Our children are becoming less creative and it could be affecting their ability to learn.
Isn’t that a horrifying thought?
Studies have shown that children’s creativity tends to decrease with age. Most notably from kindergarten to grade three.
The reason is thought to be a combination of strict school curriculums and standardised tests plus extra time in front of screens, such as television, computers and smartphones.
This is sad news, for the kids and the world in general.
Using imagination and creativity is vital to children’s mental health.
According to clinical psychologist Dr Ben Michaelis, getting children to focus on the products of their imagination is vital to their individual mental health and the world.
The effort that we use when we are actually making things helps us to learn new and innovative ways of thinking.
This is important for the world, as the children are our future leaders, policy makers, inventors, scientists and researchers.
HOW CHILDREN LEARN MORE THROUGH CREATIVITY
A 2010 study, which examined results from around 300,000 creativity tests since 1990, showed that today’s children are less likely to produce unique and unusual ideas.
This study was based in the USA, taking into account their Torrance tests, which measure divergent thinking in children.
However, Australian children are having just as much screen time and their teachers have the same time constraints and demands on them as their USA counterparts.
Some people believe children who are not regularly exposed to art and the materials to create it do not read and write as well as those who are.
According to the Child Development Institute, children who had higher exposure to art were better at reading and writing than their peers.
This claim was backed up by a study by Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University.
According to this national (USA) study, children involved in non-school arts-based programs in under-resourced communities were four times more likely to win an academic award.
Sir Ken Robinson, an expert in learning and children’s education, says imagination is one of the key components of creativity and innovation.
He recognises that creativity and problem-solving are basic skills that everyone needs, but says learning to think outside the box is a skill that requires imagination and the ability to see things beyond reality.
Imagination is the source of all human achievment.
Sir Ken Robinson
Research also suggests encouraging children to be creative and imaginative can help them to be more resilient and resourceful in their adult years.
By working out ways to make and create things, children are using problem-solving skills and investigating different ways to find solutions.
Providing an open and friendly atmosphere for children to explore their creative side is empowering and promotes independence. It may also reveal hidden talents.
Creative play encourages divergent thinking – the ability to produce many ideas. Read How to Craft Your Way to a Better Life.
It also fosters originality, flexibility, and innovation.
There is some evidence that creative people have more goal-directed behaviour.
WHY CHILDREN LEARN MORE THROUGH CREATIVITY
Creative and imaginative play also increases self-esteem and confidence, as well as patience.
Young minds are spoon fed colourful and busy activities on smartphones and computers.
Many of the games are educational and fun, but they also encourage instant gratification. All at once children’s senses are bombarded with bright colours, information, and often music or dialogue.
This makes it hard to focus and encourages multitasking, which eliminates the opportunity for mindfulness.
When a child is making something by hand, he/she must discover the process involved and learn patience to complete the creation – if you try to do the next step before the glue is dry, the creation will fall apart.
Activities such as creating patterns tap into the same parts of the brain that we use for more complex problem solving later in life.
When a child is manipulating a tool, such as a paintbrush, he/she is practising fine motor skills.
Exploring the use of different materials in creative arts taps into the inner scientist.
Constructing and sculpting tap into the inner architect.
‘Mistakes’ lead to new discoveries and ingenuity, a vital skill in the worlds of art, science and technology.
HOW TO HELP CHILDREN LEARN MORE THROUGH CREATIVITY
So how can you help your child tap into their creative side?
Possibly one of the most important things you can do is play imaginative games with them.
We have some gold coloured underlay we use as a ‘magic carpet’ that can take us anywhere.
The Goddesses and I hold hands and close our eyes as we walk in circles on our magic carpet and discuss where we are going.
When we ‘arrive’ we open our eyes and are immediately ‘swimming’ in the ocean – we move our arms freestyle fashion and walk around remarking on the wonderful things we are seeing under the sea.
Sometimes we end up in the sky, ‘flying’ with the cockatoos.
Wherever we go, we make actions to match our adventures and describe the sights we are seeing.
Having some dress-up clothes on hand is a wonderful way to encourage the imagination. Read Imagination Station – What Will You Be Today?
Play around with creating wonderful treasures from nature.
You can even turn screen time into a chance for creative exploration. One of the Goddesses and I are currently in the process of reproducing the main characters in the Wizard of Oz – a movie we have watched together on several occasions.
We’ve made the Emerald City and a very cute tinman (with a heart!). We’ve also made Dorothy, the scarecrow and the lion and wizard. We are now working on the witches. Our creating often gets interrupted with imaginative play as we use our creations as props for our own stories.
When we didn’t like a sad part of a movie we watched, we used it as an opportunity to create our own happy ending.
OFFER OPPORTUNITIES TO CREATE THINGS WITH THEIR HANDS
It helps to have some decent craft supplies on hand as well as a good collection of recyclables.
The fact is that schools are forced to follow a strict and busy curriculum. It may not allow for the time and opportunities needed to foster creativity and imaginative play. It is up to parents (and grandparents) to find practical ways to fill the gap.
Offering children a variety of activities to promote creativity and imagination, helps them discover what they excel at and enjoy doing most.
Children who find a creative activity they feel passionate about are more likely to stay interested in it. This can be a big help during the challenging teen years.
They will learn important skills, such as focus, patience, problem-solving, divergent thinking, ingenuity, flexibility, and innovation. This, in turn, could help them with their academic learning.
Do you want more ideas for encouraging creativity in children? Check out the Wacky Workshops section – a new craft project is posted each week. Or you can sign up to Gleeful Greetings and have the project sent straight to your inbox each week.
If you live in the lower Blue Mountains area and are looking for an arts and crafts school for children, check out The Wacky Workshops Page.
Wishing you a creative and gleeful week, Tamuria.