word creativity. All of us here are not new to the word creativity. We have heard it all – “you have to be right brained to be creative”, “it involves a little bit of madness and unusualness”, “either you are born with it or not”. If you are someone who believes that creativity is limited to just artistic pursuits like music, dance, painting etc. – You are wrong. Creativity is more than about an end result, a product. It has more to do with the process rather than what is at the end of it.
A formal definition of creativity- it is the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. Another common interpretation of creativity is the ability to produce work that is novel, unexpected, and original and that is appropriate and meets the task constraints or simply thinking out of the box.
Creativity simply means the ability to think differently, to look at the matter in hand and coming up with a unique way or angle and perspective of viewing it and finding your own way of making use of its potential. No one needs to be a genius, innovative thinker or extraordinary to possess creativity. Creativity is not limiting, it’s far reaching and extends to our daily lives. I personally believe that everyone innately possess this ability of creativity, just like any other abilities and with the right kind of environment, tools, encouragement anyone can further develop it.
While taking into consideration the development of children, imagination and divergent thinking builds the way to the development of Creativity in children. Incidentally imagination and divergent thinking begins in toddlers and extends towards the preschool age, where it’s very active. Children gain the ability to use representational thought and symbols by the age of 3 yrs. (e.g. Drawing v represents birds, two triangles joined together to represent mountain, freely drawn lines as river, stick figures as humans etc.). by this age they would have gained hand eye coordination, draws easily, language and imagination skills expands, is able to balance, precision skills develop and keeps expanding. They are able to draw shapes, with purpose and intention and is able to add their own many details, narrations to their drawings. This adds onto their imagination. Children at this age is very much involved in imaginative thinking, fantasies, and is involved more in exploration and experimentation. This is also the time that parents can give the appropriate push towards fostering divergent thinking in children. Divergent thinking prompts children to come up with their own unique and new connections, thinking, solutions as opposed to single right answer to solving problems or doing things. Fostering the divergent thinking in children involves encouraging their curiosity, wonderment, inquiry, reflection through appropriate means. And therefore creativity, divergent thinking involves new perspectives, thinking, imagining, making new connections, and creating.
Ways you can foster creativity in children:
- Observe and engage with your child when they play: observe your child during their playtime – when, what and how they engage with different toys, games, plays. This gives an idea of their preferences, their likes, dislikes and the many ways that keeps them engaged during their playtime. Be present and attentive to their needs. Give them support when needed. Let them decide the direction of play – do not interfere with their play time, let them guide you. Play is important for children and it helps boost their creativity. Let them engage with their toys, activities creatively in new, different ways, get involved in imaginative plays, with the toys, storytelling , play enacting, expand and modify the stories, let children be spontaneous.
- Pretend play and modelling: children learn a lot through observation. Engaging in storytelling and enacting and pretend playing of the stories encourage their imagination and prompts them to think about cause and effects, problem solving skills and makes them wonder, question the actions of the characters in the story. They also engage in enacting behaviours and actions of the adults of the home – you as the parent can encourage this, correct if needed, let them come up with their own solutions, thinking and creativity.
- Play time is fun time: let your children explore and be messy. Let go of the rules, structure, strictness and schedules during the play time. Have a designated area of play for them, especially when playing with colours, paint. Let them play with the paint, colours, bringing out their freedom to do away with the colours. Let them come up with their own creations. This gives them freedom for self-expression, as well as build confidence in them. Give them options – toys, stories, constructions, colour paints, board games, puzzles, group games, clay and many more. Guide them, support them but do not force any structure or activity on them. The goal is to let them think freely and have fun- not any perfection and product. Give space for mistakes and failures. Let it be flexible. Keep one thing in mind: this is not about performance or coming up with perfect end products. Take off the pressure of performance from them. Play time is free flow of energy and fun.
- Be curious and foster their free thinking: ask them questions. Ask them how they came up with the ideas, ask about the process, their thinking – ask open ended questions. Let them express their ideas, creation and thinking in their own way. Do not teach one single way of doing things to them, each time let them come up with different way of doing things. Ask them “how can you do this differently to day?” – encourage their curiosity, creativity, let them explore, think, reflect on how to have fun in different ways.
- Experiment and have fun: observe what activity, play your child prefers. Note how and where her creativity, new ideas gets expressed. Build upon these activities, play, games, bring in new ways of enjoying these plays and occasionally expose your child to other new plays and outlets. Provide new experiences, experiment, create new adventures. Come up with new fun family activities, games. Explore your neighbourhood, go for a walk with them, spend together time, go for a nature walk, visit and explore new places together. Giving them new experiences help them to develop their views, thinking.
- Create, create, and create: as parents or adults in their lives you can let your creativity out as well. For instance you can create together time, and create new activities for them, like selecting few raw materials (everyday common things) and ask the child to build or create something out of it. Let them come up with their own ideas. In addition puzzles, mazes, board games also act as great tools to encourage creativity. You can create your own rules, once in a while playing these games – these games encourage children to think, reflect, helps encourage strategically thinking as well, problem solving skills, decision making as well.
- Give as many tools as you can: Muppets, sock Muppets, toys, dolls, bring in movement (dance), storytelling, story enacting (with real objects, dolls/sock Muppets for characters), pretend play, Legos, toy vehicles, people, building blocks, play sets, paint, clay, dough, chalks, puzzles, mazes, crayons, fabric, balls, music videos, dance off sessions, singing out, drumming out beats, or even creating stuff from raw materials. One can even be creative and make usable stuff from recyclable materials from home.
- Reward: rewards, reinforcements are essential and important for children. It shows appreciation, support and encouragement to them, especially for their efforts. But show care when you reward them. Take care that it is timely, needed, and appropriate. Give reward, but don’t spoil them. For instance it is ideal to instil reward system through non-verbal gestures as well as verbal ones, privileges even than things (like toys, chocolate). A nod, appreciation (good job, great effort – directed at their effort, energy, and creation), eye contact, leaning forward (show interest), a pat at the back, hug etc. can go a long way. Privileges, like extra bonus time, additional play, and remote privileges also can work. Materialistic rewards have to be given with care (show attention to the purpose and message it conveys). Essentially rewards helps build their confidence and also encourages and support their selves.
Benefits of creativity:
There are many benefits to fostering creativity. Creativity encourages children to come up with many and new means of doing or solving a problem. Later in life, creativity can contribute and help in many different ways to carry on with life. It fosters problem solving skills, it strengthens emotional intelligence, helps improve cognitive skills, brain functioning, it helps develop empathy, enhances happiness, increases self-worth, self-expression, boosts confidence, helps develop resilience, expand one’s interests, talents, helps build connections, improves concentration and much more. There are many positives to fostering creativity and thus its important that as parents/caregivers one be aware of the impact and gains of encouraging creativity in their children. Moreover they help children be confident and independent. In addition encouraging and nurturing creativity in children helps them to think freely for themselves, enhances their self, how they view themselves and helps them discover, appreciate, believe and love in themselves more as opposed to the restraints, limits and chains that the society and world will impose on them.