Curious Case of “Creativity”

What is the big fuss about creativity? Why is it such a buzz word? And why does everyone keep talking about creativity being important for the future?

Think this: Self-Driving cars, unmanned space missions and robots curing diseases. What do all of these have in common? No humans required to solve complex order problems. Till date, simple tasks that do not require much decision making were performed by computers but in the future, complex and decision making tasks will also performed by super computers or Artificial Intelligence (AI). In the future, jobs that are relevant now will not be jobs anymore because AI will do them instead of us. What does this mean for our children? Our children need skills different from ours to succeed in the future.

So to succeed in the 21st Century what do our children need? Children need what are known as 21st Century skills. These are identified by P21, an organisation dedicated to improving our skills for the future. Creativity is an important learning skill highlighted by P21.

Creativity is a natural talent every child has. But it dies down if not encouraged from childhood.  But our preschools and schools aren’t fostering creativity. So why aren’t we encouraging creativity? Well, teaching creativity is not so easy.  It requires a paradigm shift in the role of teachers and educational institutions. Teachers and educational institutions are used to being the controllers of information as well as ability testers. For children to learn creativity, teachers have to become facilitators and guides to the children. Instead of dictating the information flow, teachers must encourage self-discovery and experiential learning.

Too often I see teachers give information that students are supposed to learn through repetition. This one dimensional and auditory learning is not suited for young children and definitely doesn’t help creativity. Teachers are told to follow the curriculum with a structured time limit for every lesson. 45 mins of maths and then 45 mins of language and then 30 mins to have lunch. Well, children especially the ones below 4 years have no concept of time. They don’t understand 45 mins is how much time exactly or how to read time. This makes them mere spectators in the education journey as they juggle through different topics in a day.

So how can we help children practice creativity? Here is a beautiful article on creativity written by PBS (A non-profit organisation of America’s Public TV Stations) if you want to read further. Outlined below are my thoughts on how can we help children become more creative.

  1. Education needs to be more experiential: Instead of children listening to the teacher, they must use their hands and study with their hands. Hands are the key to the brain. Without experiencing the learning, children can’t visualise. Visualisation is an important aspect for creativity. The learning must be hands-on and concrete.
  1. No Judgement: Too often we tell kids don’t do this and don’t do that. “Color within the circle only, No! you are doing it all wrong”.  Children then realise colouring within the circle is correct? But wait there is no right or wrong here, right? Does it matter if they colour within the circle or outside it? Do not interrupt children in their work. Do not judge children let them do something wrong. The realisation of wrong or right should be intrinsic.
  1. Do not help children in solving their problems: Too often we are pressed for time and don’t allow children to do their own work. Tying shoe laces sometimes takes very long for a child, but respect the child and let him solve his own problem. Offer help only when the child asks for it. This way children feel you trust they can do the job, improving their self-confidence.
  1. Give children choices: Parents and Adults run children’s lives. “Now is time to eat, now is to play, now its time to go home from the playground”. Children feel they have no control over their lives. Let them make some decisions. For example “Do you want to wear the Yellow shirt or Blue shirt”. Do you want to go to the garden or do you want to ride the bike? Give them some choices in a day, children feel empowered and in control of their environment. This empowerment is key to creativity.

These are my ideas on how to make children more creative. If you have some thoughts on creativity do share them with me in comments.

Leave a Reply