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What’s the Secret to Creativity? Simple Strategies to Raise Creative Children

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

How Parents Can Raise Creative Thinkers in the Face of Elementary and Middle School Social Pressures

It’s proven through government studies that creativity is a valuable asset best developed through the arts. Creativity is known as the fundamental driver of innovation. Art education develops the critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities necessary to create our future innovators. However, it can be quite difficult for parents to retain the adventurous free spirit of early childhood in the face of elementary and middle school social pressures. How can parents raise the next generation of creative thinkers?

Unstructured artwork is characteristic of pre-school and kindergarten age children. They draw stick figures and love to splatter paint with fingers onto huge sheets of paper. Parents enjoy the self-expressive free nature found in their child’s art. Exploration and risk-taking are encouraged, even if the kitchen floor is a disaster and there are two loads of laundry afterwards.

By third grade it’s clear something has changed. Children become much more cautious with their artwork. Looking at class presentations shows heightened conformity and a great degree of similarity across student artwork. Many seem too perfect to be a typical third-grader’s. Children seem a bit embarrassed by their work, and more concerned with approval than enjoyment of the process. Unless parents and teachers step in, children will continue to lose their inborn creative spark.

So what can parents do to nurture creativity into adulthood? Here are four strategies:

  •     Children’s physical ability to color inside the lines is seen as a developmental milestone, thus teaching at an early age that creativity has strict rules and expectations. Relying on coloring books leads to the same conformity. Instead of using structured materials such as coloring books, parents should try sketchbooks to help children find their own source of inspiration and ways to communicate through art.
  •     Peer pressure can influence a child’s artwork the same way it controls what clothes a child wears to school. Our society places high value on creativity, yet children instinctively feel that artwork has to be pretty to be praised. Parents need to be aware of their child’s need for social acceptance, even in art class. Asking about projects can give insight into the amount of peer pressure involved. Try “How is your work different from others in class? Or the same? What do you like / not like about your artwork? What would you do differently next time?” Let you child know that being an individual is important, and that you value an ability to be thinking independently.
  •     School administrators face pressure to keep art as part of the school day in the face of rising budget cuts. However, a comprehensive standards-based art curriculum isn’t just about making clay dinosaurs or painting with acrylics. A true study of the visual arts is cross-curricular, uniquely connecting the “core” course of math, history, language arts and science. As a parent, don’t let art get pushed aside as being a “special”. If your child has art class in school or as part of an afterschool program, find out just what topics are being explored. It’s not just about what they have made in class, it’s about learning to ask questions and explore the relationship between subjects. If you want children with critical thinking skills and better grades, it’s proven that you should start with art.
  •     Art needs to stay fun. It develops self-expression that is free from “right and wrong” test-driven coursework. Art explores the basis of human knowledge about our world and is the best way for children to discover their unique place in it. So keep it fun by taking trips to museums, talking about movies or picture books – really anything visual that creates an emotional response, good or bad. Then think, discuss, and ask “Why?” “What did it mean to you?” “Would you change it?” Not only will you have more quality time with your family, you’ll also be developing critical thinking skills.

Teaching children to ask questions is essential towards their creative development. Art should be a place where children can learn, explore and create without right or wrong answers. By nurturing creativity we develop future innovators. So don’t be afraid to teach children to color outside the lines

Do All Children Need Art Education? Test Your Creativity IQ To Find Out

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Parents are faced with a dizzying amount of information on what, exactly, children should be learning in school or after school. They’ve been told “Creativity is Essential for 21st Century Skills”. So what exactly are those skills any why are they necessary?

Here’s a short quiz – it’s easy, True or False?

Creativity is a vitally important skill, but difficult to measure.

Question: Art is just for kids who like to draw. Unless a ‘gifted’ child likes to spend time doodling, sketching or drawing there’s no reason to spend valuable educational hours on a visual arts curriculum.
Answer: False. It has been proven through government studies that art education measurably increases a child’s academic achievement. According to the PCAH Turnaround: Arts Initiative, “Research shows that when students participate in the arts they are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, have higher GPAs and SAT scores and show significantly higher levels of mathematics proficiency by grade 12. They are also more likely to be engaged and cooperative with teachers and peers and are more self-confident and better able to express their ideas.” What parent doesn’t want those benefits?

 

Question: A course of study in the Visual Arts will only benefit that small number of children who have ‘natural talent’ in hands-on artwork.
Answer: False. Art class isn’t just about making clay dinosaurs. A comprehensive, standards based art curriculum teaches the 16 elements and principles – those like line, shape, color, and emphasis – that teach children to effectively communicate in our overwhelmingly visual world.
It’s well known that there’s a connection between the Arts and creativity. It’s also known that a Visual Arts training enhances a skill known as ‘visualization’. Not coincidentally, those both contain the word ‘visual’. So what exactly is visualization, and why is it such an important part of children’s education?

Visualization can be explained with one simple question:
What did you eat for breakfast?
Note: This one isn’t true or false.

Answering this question defines visualization. First, the brain goes back in time and recalls an image – in this case it’s (probably) food – then labels it with words for the answer. That’s it. The ability of the mind to creates a picture to solve a problem or answer a question. Visualization skills are innate, yet children tend to lose them during the transition to adulthood. As with creativity, visualization skills need to be developed and encouraged in early childhood education so that they are not lost.

The ability for the brain to create complex images to solve problems is the key to creativity and innovation. Einstein didn’t change scientific thinking about the nature of the universe just because he was good with numbers. Rather, he often spoke about how he ‘was able to see’ the nature of matter and complex systems in motion, then follow with mathematical proofs. Clearly, visualization is a necessary if students are to study even high school level science and mathematics. However, at a basic level knowledge is not just a static standardized test. All of those building blocks start moving in real time. That’s where visualization is an essential skill. Children can know the names of the planets, yet without visualization skills there’s no understanding beyond rote memorization.

The last questions are actually disguised answers.
What does this have to do with the Visual Arts? well, Art is a visual language. If you teach children to decode art, they can understand why a Coke commercial will make them want to drink Coke.
Why start early? Why before Middle School?
Parents of teenagers know that children are most energetic and free thinking in Elementary School. By Middle School conformity sets in, and from that to teenage years parents can only hope they’ve distilled enough foundation to weather the storm. In sum, it’s never too late, but it’s always best to start early.

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