Education, Parenting

Creative kids: born or made?

What is creativity and why is so important to have it nowadays? Why should we help our kids to be more creative? Did you know that we should allow them to get bored so they can develop their ability to be creative?

Creatividad  by Idea goBy María Eugenia Fanti

When we take time to appreciate some pieces of work from masters like: Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 or when we read masterpieces as King Lear of William Shakespeare, Ulysses of James Joyce, we ask ourselves how these artist did such a great job? And the answer is: creativity.

What is creativity and why is so important to have it nowadays? The concept of creativity is wide because is an association not only of thoughts, but values. Laura Tobi, an expert in Education and New Technologies explain to us: “creativity is an interesting and novel way to solve a problem. People can be creative in a positive or in a bad way. As parents we should plant in our children the desire to be creative, but with moral values”

Creativity made United States of America a great country, Peter Gray, Ph.D.; professor at Boston College wrote in Psychology Today: “If anything makes Americans stand tall internationally it is creativity.  “American ingenuity” is admired everywhere. We are not the richest country (at least not as measured by smallest percentage in poverty), nor the healthiest (far from it), nor the country whose kids score highest on standardized tests (despite our politicians’ misguided intentions to get us there), but we are the most inventive country.  We are the great innovators, specialists in figuring out new ways of doing things and new things to do.”

About this Gray cite a Kyung Hee Kim, professor of Education at the College of William and Mary. Kim’s recent research reports a continuous decline in creativity among American schoolchildren. “In Kim’s words, the data indicate that: ‘children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle,’” Wrote Gray.

Also according to Kim’s research, the biggest decline is “Creative Elaboration” which means “the ability to take a particular idea and expand on it in an interesting an novel way”.

What can be the cause of this major decline in creativity? Laura Tobi, Specialist from Belgrano University, Buenos Aires, Argentina analyzed it: “Our current education emphasizes in the final product and what really counts is the process, particularly when children are small. What is important is not the drawing that he did, but how he did it and if he really enjoyed doing so. When we put the emphasis on the final product, we make our children look for approval and many times if they do not receive it, they get discouraged. On the other hand if we make emphasis on the process and how the child develops the idea, we are opening a window toward the creativity”.

Tobi also analyzes the stringency of the educational system of the United States, since the excess of rules to work, homework and standards prevents the child from having time to create, to make a project and to get it wrong: “Here the evaluation is based on the error, how many times the child is wrong, not considering its strengths. The error is penalized. And it is good for the development of creativity to learn how to get it wrong, because that lets you search for an alternative solution. That is the first thing any scientist is going to say; that they have many questions and make millions of mistakes before answering, it is part of the creative process”.

While many times the education our children receive in the public and private schools do not always encourage their creativity, it is important that the parents do it at home, because we all have the capacity to be creative and really all depends on whether or not we develop it. In addition, the psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon says that creativity brings as a result a significant increase in wellbeing and therefore being creative improves mental health.

It’s good to get bored

Isaac Newton was one of the most important scientists in history. The story goes, that resting and bored sitting under the shade of an apple tree, one of the apples fell on his head and then had a great idea; discovering the law of gravity. According to the experts to get bored is good for creativity. This is evidenced by the research of Teresa Belton at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

Laura Tobi, Art professor at Art Shack, also reinforces this idea: “If I have time to get bored, I have time to think. Today, when a kid get bored, they take a cell phone and starts playing games or connects to Facebook and there is no possibility to create, this possibility ends.”

In this regard and to combat the decline of creativity in children, Tobi, gave us several tips for parents to help their children be more creative:

1)   Exposing them to innovative experiences. It is important to draw the child from the routine. Recent studies of Simone Ritter of the Njmegen Radboud University, Holland, show that changes in the routine helps to find innovative answers to problems.

2)   Let’s them doing it. Let’s kids do things by themselves, not under the specific rules and regulations, but exploring how to do it. If your child drops the milk let him find the way to fix this, because this allows him to develop his creativity to solve problems, and it also stimulates his initiative. There is no being creative, if you don’t have initiative.

3)   Experiences not regulated. It is important for children to live new experiences and they should not always being regulated by adults. If as parents we always impose how to do things, your children have no way to develop their creativity.

4)   Explore freely. The forms of creativity are particular to each individual. The child needs to test different activities: Art, Sport, Science, and Technology. Leaving the child for many years in the same activity, especially when he is small, is a mistake of the parents, because what the child needs is to explore for what they really like.

5)   Time to play: very strict routines and inflexible schedules are killers of creativity in children. Parents should not forget that play is the first job of the child.

6)   Interact with your children. It is essential to establish a link with our children, a space where we talk, play and listen. We need a time to do nothing, a space that also is not mediated by technology and where the cell phone, social networks or the computer do not steal this time from us.

7)   Question the “no” that we give to our children. Many times parents forbid children to do things for fear of letting them be wrong. The child needs to make mistakes and find an alternative solution to what is happening. We must not always give the solution, but help them to find it.

Laura Tobi stated the following reflection for concluding: “we are more than a competition, a trophy, that a grade, we are much more than that and there are many things that as parents we need to develop in our children that are not validated from the outside, that are not measurable by having won the trophy or accomplishing the good grade, we are much more than that.”

Copyright © 2013Marìa Eugenia Fanti. All rights reserved.

Photo by Idea go /  Courtesy of


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