Essential Skills: Creativity
Many people think creativity is something you either have or you don't, but that's just not true. It is an essential skill that can be improved with practice just like any other skill.
Creativity is necessary to succeed in nearly all we do and a core skill to work on with our kids.
Creativity is not just about artistic expression—it is also essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, which makes them more able to adapt to technological advances and deal with change—as well as take advantage of new opportunities.
That all sounds like a recipe for success in today's world of massive change. Kids who are equipped with creativity will be better able to navigate the challenges they'll face as they grow up.
The fact is that the future job market will rely more and more heavily on automation and computers to do jobs humans used to do. That means to survive and thrive, our kids will need to bring value to the workplace. New ideas, novel ways of solving problems, innovative approaches to how we do things - these are the things that will help future adults either succeed in a workplace or in a company of their own making.
Bottom line - creativity is essential for success in the future world of work.
What is creativity?
There are a lot of ways you could define it, but creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules or patterns and to create new ideas, solutions or methods. It's using your imagination to "see" things that don't even exist. It's "thinking outside the box". It's coming up with a new angle on an old problem.
It's a kind of resourcefulness and one that our world needs now more than ever.
Why is creativity important to your child's development?
This could be a whole book, but here are a few reasons it's so important for your child to practice thinking creatively. Creativity:
- helps children explore and express emotions helping them process new feelings in a healthy way. They may paint a picture or tell stories with their puppets. They might write a poem or act out a disagreement with their stuffed animals. There are countless ways children use creativity to deal with strong feelings.
- fosters mental growth and development. Thinking creatively joins ideas in new ways or creates new ideas completely. This is stellar exercise for a growing brain! It's also crucial to our future, since our kids will inherit a host of difficulties (environmental, political and so on) that do not have easy solutions. We need to equip them with the skills they need to positively shape their world.
- enhances problem solving skills. I definitely want my son to know that when problems come his way, he has the skills to confidently think of solutions and make a decision to improve his situation. Creativity means our kids have more possibilities at their disposal. They'll be able to imagine new ways to deal with problems other people haven't been able to solve.
Some simple, free activities to enhance your child's creativity.
- Expose your child to lots of art, whether it's getting new picture books from the library, visiting a gallery or stopping to notice a statue as your walking around your city. Seeing creativity in action and noticing there are a million ways to draw a person or express an emotion can get creative juices flowing.
- Create lots of art! Give them access to materials (paints, glue, paper, crayons etc) and let them explore. Don't give direction, just let them mess around. It's the process of being creative, not the product, that's important.
- Be inventive with things you have lying around the house. Pull out several pots and pans and create a drum kit to play on. Take that cardboard box and make a bear den for their favourite stuffed teddy. Make a fort out of sheets and chairs. Show your child you can make new things out of seemingly unrelated materials so they look at everything around them as creative tools.
- Play story telling games. For example, you start a story with a sentence, then your child supplies the next sentence, then it's your turn again and so on. Or grab several objects and create a story with your kiddo incorporating those things. Thinking on the spot is a great way to encourage creative thinking.
- Provide resources for dramatic play. This can be elaborate costumes but it can also be a tickle trunk of your cast offs or thrift store finds. Putting on a new identity is an awesome way for kids to explore creativity.
- Share your own creative pursuits. I love taking photos, and I even let my 4 year old (with guidance!) use my big fancy camera. But he also loves borrowing my phone to take photos, which we then look at and talk about why he took those pictures. Do you love to write? Paint or draw? Think of funny word play? Share it with your child and model creative thinking.
- Make sure they have time to do NOTHING! Boredom is truly a lost gift. Having "nothing" to do means their minds are free to wander and find new ways to play.
Toys that promote creativity.
Creativity is really a place where not all toys are created equal. Look for toys that aren't associated with a specific movie or storyline so your kids can make up their own stories without being influenced by what they've seen. Here are some favourite creativity building toys:
Blocks and Rainbows
Such creative toys! Build farm enclosures one day, a fairy castle the next. Do some city planning by creating a block town or knock down a block building with your construction vehicles.
Give your kid a set of blocks and they'll come up with infinite creations. We especially love literally anything from Grimm's Wooden Toys (blocks and rainbows - pictured above), blocks by Polish toymaker Wooden Story (pictured below in the animal hotel) and just about anything made by Haba (like these larger scale, natural blocks pictured below with our son).
We're also major fans of Areaware (pictured below with King Kong), especially for older kids because the design is so awesome they appeal to grown up architects!
And one of my very favourite set of blocks are these tree blocks from Magic Wood (for an earthy, straight from the forest vibe).
See our post on why your kid should play with blocks to learn more about the rich rewards of block play.
You can pick whatever your kid fancies here - sidewalk chalk, watercolour paints, pencil crayons or crayons are some key essentials. As kids get older, more specific craft kits that teach a skill like knitting or collaging are fantastic.
According to the International Child Art Foundation, “Research indicates that a child who is exposed to the arts acquires a special ability to think creatively, be original, discover, innovate, and create intellectual property—key attributes for individual success and social prosperity in the twenty-first century.”
See our arts collection here.
Story Telling Toys
Story telling cards, shadow puppets and story torches (that project an image on the wall) are a couple of excellent creative toys. Story telling toys help kids jump start their creative thoughts and spin some truly tall tales. Building stories is an awesome way to build brains!
Pretend Food & House Play
Fruit salad pizza anyone? Kids love concocting imaginative creations in their play kitchens. While just playing around with kitchens and play food is already great creative exercise, it's so easy to throw in fantasy situations when you've got a play food set up. Grocery store, restaurant or cafe, cooking for a tea party with dolls - there are so many ways to play! See our extending play food post for more details.
A super hero cape fluttering in the breeze, a glittering tiara a top a queen's head, an orange felt fox mask hiding a kiddo's identity - these are awesome tools that instantly transport a kid to imaginary lands. You know how when you throw on red lipstick you feel like you can take on anything? That's what dress up tools do for kids. I can do ANYTHING! See our dress up section here.
Stuffed Animals, Dolls and Puppets
Whether your kid sets up a tea party for their dolls, takes their stuffed giraffe on a thrilling pirate adventure or puts on an impromptu puppet show behind the couch, stuffies, dolls and puppets are such a natural fit for creative play. These are probably the easiest toys for kids to instinctively let their imaginations soar.
Figures and Playscapes
Figures and playscapes like dollhouses, barns and treehouses are an instant ticket to imagination land. Once you have a lion in your hands, ROAR! It's off on a safari. Found a fairy? Suddenly your soaring along with her in a lush, magical forest.
Loose Parts Play
There's a lot of talk about loose parts play these days - small bits and bobs that invited open ended creative play. Spanish toymaker Grapat absolutely excels at creating beautiful loose parts. These can be used to make beautifully creative and meditative mandalas or played with creatively with figures or small dolls.
Play silks are a darling of open ended play educational approaches like Waldorf, and for good reason. It's a simple piece of richly coloured silk that can become...well anything! A river or pond for figures to drink from, a blanket for a doll, a DIY superhero cape, a roof for a simple structure of blocks.
Toys are wonderful tools for enhancing and promoting creativity in kids. When we build a child's toy box with intent and purpose, we are giving them more than simple playthings. We're giving them a chance to discover all they are capable of and the opportunity to build skills essential to a happy, fulfilling life.