Encourage children’s creative thinking and imagination
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, imagination embraces the world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution” (Albert Einstein).
Einstein saw clearly that creativity is one of the most powerful qualities in human beings. When properly stimulated, human beings of all ages (including children) can harness their imagination to create things that do not exist (paintings, games, books) and solve complex problems.
Despite this beautiful potential, in recent decades, interest in the creative disciplines has stagnated, as many students are bewitched by technical disciplines and engineering studies that are perceived as more directly useful to society.
In this article we will talk about the importance of creativity and imagination, and how you can help nurture them in your children as they develop related skills. This is possible because imagination and creativity are aptitudes and, as such, they can be cultivated, trained, and improved.
Creativity is important, today more than ever
Today we want to talk about Creativity with a capital C, capable of creating wonderful games, fantastic worlds, exciting stories and engaging games.
Unfortunately, too often this aptitude has been undervalued, in part because of a certain way of doing education that focuses on standardized tests and technical topics.
Sure, measuring progress is important, especially in school. And it’s very useful to teach practical subjects. Still, creativity has its advantages too (and certainly benefits children) and, like other human skills, can be taught and nurtured…
Creativity is a great superpower, for adults and children alike.
Creative people are better able to cope and live with periods and situations of uncertainty Precisely because they are more creative, these people know that they are able to adapt to the unexpected and adjust their thinking to unknown situations.
Technical skills, such as math and engineering, show children how things work. This is a very useful perspective for solving concrete problems that are clearly defined.
More ambiguous or uncertain problems, however, may require a different approach and point of view. For example, creative thinking is very useful when trying to transform an everyday object into something completely different. For example, a cardboard toilet paper roll can become a bird feeder… or, old t-shirts and pantyhose, properly transformed, can become sponges… did you ever imagine that? Well, it is in cases like these that creativity comes into play!
Creative children, in fact, show a greater propensity than others to identify patterns, schemes, structures. Starting from them, they establish links and connections between concepts, ideas and objects, giving them the apparently magical ability to identify unexpected solutions and solve unknown and complex problems.
How do we encourage and train our children’s creativity?
It is now clear that creativity is an essential resource for children (and adults). How can we encourage children to develop and train it?
First of all, it should be clear to you that creativity is like a muscle! It can be trained, and it’s useful to do so, for many reasons.
So, here’s how to train it….
A smorgasbord of new ideas!
There are really many ways to define creativity, but one of them is of particular interest to us because it involves the ability to use imagination to relate to ideas and invent something new, or solve a known problem.
Being creative means making imaginative connections (which, sometimes, also turn out to be very useful because they can lead to the invention of a game, story, or object that didn’t exist before).
While playing our “Animals at Risk” Memory, for example, a child will notice that some animals live in similar environments. You can try to play with the children, describing one of the environments drawn on the cards and asking them which animal could live in that environment. This will stimulate creativity and imagination.
Another very interesting aspect of creativity is that it allows us to see things from a completely new perspective, because of the ability to interconnect what is known to us with new concepts and ideas. Conflicting ideas, in particular, are very useful because they get your child thinking: how are these two things mutually exclusive, and what could possibly reconcile them?
Your child asks a lot of questions, and that’s okay!
At some point in their development, children begin to ask a lot of “why?” questions, “how come?” questions, and “who did that?” questions. This is a good thing, and you need to teach your child to keep asking questions. Better yet, encourage these questions by supporting him/her and providing (when possible) some answers to the questions asked.
Some children don’t feel comfortable asking questions, because sometimes questions interpreted as a lack or sign of weakness. A common misunderstanding is that people who ask too many questions aren’t too “smart”. In reality, it is quite the contrary! You can explain this by repeating the maxim “there is no such thing as a dumb question – only dumb answers.”
Asking questions denotes curiosity and a desire to know, and curiosity ignites imagination, because it stimulates the brain to wonder how things work, why they work the way they do, and how they would work if we did it another way. Questions, combined with creativity, are a powerful mechanism for change.
The next time you tell your child that “water is precious and should not be wasted”, or that “we should separate our waste. . Be the one to start the conversation by asking “why do you think water is important?” or “why do we need water so much?”. That way, you will have a chance to explain and you will stimulate children to think about these issues.
Creativity is to be celebrated and enjoyed
A creative attitude does not mean that you always have to “create” something new. Every once in a while, let your child enjoy the creativity of others.
Get your little ones used to enjoying the arts (by listening to music, painting, looking at pictures). Encourage them to experience what others have created (e.g., taking them to an exhibit or out to the movies).
Even if it may seem like they are not creating anything, their creativity will be recharging in the background, taking the many stimuli from the outside world and putting them to work, reorganizing them into something new or something creative!
What are the tools of creativity?
Creativity can often be varied and unexpected. We adults, look at a lot of things superficially, and we consider trivial some objects that, in the eyes of a child, are new.
To find appropriate objects to develop your child’s creativity, you need to be creative yourself. Observe your children and find out what catches their attention…maybe it will be something small, like a leaf, a caterpillar or a puddle!
Since emotional, cognitive and motor development comes through even in the simplest objects, try giving your young child a sponge or a piece of paper, together with a cardboard box and some crayons, as well as a bit of salt. You will see that, little by little, creativity will emerge. Even from ordinary objects.
From creativity to development (emotional, social, physical, intellectual)
Imagination and creativity have a powerful impact on children development. They affect the four aspects of development: emotional, social, intellectual, and physical.
- Emotional development: some children cannot verbalize their feelings. This is why it is better to ask them to make up a story about how they feel or to make a drawing inspired by their mood. This helps them learn to express their moods in a safe way, helping them integrate into social contexts.
- Social development: To stimulate this, have your child play with some peers. Through activities such as dancing and singing, children develop basic communication and social integration skills.
- Intellectual development: Through creative play children can learn important problem-solving skills. For example, by reading a story, they become accustomed to dealing with a world (or setting) that is different from their own, living (and empathizing) with the characters and their adventures.
- Physical development: creative play helps grow motor skills, coordination and control. How? By running in the meadows, or dancing, making a puzzle inspired by environmental themes, or doing crafts together with parents. All of this will help your little ones improve their manual coordination and muscle memory.