When it comes to modern education, a lot of emphasis tends to be put on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The reason why is clear: We live in a modern world, where technology plays an increasingly important part in nearly every aspect of our lives. We use technology to learn, to consume information, to play, to work, to live—and that means that it is important that our children learn the skills that they need to learn to interact with technology.
But however important STEM is to our children and their success and happiness, focusing solely on STEM-based skills at the expense of other, less “technical” skills can be detrimental.
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Creativity (with a capital C) is one such quality that has had its importance minimized in recent years, as standardized testing, teaching to the test, and technical subjects have taken on more priority in the classroom. And while it may seem strange to think of creativity as something that must be taught, it is incredibly important to realize that if creativity in children is not nurtured and encouraged, it is a skill that can very easily be lost.
Why should parents encourage creativity?
Simply put, creativity encourages children to look at, explore, and reflect upon the world around them and within themselves. This stimulates the mind and makes children better students and learners, capable of recognizing patterns and seeing connections that’ll help them solve complex problems.
Technical skills like mathematics and engineering show children how things work. This can be helpful for solving straightforward problems, like fixing a broken device. More complex problems, however, will require more than technical prowess. In addition to technical skill, it often takes creativity to solve these more complex, less intuitive problems. For that reason, encouraging more complex problem-solving through creative activities is essential for every parent to consider.
Luckily, there are steps that parents can take to develop creativity in their children. Below, we discuss some of the most effective strategies.
How can parents encourage creativity at home?
1. Introduce your child to new ideas and concepts.
Creativity can be expressed in a variety of ways, but it broadly refers to the ability to use imagination and original ideas in order to create something or solve a problem. In this way, creativity often stems from the ability to see something in a new and different way—allowing someone to see connections and patterns that might not at first appear so obvious.
If parents want their children to get better at recognizing patterns and drawing connections, it’s critical that children are constantly being exposed to new and different ideas, thoughts, and concepts—especially those that contradict each other (as this contradiction leads to thought).
By consuming and understanding these differing ideas, children are essentially consuming the building blocks of creativity that they will use in the future and encourage their own creative expression. Information, knowledge, and skill build upon that which came before it; to build a creative mindset, children need to be fed a variety of information, from all subjects and walks of life.
2. Encourage your child to ask questions.
Asking questions is a natural part of the learning process. It’s a key piece of curiosity, and a key piece of creativity. After all, most creative solutions to challenging problems would never have been created if someone did not stop to ask, “What if…?”
And yet, many children (and some adults!) are not comfortable asking questions. They worry that asking questions means that they are not “smart” enough, or that they are a failure—even though asking questions is a natural part of the learning process!
In order to foster creativity and a love of learning, parents need to encourage children to ask questions when they don’t know something. But this doesn’t mean that you should then answer the question asked. Instead, where possible, parents should empower their children to answer those questions on their own, through trial and error if need be.
By undergoing this process from start to finish—not knowing something, asking a question, finding the solution—children go through the process of creating knowledge, which is one of the end goals of creativity.
Similarly, parents need to be okay with the idea that their children will sometimes be wrong and get the wrong answer—and they need to make sure that their children also understand that being wrong is fine as well. It is only through this process that children will be able to generate their own creative ideas in the future. Being creative often means taking chances, and taking chances will sometimes lead to failure. But that doesn’t mean that chances should not be taken!
3. Emphasize the arts.
Creativity can complement other skills, like creative thinking or analytical thinking. It can be put to use in much the same way, and used to solve the same kinds of problems. But in order to build creativity, kids need to flex their creative muscles independently every now and then.
In order to help their children flex these creative muscles, you should encourage your child to both create and consume creative experiences.
“Creating” can involve anything that allows your child to use their imagination to build—for example, drawing, painting, writing, playing music, dancing. It is, in essence, giving children the opportunity to be creative through the use of art supplies, craft materials, and more.
And “consuming” involves things like viewing art, reading, and listening to music: It shows children different forms of creativity in order to offer inspiration and feed their minds.
4. Consider enrolling your child in a school that also prioritizes creativity.
Ultimately, to build creative children, we must foster creativity and encourage it throughout their lives. This of course begins at home, and from a young age. But it is not enough for creativity to simply be fostered at home; it must be encouraged in all aspects of a child’s life. And this of course includes at school.
Parents who want their children to be creative should consider enrolling their children in schools that prioritize creativity as much as they do. These are the schools, after all, that will offer your children the opportunity to be creative that they need in order to practice the skill.
How can you determine which schools prioritize creativity? It’s actually fairly easy. Parents should look for schools that have and take pride in their arts, music, and drama classes, as well as those that embrace an interdisciplinary STEM and Maker Education.
The Importance of Creativity
It really is hard to overstate just how important it is to emphasize and prioritize creativity as a skill in our children. By fostering creativity in our children when they are young, we empower them to ask questions, seek answers, recognize the patterns, and build the connections that they need to be successful in all that they do.