Albert Einstein is known for being a smart guy. But for all of his intelligence, Einstein had something he valued far more than his IQ: creativity. He once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” But, throughout childhood, creativity often takes a backseat to knowledge and test scores.
More and more researchers now agree with Einstein. Studies show we are at our best when the right and left sides of our brains are working together. However, the school day is rarely structured to promote creativity, and many argue that screens and technology are robbing our kids of their boredom, a natural breeding ground for creative thought.
Scores measuring the creativity of American children have been falling steadily since the ‘90s. This loss has serious implications for our children. Creativity is problem-solving, creativity is innovation and creativity is all of the ways our brains use what we know and who we are to change the world. When polled, over 60 percent of CEOs cited creativity as the number one leadership quality.
Because creativity is a “use it or lose it” skill, it’s important to make sure kids have both a healthy outlet for their creativity and the support to continue to nurture it. We’ve put together a great list of ways you can help foster creativity in your kids.
- Grant unstructured playtime. Make sure you leave some time in the day for imaginative child-lead play. That means no adult direction and no screens.
- Provide the proper tools. Equip your home with toys that encourage creation, like crayons, paints and legos. And make sure they have a safe place to use them.
- Play dress-up. Taking on different characters and personalities when putting on a stethoscope or a cape not only promotes creativity, it also has other amazing benefits like enhancing communication and social skills.
- Go outside. The great outdoors allow children and their imaginations to run wild, creating and engaging in critical thinking along the way. Rainy day? Museums and libraries are great too.
- Ask open-ended, thought-provoking questions. Create scenarios for your children to solve or simply ask them a question that can’t be answered with a yes or a no. When they answer, try not to shut an answer down or manage their thoughts.
- Allow diverse thought. Let your children disagree with you from time to time. Ask them for more than one solution to a problem.
- Don’t reward creativity. The creative process should be a natural freedom, not a task completed for a treat. Rewards can inhibit the process.
- Encourage a love of reading: Read with them, let them read to you or make up your own stories. This doesn’t have to be limited to books. Read a play and act it out together.
- Talk about creativity: Initiate a discussion about the best stories or ideas your kids have come up with. Ask when and where they get their best inspirations.
- Make time for yourself: Kids learn from watching their parents and emulate what they do. If they see you enjoying a particular creative outlet, they may be a lot more willing to try something similar.
Parenting is complicated, and there are never enough hours in the day for all of the things we want to do and share with our kids. But creativity is an important skill to help your child build and use — both for their happiness now and their success in the future. Try some of these out, let that creativity bloom. Trust us, you won’t be sorry.