Nuturing Creativity in children

Speaking of creativity, you may first think of painting, handicrafts, music and other creations of art. However, creativity is in fact the ability to think outside the box and break limitations, and it can be applied in all aspects of life. Nurturing children’s creativity at a young age is beneficial to their future development, yet how exactly can this be achieved?
Creativity is vital to children’s development, because it involves not only the generation of new ideas, but also the implementation of these ideas, and also solving possible problems that may arise in the process. In other words, to nurture creativity in children is to help them develop three different sets of skills, namely exploration skills, planning and implementation skills, as well as problem solving skills.

Following children’s growth, different skills are developed at different stages. According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, babies and toddlers between the ages of zero and two are at a sensorimotor stage. They are curious about the surrounding world and sensitive to sensory stimulation. Through the sense of touch, they try to learn the features, shapes, textures, etc. of different objects. Children aged three to six are at the preoperational stage, in which they are able to expand their ideas, combine them with other thoughts and implement them through planning. Children above the age of seven are at the concrete operational stage. They are able to predict possible problems that may arise when executing plans and find corresponding solutions.

Many toys and activities are being labelled as constructive in helping children boost their creativity. Yet what proves to be most effective is often the simplest stuff, such as sand, water, paper and play dough. When loose sand is combined with water, it becomes more solid; flimsy paper can be folded or added with other materials to become strong. Parents can demonstrate to children as well as let them experiment to explore the many possibilities of a material. Hence, when they come up with an idea, they know they can try different methods. For example, if the idea of a castle comes to mind, children can build one with sand, construct a large one using cardboards, or use many other different ways. Cooking is also an excellent way of increasing creativity. From selecting ingredients to cooking methods, there are much room for ideation. In the process, children can also develop their planning, execution and problem-solving skills.
Children are in fact born with innate creative potential, but it is often suppressed when schools and adults impose rules and standards onto them. To nurture creative kids, parents should be open-minded, abandon all stereotypes, and prevent setting limitations for children. Moreover, parents should not obsess over right and wrong as there is often more than one way or answer to things, or they may limit children and even discourage them to explore. When interacting with children, parents should guide but not teach. To encourage creativity, it is more effective to let children try instead of telling them each and every step in detail. If parents can really open their mind, they can nurture creativity not only in children, but also in themselves!

Special thanks to Ms Ellen Fok, Educational Psychologist, Potential Development Association Ltd.
Yellow bus magazine 2017 July