Our children are the future. They are the ones we will depend on to keep our country competitive among world economies, to find ways to protect our natural resources, to continue to advance technology, to further world peace – all in an environment that is experiencing unprecedented strains in each of these areas. So, who is preparing our children to take on these monumental tasks? The unfortunate answer is – maybe no one. These are not simple issues with simple answers. They require high levels of innovation, creativity and ingenuity. And though the ability to be an innovative problem-solver is more important than ever, research is actually showing a decline in our children’s creative thinking – a consistent and significant decline (Kyung Hee Kim, 2010).
All children are born with some amount of creativity but it needs to be nurtured in order for it to further develop. There appear to be two main reasons why creativity is not being allowed to develop in our children. They are the increasing academic curriculum standards in school and the huge increase in time children are spending in front of the TV and computer, and playing video games. In a recent survey (Adobe, 2013), teachers cited “an education system that is too reliant on testing and assessment” as the biggest barrier to teaching creativity in schools. So, there’s relatively no time during the school day anymore to allow for much creative thought, and at home, it’s not much better with children spending an average of 7 ½ hours a day in front of a screen for entertainment (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010).
I don’t know about you, but as the mother of three children, I know I’m not okay with the thought of my children facing the many challenges of their future without knowing how to creatively problem-solve. So, I believe it’s time to take the matter into our own hands and actively make time at home for nurturing our children’s Creative Intelligence. As parents, we need to act as supporters, coaches, facilitators, and models of creativity for our children. We need to make sure we are encouraging creativity by: asking open-ended questions, teaching our children how to brainstorm, promoting experimentation, and praising them when they provide unexpected answers.
We must provide lots of hands-on opportunities to engage our children in creative-thinking situations that are age appropriate. As a teaching technique, creative problem solving involves helping children learn how to find answers to puzzles, questions, dilemmas, issues, and social predicaments they face in their daily world. The main creative skill we need to work on with our children is Divergent Thinking, which is the ability to see lots of answers to a question and lots of ways of interpreting questions. To be good at this skill, we need to help our children work on:
Flexibility: The ability to create different categories of ideas and to perceive an idea from different points of view.
Originality: The ability to generate new different, and unique ideas that others are not likely to generate.
Elaboration: The ability to expand on an idea by embellishing it with details or to improve or revise the idea.
Fluency: The ability to generate a lot of different ideas.
The final part of creative problem solving involves Convergent Thinking, which is the ability to evaluate solutions in search of the single, best answer. This is also a skill that needs to be worked on with our children. In order for children to acquire this process of thinking, they need to learn, repeatedly and on a regular basis, how to think creatively, so making time for work on these skills with our children is very important.
Research shows creativity can be taught and developed, but for many children, they aren’t receiving this training from anywhere or from anyone else. So if we want to turn this creativity crisis around, we, as parents, have to fill in the void. The success of the future of our children, our economy, and our country may rely on the diligence of parents, now more than ever.
Learn how to nurture this creative thought process in your children, through my new book, available on Amazon – “Raise Creative Thinkers: A Guide to Developing Children’s Creative Intelligence”.