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Creativity in Kids

Creativity: in Western culture, we see it more frequently among kids than adults.  The pressures of adulthood in our society, the way we educate our kids, and much more contribute to the marked decline in creativity as most of us mature from infancy to adulthood.  Further, studies show that creativity among kids in our culture is declining decade over decade: that is to say that kindergarteners today are less creative than kindergarteners from decades prior, and such is true for many other early grades as well.  Why is creativity important?  How can we encourage our kids to embrace and express their creativity?

Why is creativity important?

  • Creativity helps kids learn about themselves and the world around them.   Intellectual inquiry, which is one of the drivers of kids’ creativity, is essential for learning, adaptability, problem-solving, and goal achievement.  For example, “Who am I and what do I (as differentiated from my parents) think, feel, like, and dislike?”  “What happens when I combine blue finger paint and yellow finger paint?”  “Why does some music make me feel happy and energized while other music makes me feel calm and peaceful?”  “If a sweet treat is desired, but Mom says no to a request for a cookie, can I determine the source of Mom’s objection and then request a different (perhaps more healthy?) sweet treat that Mom will permit?”
  • Creativity helps kids acclimate to giving and receiving acceptance, embracing diversity, embracing a positive mental perspective, and developing a healthy self-image and self-esteem.  Emotional expression, which is also one of the drivers of kids’ creativity, is essential in each of these.  For example, “Is it ok to feel and express something different than everyone else is feeling?”  “Is it ok to think and express something different than everyone else is thinking?”  “Is it ok to ask others how they think or feel and why they think or feel that way?”  “Do the people I know seek to understand and value perspectives other than their own or is there usually one right perspective with all other perspectives being wrong?”
  • Creativity helps kids express, understand, and manage their emotions.  For example, kids who are in counseling following a traumatic incident often first express their trauma-based emotions via art (i.e., drawing picture of themselves and/or their families looking sad, angry, or frightened).  Dancing, playing music, putting on a puppet show, and other forms of creative expression can help kids, whether traumatized or not, express any feelings they may be experiencing.  Once expressed, kids (often in conjunction with their parents or caregivers) can then brainstorm (read: more creativity) on why those feelings are present (i.e., what circumstance is prompting the feelings of happiness, sadness, etc.).  Further, emotions that cannot be directly expressed in a socially acceptable manner may be managed (rather than “stuffed” or repressed) by finding an outlet in creative expression (i.e., by redirecting anger into artwork involving shades of red, orange, and black, or by dancing to the point of exhaustion).
  • Creativity helps kids develop their fine motor skills.  Dancing, playing an instrument, playing with building blocks, and painting all require fine motor skills.
  • Creativity helps kids connect with others and promoted social skills development.  Kids who enjoy ballet, playing in the band, stage performing, or playing with chemistry sets can have their interests reinforced through connection with others who share their interests.  These social connections teach kids not only the value of relationships but also about social norms and protocols associated with social relationships.
  • Creativity, if valued by kids’ social support system, helps kids have voice in their outcomes.  Rather than being restricted to behaving, thinking, and feeling within an environment of dogmatic rules and expectations, kids can be free to choose for themselves, to self-determine. This, in turn, bolsters healthy self-esteem and a positive mental outlook.
  • With technology rapidly evolving, creativity can help kids adapt to the many changes that this evolution evokes . . . and it can even help them succeed professionally as well.  For example, where once kids may have been apprenticed in trades (i.e., brick masons, alchemists, etc.), today’s kids are more likely to be preparing for adult work by getting and using (with parental guidance) an e-mail account, video-teleconferencing account, social network account (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and more.  We are becoming a culture of collaborators.  We need to connect to maximize accomplishment.

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