Parents and teachers both have an important role to play in encouraging and cultivating creativity.

Pablo Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

And he’s right. While creativity in children is simply seen as their natural state of being, as soon as we reach adulthood, a strange dichotomy happens.

There are the majority of us, and then there are the “creative types” who often get bundled together with the pessimistic connotation of being wild, unruly dreamers.

How did we go from talking to stuffed animals and pretending that toilet rolls were race cars, to firmly believing that reality is the only place for cool people to hang out?

Many studies have shown that the daydreaming, curiosity and ever questioning that defines our younger years begins to sharply decline at around the age of ten, and experts believe it is the simple product of a lack of practice.

As educators move to put a greater focus on academic achievement in the later years of primary school and into secondary school, the opportunities to become lost in a pretend world get fewer and further in between.

We also start to worry about being wrong and the consequences of this – a concept that is foreign to preschoolers.

When we fear being incorrect, it is only natural to start to favour logic over creativity. This is why many people who identify as perfectionists, striving to get things right, would also say that they are “not creative”.

Fortunately, in more recent years, the word creativity has been broadened in its accepted definition to extend beyond artistic flair. Creative thinking has been given much more room to breath in our classrooms thanks to Inquiry-based Learning (IBL) projects, which promote creative problem solving. Inquiry based learning poses problems rather than facts.

When presented with a problem, our left brain searches its existing knowledge bank to find an obvious answer. When one is not easily found, as is the objective of a well formulated IBL project, the right brain kicks in, searching a deep and wide range of distant information that could be relevant to the problem.

If a connection is made, the left brain jumps into action again, grabbing hold of this idea before it gets away.

This continual switching of cognitive styles defines creative thinking, and it is not out of reach to anyone.

Personal hardships were the IBL projects of yesteryear. Challenges breed flexibility, which in turn cultivates creativity. As a child, Charlie Chaplin was barely raised by a mentally ill mother and abusive mother, while Maya Angelou’s unthinkable childhood hardships left her mute for four years.

These individuals came through their struggles to become two of the history’s most creative souls.

Their turmoils would not be wished upon any child, and today’s kids lead for the most part, blissfully challenge-free lives. Challenges, through IBL projects, must therefore be created in classrooms to produce the sort of creative thinkers with the fearlessness and flexibility to tackle the massive problems that burden our world both today and in the future.

Creativity can also be practiced at home in the following ways:

  • Restrict lengthy screen time in favour of imaginative play
  • Get involved – follow your child’s lead (rather than the other way around) and get lost in their pretend world
  • Allow at least 1-2 afternoons free from extra-curricular activities to give your child the time and space to play
  • Provide a wide range of reading materials for children to expand their horizons
  • Encourage periods of quiet, stillness and reflection

Create challenges, nurture imagination, recognise that we can all be “creative types”, and celebrate this for the wonderful gift to society that it is.

How do you encourage creativity in your kids?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • My kids were always outside making things, creating games. Then they came inside and used their imaginations to keep busy. My grandson is exactly the same. Not lacking creativity and imagination in my family


  • Great tips. It is so important to stay creative


  • I have told my parent’s in law to not buy our son an ipad, he’s 1 now and were in no hurry to get him one, i’d rather see him entertain himself and play not just look at a screen all the time


  • Playing outdoors is the best thing for kids to do when the weather is ideal.


  • Outdoor play is wonderful – use the verge, garden, park and just about anywhere outdoors – on a wet day get outside in boots and raincoat and on a cold day check out footprints first thing in the morning on an oval, it’s great for making a giant picture!


  • We love getting outdoors and love the new nature scape parks that are being developed in inner city areas these days.


  • My kids spend do much time outside, making up games and all sorts of creative ways to play outside.


  • Great article. We have no TV time in the afternoon and my daughter gets to choose if she would like to play with play doh or draw


  • All sorts of ways. We get outside and jake cubby houses. They have Lego sets. Paints and crayons and glue. They are very arty and I’m renowned fir showing off their creativity


  • It is so important for kids to be outside!


  • We definitely need to foster more creative development but perhaps it’s us as adults that need to schedule space for creativity


  • This is so true that creativity has been squashed in todays society. Dr Yong Zhao does a great lecture on this topic which I have recently attended.


  • Childhood should be all about creativity. Unfortunately these days it seems everyone is so busy that many just sit their kids in front of a TV for the afternoon.


  • Many children are so busy with extra curricular activities now a days that they have forgotten how to entertain themselves with creativity and individuality. It’s great for kids to experience different things, but downtime is important as well. My children when younger had great imaginations and were all able to find things to do without complaining of boredom. Things like a craft box, old clothes for dressups will keep imagination flowing.


  • A box fo arts and craft, two tubs of glue, endless supple of paper and my supervision. they make things and tell me all about them. I scaffold their ideas by suggesting certain things look like this or that or asking specific questions that excite and question their curiosity.


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