Many people think creativity is a gift that you either do or don’t have. But Professor José Chambers tells us that rather than a natural aptitude, creativity is a life skill that can be nurtured “because it is itself at the heart of all learnings.”
Professor Chambers is a board member for The Ideas Foundation - a previous Aviva Community Fund winner - are an organisation that runs creative programs to inspire 13-19 year olds. We “challenge them with real creative problems and give them the chance to present their ideas to people who will value them and who are outside their usual networks.”
Outside of The Ideas Foundation, school is usually the place where children’s creativity is inspired and encouraged - from creating their first piece of art to solving a maths problem. However, Professor Chambers explains that “too often we hear from young people and teachers that they feel they have to tick boxes in order to succeed,” which can sometimes curb children’s enthusiasm to think outside the box. Sociologist Dr. Christine Carter, who runs a blog about her children, explains that creativity encourages children to make mistakes and fail. If a child is afraid of doing something wrong, then it can prevent creative thinking and problem solving1.
One influence that could be preventing creativity is technology, with the rise of mobile phones and tablet ownership. According to the Childwise Monitor Report 20162, two out of every three children aged five to 16 years have their own tablet device, and 63% of children have their own mobile phone. With easy access to the internet, screen time is on the increase, with children spending up to three hours a day on their devices - taking over TV viewing time.
Professor Chambers continues to explain that: “young people are usually creative because their thoughts and actions are not constrained by convention. What’s important is not to squash this, so we have to keep recognising and valuing the creative capacity of young people – it’s part of respecting them as individuals.”
A blog post by Tutor House3 discusses the importance of promoting creativity within UK Schools. It suggests that creativity can be used as a tool for communication with others, or to share an experience with another person. It can also help with emotional development, through play time – helping them to explore their surroundings and make sense of it.
Parents can also nurture these skills at home by instilling confidence and encouraging curiosity – from toddlers to teenagers. Through activities, active listening and quality time, children and parents can ‘train’ their creative side.
Professor Chambers gave us 8 tips to nurture children’s creativity:
1 – Listen to them
Listen to what they have to say, even if you disagree. By listening to their point of view and understanding all of the challenges ahead you’re giving them the opportunity to express themselves freely, with no constraint.
2 – Learn with them
Learn new things or skills together. Showing them that you both can learn something together is a great way to show them that one never stops learning – even when adults.
3 – Share your own thoughts with them
Even if you think they won’t fully understand the bigger picture, share your thoughts with them. But make sure you avoid forcing your ideas on them…just let them figure things out themselves. It will help them develop their creative thinking and critical eye.
4 – Share fresh experiences with them
As the saying goes, sometimes ‘actions speak louder than words’ so sharing fresh experiences with them will give you an opportunity to bond and grow together. Talk about those experiences afterwards and ask questions. What did you both learn? What was exciting?
5 – Give them the chance to be challenged
Don’t solve problems for them but instead give them a chance to be challenged. “As an adult you certainly can try to live your life in ways that make it more likely that your creativity will be sustained. As a child, it’s less easy to do this job for yourself because you are dependent to a certain extent on the chances that your environment – both in terms of place and people – offer you.”
6 – Encourage them to keep scrapbooks
Keeping scrapbooks or even diaries of their ideas and dreams will help children think forward. It might also help them evaluate how to achieve those dreams and if it’s something they are just into now or have been wanting to accomplish/do for a long time.
7 – Let them showcase their own creativity
Showcasing creativity is at the heart of The Ideas Foundation but it can also be done at home. Let them express themselves through the medium they want: singing, writing, drawing or even fashion. As long as your child is in a secure environment, give them the freedom to think and be.
8 - Help them to find a mentor
Passion and enthusiasm can come from a lot of different sources so “help them to find someone who will act as a mentor and a sounding board. Someone who understands that being creative sometimes means seeing things differently to others and that this can be a bit lonely.”
Lastly, remember that talent and creativity are two different things. Philosopher Ananda Coomaraswamy once said, "the artist is not a special kind of person; rather each person is a special kind of artist," being creative is a process and each of us can have different perceptions of what it really means. Nurturing your child’s creativity is above all giving them life skills.