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Learn: Three Keys to Facilitating Creativity in Children (Part 2)

In my further research following Learn: Facilitate Development of Creativity in Children (Part 1), I discovered more experts who concur with Michele Cassou's approach regarding fostering creativity in children.

An article on PBS's The Whole Child explains that "what children learn and discover about themselves [through the process of creating] is vital to their development." Like Cassou, the article asserts that the process of creating holds greater value than its outcome.

This post by Christine Carter, Ph.D, a sociologist at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, virtually mirrors Cassou's advice. Carter writes that "creativity is not limited to artistic and musical expression—it is also essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers." She goes on to warn readers that we may be impairing creative development by changing the fundamental childhood experience. I wish Carter's post, which offers seven tips for fostering creativity in kids, were required reading for all parents and teachers.

Allison's flowersCiting academic research to support his claims, James D. Moran, III, likewise discusses here the importance of process over product, the critical importance of creativity in developing problem solving skills and that rewards "seem to reduce the quality of children's responses and the flexibility of their thought."

Experts agree that a specific environment will best help children develop vital creative skills. Successfully facilitating creativity in children boils down to these three keys:

Space and Time. In order to develop creativity fully, children need a welcoming space that is safe, orderly, flexible and supportive. Kids also need plenty of unstructured time for exploring, experimenting with materials and creating. 

Freedom. Freedom from rules and instruction (in terms of how to draw or paint or build or create or play) allows for rich creativity. Cassou writes that "technique overrides intuition." When they need it, she assures, children will develop technique through invention or reinvention. Freedom from evaluation—either positive or negative—is also critical, as is freedom from comparison. (Read more in Part 1 under the heading Words & Actions Can Stunt Creativity.) 

Respect. Cassou recommends dating the back of each creation and carefully storing creations in archival folders that offer a safe place of respect for the child's work. In respect of the child's creative process, practice using encouragingrather than leadingresponses such as:

  • I'm glad you created that! (In response to a child asking, "Do you like my _____?")
  • It seems like you had fun making your creation!
  • What did you like about that activity?
  • What do you think you'd like to create next?
  • Is there a tool (or color or material) you would like to be able to use next time?
  • What tools (or colors or materials) worked well for this project?
  • When a child expresses frustration at how something is coming out, your response might be that the piece "does not need your opinion," suggests Cassou, or "It's not wrong; it just came out looking different from what you expected." 

"What the child expresses [through artwork] CANNOT be told in words," Cassou explains. When children are ready, she assures, they will spontaneously talk about their creations. Rather than seeking critical aesthetics, suggests Cassou, look for the beauty of a child's creation "in the innocence and truthfulness" of the child's effort. (Update: Here is a link to Part 3 of 3 in my series on Facilitating Children's Creativity.)

Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
—Pablo Picasso

How do you feel about creativity—your own or your children's or students'? Comment here or connect with me via twitter.