Bubbling with Creativity


My daughter Sienna, who is two-years-old, disappears from my sight as she goes to her bedroom. I hear some rumbling as she reappears, pulling her potty across the living room, through the dining room, and then off to the family room. Intrigued and amused, I quickly finish my task only to find her, too late, sitting at her art table, covered in kid’s paint–the washable kind, thank goodness! How did she even reach that? Soon, I realized that the potty was the key; she’d propped it in front of a shelf and used it as a step tool to reach the paint which is usually inaccessible. How creative! I was impressed by the planning, problem-solving, and executive skills it required. But now it was my turn to be creative and find a better toddler-proofing solution!

Children have an innate ability to be creative. They find solutions in new unexpected ways. If we define creativity as “having original ideas that add value”, we also put it at the heart of problem-solving. Isn’t it the basis of engineering, for example? An engineer must be creative and come up with an original idea that will bring value to our modern world’s technology. To do that, the engineer must be ready to make mistakes. So how come schools stigmatize mistakes so much? Doesn’t it educate children to set aside their creativity in favor of what is explicitly taught? And since creativity is at the heart of every problem-solving, shouldn’t it be nurtured as an extraordinary skill?

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

Ken Robinson

Ken Robinson, a visionary cultural leader, flagged that issue in his 2006 TED Talk about “How schools kill creativity”. Sir Robinson is renowned for leading the British government’s advisory committee in 1998 on creative and cultural education with a “massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy”. He was knighted in 2003 for his work.

Sir Robinson explains that we all have bodies, minds, and souls that crave another type of learning and experience aside from that which is offered in schools. Talented and creative students from around the world don’t realize their potential because creativity is never the focus in schools. Students are told that they cannot get a job painting, or dancing, or otherwise using their unique talent to earn a living and are, instead, encouraged to get a degree to land a job as adults, a criteria which we parents all know is outdated. Degrees aren’t worth much anymore because there are so many graduates that the jobs that required a bachelor’s degree now require a Master’s, and only the students with extra skills will get the job.

But despite the fact that academic achievement is no longer enough on its own, public education all around the world still puts academic ability, such as mathematics and languages, on the top of their priority list, and leaves the arts at the bottom. For that reason, Sir Ken encourages a new kind of education system that would nurture creativity, and where creativity would be just as important as literacy.

Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

Sir Ken Robinson

But changing the system will take time, so until it evolves, we educators must take matters into our own hands, and make sure we value our children’s creativity. We can do that by recognizing that there are different types of intelligences, and different types of learners. We can give and find time for children to use that creativity too. Here are a few ideas to help promote creativity with your children.

Our tips:

  • Try saying “how creative” instead of “don’t be silly”, then redirect if necessary.
  • Don’t over-schedule: during summers or weekends at home, one planned outing per day can be more than enough. Sending a child from camp, to library, to play date, to dinner is likely to get everybody exhausted, without adding any educational value.
  • Schedule time for imaginative play: maybe resist buying a new toy, and instead try to create one: cut and paste, draw and color.
  • Remember that the moment children feel boredom is also often the moment they let their imagination run free.
  • Do not feel like you need to be your child’s entertainer: leaving time for free play is just as important for development.
  • Allow children to be mobile while learning: maybe sit them on an exercise ball, a rocker, or a swing. Let them learn by singing, dancing and moving their bodies. This technique helps many of us to focus and learn better.

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