How Do I Maintain Creativity in Kids?

A mummy friend asked how do I teach my kids to ‘become creative’. I referred her to several posts of mine and she asked if I could lump them into 1 post for a clearer picture.

Here it is.

Why is creativity important?

I had started the title as ‘How Do I nurture/cultivate Creativity’. However, after viewing Sir Ken Robinson’s talk by Abettermandotblog, I changed it to ‘How to Maintain Creativity’ . We are born to be creative, the problem lies with how to maintain the child-like wonder and creative minds without educating the children OUT OF Creativity.

Before the whats and Hows, it is more important to know the WHY. In our age, being innovative and creative is the way to go for the future. According to Ken Robinson, there is a ‘process of academic inflation’, where graduates are the norm and we have to ‘radically rethink our view of intelligence’.

Do read the transcript and watch his poignant video on why we should place creativity as the same status as literacy in education.

What is creativity?

According to Sir Kenneth Robinson creativity — which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value — more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.’(Ken Robinson at TED2006 Do schools kill creativity?)

I like the below explanation below pertaining to business creativity.

A key to being creative, as Foster sees it, is the ability to find associations between different fields of knowledge, especially ones that appear radically different at first. The process is iterative rather than linear and requires people with curiosity, energy, and the openness to see connections where others cannot. “New solutions are often the combination of two or more existing concepts. If you had a videotape store and combine it with Amazon and Priority Mail, you get Netflix,” he says. “It’s all about constructing associative networks of ideas. That’s what you’re doing when you’re creating a business. A business is not one idea; it’s many, many ideas.”  (yale.edu)

Closer to home, art is the most natural field to nurture creativity isn’t it?

MaryAnn F. Kohl, a well-known Art Educator starts her letter to the artist in her ‘Scribble Art’ book.

‘Dear Artist:

Are you ready to enter the world of creativity, where there is no right or wrong way to create? Imagine feeling free to encounter any art experience without a set of rules or expectations for outcomes!

I like to say, ” Process not Product,” which means: the doing, exploring, creating, and attempting of new ideas is more important than the result of your creativity. You may end up with a painting resembling a muddy smear, but if you tried something new, learned something interesting, or discovered how paint acts, then you had a successful art process. The product is not as important.’

To me, creativity exists when we are able to use the limitations of the situations and resources to come up with a viable solution or re-create something authentic that adds value to the world. It may be intentional or unintentional. It can be a mixture of intentional acts and having happy accidents along the way that complements the entire process.

Here’s how I encourage creativity in my home front.

Through

  1. Playing
  2. Reading
  3. Exposure 
  4. Creating

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  1. Playing

We know play sparks creativity. But what kind of play and how to play that will help promote creativity?

Here are some of my home examples

  • Sensory Play : In this post, I share what sensory play is, why it is important for young kids and how to set up such play.
  • Open-ended Play: Since young, we use loose materials in the house and nature to stimulate creative play. It simply means that is no one way of using the materials and the beauty of the play lies in the power of being played differently at all times according to the child’s fancy. Toys if used at all, are valued for the open play of imagination as opposed to e.g. electronic toys with fixed way of playing. You can see more examples in Come Play With Me Series.
  • Anything Fun! Like this Cardboard house and trampoline spider web game

    

2. Reading

I read You Jin’s anecdote on how Cai Zhizhong, the famous taiwanese cartoonist shared a provoking story. Many mothers had the misnotion that since their children like drawing, there is no need for them to be good in reading. To which he warns against: “ Actually , this thinking is wrong. To become an outstanding cartoonist, you have to like reading. Drawing is just a technique, but an outstanding cartoon comes out of imagination. If one is not interested in reading, it shows a lack of curiosity. How can such a person come up with brilliant cartoons?” (You Jin’s Mum is where the heart is)

Kids lovin it was written in 2014 on how I instill a love for reading with my kids. Basically, I love reading and since they were babies I read to them daily. A picked up the habit of reading since 2yo by viewing picture books silently on his own. He was able to read at age 4 (J and E started reading later between 5 & 6yo) and the rest followed suit in their reading routines. We read day and night. We read at home, outdoors, at the libraries, bookstores, during waiting moments to events and during any rides. Give them a good book and they’ll sit for hours without moving. In fact, only reading prevents these active bodies from being restless. This is where content and ideas are absorbed and stored in their long term memory cabinet.

Reading is a sure way of building a rich database for creativity to tap on. Creativity cannot exist in a vacuum. It must have worthy ideas and fertile content. I also expose them to creative picture books like examples in this post.

3. Exposure

to Culture, the Arts, nature, the world through travelling, field trips, overseas trips, reading, television, social media and internet. Basically, widening their knowledge and gaining experiences will enlarge their capacity to be more creative.

4. Creating

One of the key factors that encourages creativity in Art is the ability to observe our environment. “To draw is to see and discover. Every time you draw, you discover something new.” – Noro Shinpei, Japanese manga artist

For this reason, I try my best to cultivate the skill of first hand observation through drawing with my kids. e.g. outdoor mirror reflections , Nature art, Basketball art, fishpond art , S.E.A aquarium art, Doll set up Painting.

When we create, the process of exploration and experimentation is highly encouraged and valued more than the creation itself. By creating, we employ and engage the body, the senses and the mind into making something. It starts with brainstorming an idea, refining the processes and with the product, it results in a more experienced person than before. The failure or success of the creation adds up to the whole experience of holistic growth.

For my children, they are given the materials and resources to do things. I modeled the value of creating by recycling our Baby Cot into a front shelf ,  Art station and tactile learning of Music notes. At the same time, I teach my kids the value of thrift, concern for the environment and delayed gratification by maximising materials around us instead of merely buying new things.

According to Ken Robinson “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will not come up with anything original”. Having a Growth Mindset when creating draws out deep creativity.  The ability to see limitations and mistakes as opportunities frees the individual to relax. This will liberate him/her to persevere in seeking a viable and creative solution.

Lastly, the ability to use ANY resources to problem solving is a skill necessary for creative thinking. This is where the growth mindset of seeing new possibilities in ANYTHING comes in.  The art process and loose materials play encourage such creative thinking. There is no ONE-way to do something. For instance, a fixed set of materials for doing a prescribed craft curtails creativity. e.g. googly eyes and felt cloth for a  cut out chick craft.  Instead, present them with twigs, pebbles, leaves, felt cloth, recycled capsule cases, beads, cloth, paper, tissues, and whatever your house holds. The freedom to choose the resources will provide the multiple decision-making process to make meaningful connections to a creation.

Infinity Cube Creative Process

Let me end with the latest case in point. A wanted to buy an infinity cube. It costs about $10. He intended to use his savings to get it. However, I shared that I saw a kid who diy himself the game in a bid to save money.  He followed a you tube video to create it. A excitedly asked me to show him the video.

It was a great activity for him to engage himself in the holidays. Below is the YouTube on How to make an infinity cube with paper. I only had a limited stack of origami papers and it was only enough for 1 person.

 

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This video sparked the interests of J and E by now. J was pretty upset as my attempts to cut out smaller papers did not work out well with uneven cube facets.

However, J eventually snapped out of his sulking and considered alternative ways to create this game quietly. He brightened up as he searched the Daiso wooden blocks he knew I had in store. “Mama, can I use them to make the infinity cube?” I muttered some doubts to this method but allowed him to use them. He ignored my unhelpful comments and said he can make it work! With that, he set out to work sticking them together with cellophane tapes.

Meanwhile, A was tediously making the paper cube and was very disheartened by the sheer  effort it took to do 1 cube. The folds took time, the construction of the cube took even greater pains. He stopped eventually and eyed what J was coming up with interest.

J tried constructing the wooden cubes but after failing twice, he sobbed in exasperation and wanted to give up. I hugged him, encouraged him to press on after taking a break, and promised to support him.  He watched TV while I helped him untangle the messed up cubes. After which, I rummaged for the white label stickers I had to paste on the cubes so that he could colour the cubes effectively. He was happy to work with me on the colouring while watching TV. We realised that having the colour codes were essential to follow the steps smoothly. Previously it was too confusing when he missed a step and everything was transparent and brown. We had no way to retrace where we went wrong.

Here’s the process. If you look closely, the cubes were made out of 2 thinner blocks.

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We finally completed the DIY infinity cube from scratch! The limitations that J faced pushed him to rack his brains and find a solution to his constraints. He did not wish to wait for me to buy the origami papers for him and searched for materials in the house that would be suitable to create the game at hand. A was happy to ride on this new idea and we will be getting more of such blocks from Daiso to make for the other 2! In fact, this was a ‘happy accident’ where a more efficient way was discovered and borne out of ‘adversity’ constraints.

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I hope that this post will inspire you to invest more time in encouraging creativity to grow in your home especially with the holidays at hand! Let’s fill our holidays with creative creations!

How do you maintain creativity in your home? Do share with me!

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10 comments

  1. Respect for you mama…How beautifully you are ensuring the holistic development of kids. Creativity is indeed important and need to be nurtured. Definitely taking cues from this post…

  2. Awesome post here and I do encourage creativity in kids in different ways and yes no restriction and regulations on creativity!! You have such great ideas and I am so going to try out the infinity cubes with my kids too.

  3. I always wish for more time to spend with my girls. I know it’s excuses after excuses and cos I’m just too burnt out from work. Whenever we do spend time together I choose the easy way out. After reading this it’s spurring me to enjoy the process and just do it. We used to love creating things together and I hope to make it a routine come 2018. Wish me all the best. Ha

  4. A comprehensive article about maintaining creativity! I agree that creativity comes in different forms. Besides all the points listed above, leaving kids alone to explore and do things on their own could spark creativity too. You’ll be amazed by what they can come up with at times.

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