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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Stimulating Your Child's Creativity

According to the experts, it is possible to encourage or inhibit the development and expression of creativity in young children. Most theories of child development view young children as highly creative, with a natural tendency to fantasize, experiment, and explore their physical and conceptual environment. However this high level of creativity is not necessarily maintained throughout childhood and into adulthood. The level of creativity declines when they start the kindergarten and peaks again when they reach puberty.

Creativity is essentially a form of problem solving. But it is a special type of problem solving--one that involves problems for which there are no easy answers: that is, problems for which popular or conventional responses do not work. Creativity involves adaptability and flexibility of thought. These are the same types of skills that numerous reports on education have suggested are critical for students.

For a proper understanding of children's creativity, one must distinguish creativity from intelligence and talent. Researcher has argued that intelligence and creativity are independent of each other, and a highly creative child may or may not be highly intelligent. Creativity goes beyond possession and use of artistic or musical talent. In this context, talent refers to the possession of a high degree of technical skill in a specialized area. Thus an artist may have wonderful technical skills, but may not succeed in evoking the emotional response that makes the viewer feel that a painting, for example, is unique. It is important to keep in mind that creativity is evidenced not only in music, art, or writing, but also throughout the curriculum, in science, social studies and other areas.

Is your child creative? Creativity can be assessed informally by parents or teachers, or formally by tests and the experts. One of the more common tests is "alternative uses" test, whereby the test subject is asked to think of as many uses as possible for a common object. For example, when we ask four-year-olds to tell us "all the things they can think of that are red," we find that children not only list wagons, apples and cardinals, but also chicken pox and cold hands. These tests assess divergent thinking and are usually scored in relation to both the quantity and the quality of the answers. Children's responses may be either popular or original, with the latter considered evidence of creative potential.

For young children, the focus of creativity should remain on process, i.e. the "generation of ideas". Adult acceptance of multiple ideas in a non-evaluative atmosphere will help children generate more ideas.

How can adults encourage creativity?

* Provide an environment that allows the child to explore and play without undue restraints. The atmosphere should reflect the adults' encouragement and acceptance of mistake, risk-taking, innovation, and uniqueness, along with amount of mess noise.

* Choice of materials. Without spending great amount of money, materials like paper goods of all kinds; writing and drawing tools; materials for constructions and collages, such as buttons, stones, shells, beads, and seeds; and sculpting materials, such as play dough, goop, clay, and shaving cream can be used. Children use these materials most productively and imaginatively when they themselves have help select, organize, sort and arrange them.

* Accept unusual ideas from children by suspending judgment of children's divergent problem solving. Respect their efforts and let them know that you have confidence in their ability to do well. Let the child have both freedom and responsibility to deal with the consequences of their thinking.

* Use creative problem solving in all parts of the curriculum. Use the problems that naturally occur in everyday life. Encourage the child to experiment with the novel and unusual. Listen to the child's questions and comments about his or her observations. Clarify what the child has observed by repeating what you have heard and ask further questions about the experience. New questions and observations may emerge from this process of exploration together

* Creativity does not follow the clock. Children need extended, unhurried time to explore and do their best work. Allow time for the children to explore all possibilities, moving from popular to more original ideas.

* Children find it hard to be creative without any concrete inspiration. Instead, they prefer to draw on the direct evidence of their senses or memories. These memories can become more vivid and accessible through the adults' provocations and preparations. For example, children can be encouraged to represent their knowledge and ideas before and after they have watched an absorbing show, taken a field trip, or observed and discussed an interesting plant or animal they saw in the park.

* Expose your child to a diversity of cultures, experiences, people, and ways of thinking. Let them see that there are different ways to think about a problem. Encourage children to try new experiences within their age level abilities and expectations.

* Emphasize process rather than product. Relax and enjoy the creative process with your child. Children who are constantly directed to conform to expected outcomes lose the confidence and spontaneity essential for the development of creative thinking

* Beware of barriers to creativity. Rewards- when people do not expect a reward, they are more creative and enjoy the process more. Expected external evaluation- Knowing beforehand that a piece of art is going to be graded can lead to a decrease in creativity. Peer pressure - There is some evidence that pressure to conform can lead to temporary decreases in creativity. Surveillance - Being observed by others while engaged in a creative process can undermine creativity.

Do you need special toys to stimulate creativity? The experts say no, there are many easy tasks you and your child can do together to promote creativity.

1. Use creative questioning. One way to help children to think more creatively is to ask them how they would change things to make them better. (What would taste better if it were sweeter? What would be more fun if it were faster or slower? What would be happier if it were smaller or bigger? What would be more interesting if it went backwards?)

2. Ask, "What would happen if?" (What would happen if all the cars were gone? What would happen if everyone wore the same clothes? What would happen if no one cleaned the house?)

3. Ask "in-how-many-different-ways" questions? (How many different ways can a button be used? How many different ways can a string be used?)

4. Use creative play. Activities such as "follow the leader" encourage a child to think of creative movement and experience the reward of others following their example. Use simple materials (blocks, mud, sand, clay, water) that the child can build and design using their own skills.

5. Use a continuing story concept. Someone starts the story and then each person adds a part. Read a story and act it out. Use puppets to act out a plot.

6. Use props to create new ideas. (Animal cracker game - child chooses one cracker; looks at it; then eats it. Then the child becomes that animal for 1-2 minutes. Use creative movement to act out how the animal acts and moves.)

7. Use role playing (family happenings, simulation games, school situations) to help children see the viewpoints of others and to explore their feelings. Have children describe the people that they see in pictures as to how they might feel or think.


How to Foster Creativity In All Children
By Mary Mayesky

How to Foster Creativity in All Children is designed for those dedicated to helping young children reach their full potential. This book has also been written for people who want to know more about creativity, creative children, creative teaching and creative activities in all areas of the curriculum.

Young children will need to know how to ask questions and search for answers. Creativity is not limited to the art medium; it also extends to every curriculum area. This book was written to help present creative learning opportunities for children throughout the curriculum. Features a practical approach to creativity, a wide variety of activities in each chapter with all activities classroom tested.


More Ways Than One: Fostering Creativity in the Classroom
By Arthur J. Cropley

Current conceptualizations of children's thinking tend to be unneccesarily narrow, and to focus on what might be called "convergent" thinking. As a result, invention and innovation are often underemphasized in schools. This text aims to encourage a broad understanding of intellect, and attempts to help teachers to recognize and foster more varied forms of intellectual activity in their students.

It offers a review of recent theory on creativity, conceptualizing this as a matter of getting ideas, trying the new, branching out and the like, rather than of producing artistic or scientific products. It discusses the factors in the classroom which block this more "divergent" kind of thinking and suggests practical ways through which teachers can promote bolder and more innovative intellectual activity in their students.



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