Newswise — So your child isn’t in the gifted program or doesn’t have an outstanding talent for drawing, music, or any of the other traditionally “creative” domains?
“There is no need to worry about that. Scientists are recognizing that creativity is not for the chosen few, but for everyone,” noted Dr. Richard Hass, a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, who studies creativity from cognitive and social perspectives.
According to Hass, all people are able to apply creative thinking to everyday problems, like making dinner, finding the best way home from work when traffic is snarled and navigating career development. All of these examples are called ill-defined problems, mainly because there is no single “correct” solution to each situation. Rather, solving the problem requires both the development of many possible solutions and making a timely decision about which course of action is right for the given situation. Researchers studying creativity call these respective kinds of thinking “divergent” and “convergent” thought.
“Quite shockingly, there is evidence that American education curricula are not providing children with the right kind of training to properly develop these processes, partly because of the idea that creativity is the realm of only gifted children and artists,” said Hass, who earned a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Temple University, Philadelphia.
So, what can you do as a parent to prepare your child for the creative society that he or she will inherit? Hass, who sits on the editorial board for the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, suggests some simple rules:
1. Creativity is fostered by an open attitude to change, new experiences and interests. Try taking your child to museum exhibits, cultural heritage events and other things.
2. Divergent thinking is supported by a wide network of word meanings. Play word games with your child and emphasize how different words can be used to describe the same underlying concept.
3. Creativity relies somewhat on fluid reasoning, which involves reacting well to changing rules. One game that mimics this is the card game UNO. Playing UNO might not make your child instantly creative, but it can stimulate cognitive ability.
4. Creativity is domain-specific. Your child may only “shine” in specific instances, and that is ok.
5. Dramatic acting and improvisation help children develop creative skills and social skills. This doesn’t mean your child should be come an actor, but enrolling him or her in a drama camp won't hurt.
6. Pretend play may be linked to creative development. Encourage your young children to actively engage in imaginative play. This includes drawing, pretending with toys, putting on a pretend play and other such imaginative endeavors.
7. Creativity is not a solitary effort. Work on a puzzle or a collage with your child.
8. Successful creators are not afraid to fail. Emphasize that in all aspects of life, the amount of effort one puts into a task is often more important than the task outcome.
9. Emulate creativity — your child learns a lot from you. Try recycling things in your house and encourage your child to do so, too.
10. Remember, it is not about raising the next Mozart, but rather helping your child approach everyday problems.