Creativity and Childhood

Development & Education

Creativity

“Childhood,” said English poet John Betjeman, “is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.”

Indeed, childhood memories should be colored by innocence and naiveté.  Memories that make the rooms of a house seem as grand as a medieval castle’s and steeped with the promise of adventure.  Memories that bring to mind creepy goblins and gruesome ghosts while watching the shadows near the bed at night.  Memories of looking out the window at the greens of the grass in the garden and marvelling at how fresh and verdant they are.

Children have an unparalleled attention for the world and its minute details before ritual and maturity strips life of its daily magic.  Regrettably, in our pursuit for top grades and academic excellence, sometimes the precious facets of our children’s enchanting childhood get eroded away.  Playtime is replaced by back-to-back enrichment classes.  Imaginative play is substituted by piano, art, violin and ballet lessons.  Radical ideals and aspirations are quashed and substituted with the hopes and dreams of the adults.

Creativity is supposed to be one of the attributes of genius – yet our educational system does little to stimulate and develop it in our children.

Why?

Because the end goal of our education is to produce top academics who will function well as workers and employees.  Someone who is a faceless and unquestioning part of the grind.  Our society has no place for the artistic, dreamy types who may quintessentially be the most ingenious and creative thinkers.  Consequently, we have become beset with spoon fed conformists with nary a creative bone in their bodies.  Our current educational system and its misguided emphasis on certain subjects, coupled with its subjugation of others, can prevent some children from finding their true calling.

When children are asked to fit into a relatively strict model of what it means to be accomplished, and when the skills required for that success are not in fact part of their inherent skill set, we will see a squelching of their innate talents.

Therefore as parents, we should ask ourselves these questions:
How do we change long held beliefs about education?
How do we define the parameters of success for our children?
How do we best tap on the greatest resource that we have, our children, to produce a generation that is more likely to pursue their dreams based on their desires and talents and not on a prewritten script?

And what exactly can we do to nurture the natural creativity of our children?

Encourage divergent thinking

Our archetypal teaching methods emphasize on concepts that culminate in convergent thinking in our children. Teachers tend to repeatedly imply that there is only one right solution to a problem, leading their charges’ thought processes and reasoning only to that single point.

Encourage your children to be divergent thinkers and they will have a host of advantages over their non-creative counterparts.  Divergent, creative thinkers are able to see diverse solutions to problems and they are inherently more curious and will be willing to try new things everyday.

They think across broad spectrums and will not be beaten down by a problem; rather they would brainstorm to solve the dilemma instead of going for the most straightforward but not necessarily best solution.

Encourage imaginative play
Give your children the space and confidence to dream and make believe. Rather than forking out money to pay for pricey toys, simply give them cardboard boxes, pieces of cloth and furniture around the house and let their imagination run wild.

Take a box of crayons and invite your child to colour outside all the lines of the colouring book.
Smash the crayons into the page and see the different effects of mixing the myriad of colours.

And NEVER EVER berate a child for doing something different nor place unnecessary restrictions on them while they are playing.  Instead, let them daydream, imagine and experiment.

Give them an arena to make mistakes and assure them that mistakes are part and parcel of the learning process.
The end results and the need to achieve perfection should never be overly emphasized on, for perfection in itself is the dearth of creativity.

Encourage silliness!
Change the rules of a board game at home. Ask your child what if Cluedo became a game about matchmaking? Or Risk became a canvass on which we could travel the world to find out more about each country?page2image21696

How about creating your own whimsical world of make believe in Monopoly, perhaps with streets filled with candy cottages and chocolate coins as money?

Or even splash paint on your hands and feet and have a game of messy and unconventional Twister!

If your child has ostensibly “half-baked”, eccentric or quirky ideas, never put him down. Encouraging your child to be humorous and to be able to laugh at himself will equip him with the resilience of looking at the lighter side of things and to be able to have fun even when the going gets tough.

So the bottom line is; our children’s creativity, their innate talents, their dreams and personality are unprecedented. No one else in the world can bring their ideas to life in the way that they can and we should always celebrate their contributions, no matter how small, ridiculous or even over the top.

For creativity is experimenting, taking risks, breaking all the rules, making mistakes in the process, learning from these mistakes but ultimately having fun!

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