How Can You Encourage Your Child's Creativity?
You have probably heard how Steven Spielberg's mom let him open and pour cans of tomato soup all over their family's kitchen so he could film his first clips. While you may not want to do this, you can take steps to help your child grow creatively. Below are a few ideas:
The Four Ps of Creativity
Kenneth Heilman, a brain neurologist and author of Creativity and the Brain, suggests students follow these four steps to increase creativity:
Students need raw materials to work with and unstructured activities. Georgia O'Keefe played with a dollhouse she constructed herself from two thin boards. As a child, sculptor Claes Oldenburg invented his own worlds with homemade charts, maps and books. Blocks, legos, scraps (wood, fabric, paper, wire, used containers, twine), blank paper, clay, tape, scissors, and found natural materials (shells, rocks, sticks) are all good beginnings for open, unstructured play.
To master or get better at anything, students need to practice. According to Malcolm Gladwell it takes 10,000 hours or ten years to master anything.
Students need to put a lot of ideas out into the world without fear of failing. Pablo Picasso produced around 19,800 works of art. Not all of them were "Guernica". The more students create, the more interesting their ideas and work will become.
Students need to keep trying, failing, learning from their failures and then trying again. You can encourage your child to treat mistakes not as failures but as opportunities to learn.
13 Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People
In their book, Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People, Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein discuss how many geniuses in all disciplines were also artists. The Root-Bernsteins studied different types of thinking used by creative people and developed a list of tools used by brilliant scientists, mathematicians, writers, musicians, architects and artists. By giving your child opportunities related to these skills, you will help him grow creatively.
1. Observing. Drawing carefully what you see around you and collecting things (rocks, stamps, coins, insects, pressed flowers, seeds, baseball cards, postcards, etc.) are excellent ways to improve visual observation.
2. Imaging. The ability to imagine the look of things not physically in front of you is a skill you can practice. Students can write different settings for their stories, do visual geometric puzzles like those in the book, Pentagames, or imagine in their minds melodies and harmonies of their favorite songs.
3. Abstracting. Students can learn to search for and express what for them is the single most important thing about a room, a story or their day. They can try to draw or write about the simplest forms of objects.
4. Recognizing Patterns. Like the artist Escher, children can find patterns and images in clouds, wood paneling, tree trunks and window frost. Playing with jigsaw puzzles and noticing patterns in riddles and jokes also encourage this skill.
5. Forming Patterns. Playing with classic toys (Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, erector sets, legos, K'NEX and Tangrams), writing poetry with a limited number of words or syllables, painting with limited patterns and playing instruments all help develop skills in forming patterns.
6. Analogizing. An analogy refers to a resemblance between things that are otherwise unlike. Two examples are Benjamin Franklin's analogy of lightning to electricity and Willliam Harvey's analogy of the heart to a pump. Give your child toys which can be used in many ways, so they can imagine a stick to be a bridge, a scarf to be a river and a daisy as a doll in a gown. Through play, they can develop their own analogies.
7. Body Thinking. Children need practice in moving their bodies and gaining awareness of their kinesthetic responses. Sports, dance, theatre programs, carpentry and musical instruments all encourage body thinking.
8. Empathizing. Students can practice studying people and things outside themselves. How would they feel, behave and respond if they were a cell, a chimpanzee, or their grandmother?
9. Dimensional Thinking. Dimensional thinking involves moving from 2-D to 3-D, mapping, scaling objects in size, or transforming information from one set of dimensions to another set. Folding origami, playing with pipe cleaners, building with blocks, carving in stone or soap, learning to read animal tracks, making shadow pictures on the wall, printmaking, making maps and creating Calder-type wire sculptures are all ways to develop dimensional thinking. Frank Lloyd Wright credited his set of Froebel blocks with the development of his architectural thinking.
10. Modeling. Picasso said, "To model an object is to possess it." Building models of anything helps students learn how things work and the relationships between different structures.
11. Playing. Playing sometimes leads to great discoveries. Alexander Fleming discovered the mold penicillium (which led him to develop penicillin) while playing and trying to grow a certain microbe color for painting. Many successful geniuses mixed play with serious work. Watch a U-tube video of Calder's circus with your child and create circus characters out of found materials. Show your child your own playful curiosity. Famous composer Charles Ives remembers a time when his father raced out into the garden during a severe thunderstorm to listen to the church bells ringing and then raced back inside to find the same sounds on his piano.
12. Transforming. Using several thinking tools together leads to transforming. Anytime students create theatre or video productions, or build structures they use their imaginations in several ways simultaneously.
13. Synthesizing. In synthetic understanding, sensory impressions, feelings, knowledge and memories come together in a unified way with a feeling of connection between self and universe. Cezanne tried to create paintings that spoke to all of a viewer's senses at once. Discussing memories and multi-sensory experiences (what things taste, smell, touch, hear and look like) will help your child build the ability to synthesize information.