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How To Raise Creative Thinkers

How do you introduce children to their creative potential?

Color outside the lines? We’re taught not to!

Exploring drawing with a bunch of pencils.Exploring oil pastels for Halloween drawing.Exploring drawing with many pencils.









Success will come to the ones who are able to take the information and color outside of the lines.
Knowledge is simply not enough to succeed.

Research on creativity shows a so-called “fourth grade slump” across cultures. When children begin school, their level of creativity is flourishing. By the time they reach the fourth grade, however, they have become less likely to take risks, and less playful or spontaneous than in earlier years. I see this in ‘switch’ my elementary age art classes all the time. Unfortunately, these trends continue into adulthood. Just try to get an adult to even attempt to draw something — double dare ya’!

This diminishing creativity faced by children needs to be addressed by us as parents and teachers, if little humans are to grow and attain their creative potential.

Traditional schooling and parenting don’t
generally foster a child’s creativity.

Young child experimenting with watercolor

Limits are placed on children’s creativity by educational systems that encourage conformity and imitation in learning, rather than spontaneity and creative imagination.

It takes time and patience on the part of the grown-up, and we don’t always have that on our side.

In the old economic systems of the past millennium, not everyone needed to be creative. Even in the industrial age, the focus was on productivity, not creativity.

Unless one is a child of an art teacher (or Instagram or Pinterest follower!) that poor kiddo is almost always introduced only to the learning process (by schooling) and to the socializing process (by family) but not to the creative process.

The question isn’t whether to encourage the next generation to be creative; it is how best we go about doing so.

Marshmallow Art

Marshmallow Art with food coloring markers!

Creative use of marshmallowsIf children engage in hands-on art activities, they learn much better in all disciplines.

Rather than focusing on the grade your child brings home on a test, praise their study habits or interest in the topic. This is one I struggle with—it’s so hard not to push our 13 year old daughter for the grade.

One of the best things you can do for your kids is…

nothing. I mean it!

Don’t plan a play date. Don’t take them to a movie.
‘Let it’, rather than ‘make it’ happen.

Creativity scholar E. Paul Torrance, in his article Teaching for Creativity, Part 1: Can We Teach Children to Think Creatively? identified the following:

’18 Thinking Skills’ That Can Be Deliberately Taught and Learned to Teach Creative Thinking

  • The Problem
    Skateboard sidewalk chalk drawing by Mason G. in Hidden Springs, ID

    All photos (c)2016 Artkin

  • Produce and Consider Many Alternatives
  • Be Flexible
  • Be Original
  • Highlight the Essence
  • Elaborate- But Not Excessively
  • Keep Open
  • Be Aware of Emotions
  • Put Your Ideas in Context
  • Combine and Synthesize
  • Visualize It – Richly and Colourfully
  • Enjoy and Use Fantasy
  • Make It Swing! Make It Ring!
  • Look at It Another Way
  • Visualize the Inside
  • Breakthrough – Expand the Boundaries
  • Let Humour Flow and Use It
  • Get Glimpses of the Future

What you can do:

  • Provide creativity ‘prompts’ and ‘invitations’ for them. Have a special area or table where they know they will experience something unexpected. As Paul Torrance says above, “Be flexible…keep open.”
  • Jean Van’T Hul of The Artful Parent suggests “begin a simple drawing on the chalkboard, and add an invitation —in this case, the question, “What is inside this house?” And then I go about my day.”
  • Check out creative spaces for kids at Keeping Creativity Alive .
  • Here’s some great info on basic art supplies by Rachel Doorley at Tinkerlab. And, so much can be picked up at thrift stores!

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
Kurt Vonnegut,

Tell Us-

What inspires your kids? Is it hard to let go of the reins and see them go for it? Do you let them get messy? I’d love to hear from you.

Barbara Balkin, Founder and ARTkinIST 


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