Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Creativity is highly prized by today’s employers and creative careers make up a massive proportion of the world’s economy. Creativity is consistently seen in lists of top 21st Century skills for kids to develop today along with problem-solving, collaboration and critical thinking and other adaptable skills that will benefit kids as they grow up no matter what the world of their future looks like! The demand for creativity in employees is on the rise and in the time it takes for your little one to grow up (sniff!) it will have become even more essential for them to be able to think creatively and problem solve. Remember: the workforce of tomorrow is made up of the children of today. For your children’s success and happiness in later life, today’s parents (you!) must value creativity and allow it to bloom at home.
But that doesn't mean free painting all day every day. Today I want to share with you exactly what creativity is and what it can look like in your home.
When defining creativity people often equate it to ‘thinking outside of the box’. This is pretty accurate. Creativity is coming up with your own different ways to do something and using your imagination to come up with your own original ideas.
But what does this look like in real life?
What does creativity look like?
It’s easy to associate creativity with artistic and design processes and the physical creation of a thing or product. If you don’t come out with something tangible like a painting or a beautifully decorated cake though, it doesn’t mean you’re not being creative.
For me, creativity is problem-solving. I want to do or make something but in the process of doing it, I will face problems. Solving these problems takes creativity. If you were tied up and locked in a dark room you would need to be (very) creative to solve the problem of leaving the room because the traditional method of standing up and walking out of the door wouldn’t be possible!
OK, so we’ve got an idea of what creativity is, now how do I make this happen at home with my child?
How to get kids to be creative
In some ways, creativity is as simple as positivity and perseverance. Just because escaping from being tied up in a dark room is difficult and will take quite a lot of thought, skills, planning and so on, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In the classroom, I use phrases like “what else could we do to…”, “Let’s keep trying.”, “What could we use to help us to…”. These sorts of phrases show children that even though first attempts aren’t always successful, they can try again. It also implies that there are different ways to get to an outcome if the obvious or traditional method hasn’t worked.
Sometimes creativity is resourcefulness. Could you ask someone more knowledgeable or skilled to help or advise you? Could you use the objects or items that you have indifferent or unusual ways? Could you find out new information using a book or Google? The power of resourcefulness means that your child will never be held back by a lack of knowledge because they will always know where and how to find it.
What does this look like at home?
How to be resourceful at home
Let’s say your child wants to bake a cake. Even if you know how to bake a cake, you could suggest your child find out for themself. You could direct them to a recipe book or show them how to do an internet search. This will help to develop resourcefulness, very important for creativity.
Then, don’t tell them they’re going to use the brown mixing bowl in the top cupboard that you always use for baking. Let them decide. The skill that it takes to make decisions, reflect and improve will be invaluable to your child as they grow up and get a job. So let them start practising now.
Don’t be afraid of your child’s failure. They’re certainly not! Many things they do will not work and this is part of learning. In the cake baking scenario, a child might choose a teaspoon for mixing a big bowl of cake mix. The cake might not rise or it might taste horrible. You can help them to learn from their mistakes by asking questions that encourage reflection. You might ask “Is it hard to mix with a small spoon? Do you think we should use something different?” or “I wonder why the cake didn’t rise? How could we find out?”. Questioning is an absolutely essential classroom technique for good teachers because guiding children towards making their own discoveries helps them to learn best.
Rules can be a good way to force children to think differently and I don’t mean the no running in the corridor kind! Added constraints can turn everyday activities into a problem-solving challenge. For example, getting from one side of a room to the other - easy. Getting from one side of the room to the other without touching the floor? Not so easy! And might take a little creative furniture-hopping to succeed! (Not for the faint-hearted parent!)
On the other hand, sometimes having fewer constraints can support creativity too.
Most children love to draw. But don’t expect them to draw in the same way you or I would. Remember that art is all about the individual’s unique perspective on their world and if you tell your little artist to draw cars with four wheels and two windows on the side, then you are limiting their creativity.
If your child tells you that they ‘don’t know how to draw’ something, you could always take them for a lookout of the window or show them a photo. Encourage and praise your child for creating their own interpretations rather than copying conventional ones.
Open-ended activities can be a source of intense joy and support quality learning for children.
What are open-ended activities?
An activity is open-ended if it doesn't specify how it is to be done or what should be produced or possibly even neither of these. An open-ended activity might not have a set start or finish time. It could last 60 seconds or a week. It can be done anywhere or happen in several different locations.
I’ll give you an example of an activity that definitely ISN’T open-ended: You have five minutes to copy this paragraph in pencil on a piece of paper.
You could ask a thousand children to do this and every single piece of work would be the exact same because the children had no choice in how or what they did in the task.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, an activity such as ‘tell the story of your life’ could be interpreted in many ways and could involve any medium. It could be that a child paints a picture of their family, writes a short story of their life, re-enacts their life story in a play, makes a PowerPoint presentation or a movie, makes up a song and records it on an iPad or plays a melody on piano… the possibilities are literally endless. If you're interested in finding out more about digital storytelling for kids, how important storytelling is for kids development and ways to use technology as a platform for storytelling, read this post.
Remember: making their own decisions about how and what they will do is super motivating for children!