What does creativity mean?
Often we think of creativity as that which artists have, or even prodigies, like talent that you have to be born with. To many of us it seems like it’s not something regular people like you and me can ever have. While we always talk about how we would like our children to be smart or intelligent we don’t often hope for creative children because we think creativity is not a skill.
Let’s explore this a bit, our thinking that is. What would you define as smart? Is it intelligence, common sense, clever, education / learning? Maybe a little mix of everything. Now combine this with children that can imagine – that can look at flowers and see the tree, that can make dinosaurs with pots and pans. That can take a branch and make reindeer horns, make a banana out of two twigs.
Do you see the possibilities of creativity? It is not genius or prodigy, it is simply a gift every child has. The beauty about creativity is that it only grows as it’s used, and there is not one finite answer for a creative chid, there are only possibilities.
As a first time mom when my first born would point at mundane objects or patterns on the road and tell me it was chocolate or car, I just didn’t get it. Later I saw it the way he did and it all made sense, that’s when it struck me that children are naturally creative, this was not exclusive to my child, most children do this.
They are not confined by learning or defined by education yet and that means that the world is their imagination.
So the question remains, if children are naturally creative why do they not grow up to be the same. I’m not saying we are not creative adults but we certainly haven’t tapped into our potential, and we haven’t grown up in to adults that reward creativity the same way we reward intelligence.
Why raise creative children?
To me creativity is a life skill much like cooking or swimming. I have spent over 16 years in corporate work spaces and as I worked alongside people the only thing that stood out for me was a lack of imagination, the need for templates, prompts or guidelines.
From the time our children enter school they are taught to follow rules (which of course I am not against) these also include, how they should write, what is the only way an ‘A’ should be written. Even before that we give them colour books to teach them to colour within the lines – leaves should be green, flowers should be red. What happens when children are shown these things but are also allowed to express their own ideas? There will be a flow of ideas – that we may not immediately understand or like but nevertheless beautiful.
This afternoon like everyday as soon as he got off the school bus, my elder son wandered off to pick flowers, twigs and other articles, the younger one ran with him. I am usually patient, in fact encourage it, but today I had somewhere else to be, so I called him a couple of times then started to walk towards home with a warning that I am leaving and they can join me if they please.
My elder child called out ‘But Amma I found a six petal wild almond flower, I just want to pick that one.’ I stopped, I had not noticed how many petals these flowers we had been collecting for a week had, I went back. We found 4, 5 (normal), 6 and a 10 petal one too today.
A few reasons why I would choose creativity over all else for my kids are
Problem solvers – Intelligence helps you identify a problem, but many times its creativity that helps you solve it. If I told a child to build a tower, she would use her intelligence and smarts to do the building, but if she ran out of blocks, she would need to tap into her creativity to find alternatives to complete what she had in mind.
Resourceful – When an idea strikes a child he will not wait to get all right materials to do it, he will grab what he can find and make the best possible thing he can.
Curiosity – experiment, explore, make a mess, create, ask, curiosity drives and keeps creativity alive. If my son said to me ‘Amma look the sky is green’ instead of saying ‘what, haha, its blue silly’ if I were to ask him ‘ oh, really! How is it green’ I might get an interesting answer.
Infinite possibilities – There is no one way to do something there are only countless possibilities. I often set up invitation to play / explore for the kids, last week on one such I expected him to use pine cones as stamps to make cards, instead he stuck the whole pine cone on the card, and used it to make a pattern. The 3D card would have never occurred to me otherwise.
Risk taking and the ability to fail – This to me is the most important reason to foster a creative bent of mind. Only intelligence or smart can make you afraid to fail, creativity does not look down upon failure because to fail is not the end. It is only a road block on the way to your vision.
While working on a puzzle – both my kids will show signs of frustration if it doesn’t fit, but when creating a piece of art or exploring nature, they don’t feel the pressure to get it right and that makes all the difference.
Empathy and observation – creative ideas stem from observation, resulting in empathy. During Diwali my 5 yo noticed the crows fly away every time there was a firework, he observed that the firework scared them and immediately was wondering why people burst fireworks that scared away bird and other animals.
Every corporate today is looking at an idea called DesignThinking which involves creative processes, ideation and empathy. Children are natural design thinkers and creative seekers, as parents we need to see the value in creative thinking and to foster it. As Pablo Picasso famously said – “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”