6 Things That Kill Kids’ Creativity

Jul 31, 2016
6 Things That Kill Kids’ Creativity

Creativity Builds Brains

As teachers of young children, we know that encouraging creativity is a huge part of our job. But did you know that creativity is more than just about having fun? The process of creating something from our own imagination enhances brain development and is important for:

  • Cognitive skills
  • Emotional development
  • Building imagination
  • Communication
  • Physical development
  • Literacy skills

Read more: the Six Key Elements of Meaningful Play

Creativity Tips

Focus on the process: The process of creating is more important than having a set end product in mind. Provide plenty of time, materials, guidance and encouragement and then let them go!

Each project will be unique: We all show our creativity in different ways, including children. Some build intricate structures with legos or blocks, some with elaborate pretend play and some with blank paper and art materials. Everyone’s will be different. That’s the purpose of the creative process. Valuing each expression and communicating this to parents is essential. 

Art can’t be forced: Creativity only happens when it’s done for enjoyment, not when it’s forced or coerced.

The smaller the child, the bigger the paper: Children need opportunities to be BIG before they can go small. Think butcher paper taped to tables. If you give them small paper, they paint on the table anyway! Hint: go to your local newspaper and ask for end rolls from printing equipment. Other paper sources include: Use recycled blueprints from builders & architects, newspapers, expired calendars from office supply store, scrap paper from a print shop, old letterhead or any recycled office paper

Think outside the box: There are thousands of ways to let kids use ordinary objects to be creative with, including painting paint with lots of different objects: golf balls, baby bottle brushes, toothbrushes, bath puffs, tennis balls, squeegees, trikes and bikes, marbles, strawberry baskets, toy cars, legos, fish from the butcher, dog toys, flyswatters, kitchen brushes, squirt bottles, fingers, plungers, magnets, brooms, sponges… and I’ll bet you can come up with even better ideas!

Creativity Killers

Download PDF: 20 Ways to Paint with Kids

Children begin life with a high level of creativity, but often it gets squashed somewhere along the way. One author says that 84% of Kindergarten students rank high in creativity, but that number shrinks to 10% by the second grade. (Robert McGarvey “Creative Thinking” USAIR, June 1990).

Since we know that creativity is vital for healthy development, we need to make sure that we root out the following creativity-killers from our classrooms.

1) Hovering teachers: Hovering gets in the way of the creative process. Put out materials, give them time to explore and use the materials and give some space.  Sitting and making your own art while they create just might stifle creativity.  Because what often happens?  “Teacher, will you draw me a…?”

2) Evaluation: Resist the urge to say anything about their creations including “What is it?”  If a child asks, “Teacher, do you like it?”, you say, “Do you like your painting?” We want to cultivate intrinsic motivation. Be supportive and encouraging, but don’t quiz children.   A big smile on your face and a thumbs up is all the feedback you need to give!

3) Over control: When we encourage copy work and forbid or discourage spontaneous scribbling, we harm the child’s development for learning as well as artistic expression.  Opportunities to draw without adult interference increases cognitive ability.

4) Restricting choice: Say yes as often as you possibility can.

5) Pressure: Don’t put subtle pressure on kids to create something they may not know how to do yet. (e.g. “Make a picture for mommy that looks like _______.” )

6) Aversion to messiness: Creativity is often messy, and demanding a pristine environment clearly conveys a message to our kids that we value the wrong things. This is a HUGE creative killer that needs to be communicated to parents too. We all like our kids to look cute, but tell parents that they’re child’s clothes will get stained and dirty at school.   

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