Back in this October post, I posed a few questions about creativity in children:
- Is creativity valued as much as technical skill? When it comes to creativity, does reality match the ideology that innovation and progress depend on creative thinkers?
- What else can we do to help foster creativity in children?
Today I'm ready to begin answering the question: What can we do to help foster creativity in children?
At my local library, I struck gold with artist and teacher Michele Cassou's book Kids Play: Igniting Children's Creativity. Though it focuses narrowly on painting, Kids Play applies easily to other forms of creativity like drawing, building and crafting. These key points from Cassou's philosophy struck me as most critical to a child's creative development:
- Free creativity serves an important purpose
- Words and actions can stunt creativity
- Adults can facilitate healthy development of creativity in children
Free Creativity Serves an Important Purpose
When adults allow children the freedom to approach creativity as "play, adventure, and self-expression," creativity can nurture the growth of a child's self-confidence and authenticity. By creating for exploration rather than result, children learn invention and trust in intuition. In free and safe (yet structured) environments, children will learn to respect the process of their work (rather than the outcome) and will, along the way, discover and invent techniques. (Yes, they may be "reinventing the wheel" per say; however, the value of discovering these creative skills on their own greatly expands their creative potential.)
Words & Actions Can Stunt Creativity
Rules, requirements and, most subtly yet notably, expectations can shut down a child's creativity in an instant. When children hold specific expectations—usually learned from adults who unwittingly judge or critique their work—they see that they cannot achieve the desired result (a realistic looking puppy, say) and give up before they even begin. "Every time we evaluate their work, with a compliment or criticism" writes Cassou, "we are taking away from process and with it their freedom and power of invention. We make them self-conscious about their work." Mentioning or trying to teach to a child the rules of perspective and scale only leads to repressed creativity and freedom as does comparing one child's creative work to another's and allowing a child's work to be judged by anyone (e.g., by displaying artwork on the fridge).
Adults Can Facilitate Healthy Development of Creativity in Children
As a well-meaning parent, I am guilty of praising my daughters' artworks and of suggesting changes or additions. From now on, though, I will try mindfully to consider my comments and actions toward Lauren's and Allison's creative works. For children (or adults) to reconnect with their authentic creativity, which Cassou assures is possible, can take up to two months in a free and safe environment.
Learn: Facilitate Development of Creativity in Children (Part 2) will continue this discussion, offering suggested responses to kids who ask "what should I draw" or "do you like my picture?" (Update: Links to Part 2 and Part 3.)
What do you think about Cassou's perspective on kids' creativity? Leave a comment here or via twitter.