One of the joys that many parents, or anyone who is involved with younger children can attest to, is the entertainment and interest that can be experienced when we watch younger children ‘make believe’, tap into their creative side and imagine up their own little world full of fun and play. Toys come alive, couches become race tracks and fairies are everywhere in the garden. It certainly provides a fond point of reflection where hopefully we can recall time in our own lives when we were young at heart and able to create and play in these vivid scenes.
My thoughts have turned to creativity thanks to a number of key events and pieces of media I have seen in the last week. These included watching the film Finding Neverland, which relays the story behind the creation of JM Barrie’s well known Peter Pan character and accompanying theatrical show (which is also featured in many lists of ‘movies adolescent boys should watch’), the creative exploits of some of our School’s dramatic students who performed the Passion of Christ at the weekend’s Palm Sunday Service, and also a regular parenting and adolescence email subscription that came through mentioning the topic, all of which prompted me to do some further research. Writing for www.parentingideas.com.au, Dr Jenny Brockis discusses a range of relevant points about the importance creativity has in adolescent development. Dr Brockis states that “Research tells us that those kids who continually access creative outlets are the more successful students, because creativity is linked to whole brain development. Brain wise, creativity is important for the development of language, problem solving, reasoning skills, understanding and learning.”
The difficulty arises when students grow into adolescence where the notion of ‘make believe’ seems to make way for a much more structured, disciplined and dedicated approach to learning, which can often (unfortunately) lead to creative outlets like art, music and drama not being undertaken by all students.
Creativity is generally linked with “making up” or “make believe”, when in reality it is actually about the development and sharing of new ideas and new ways of thinking, two skills that will be valuable as we proceed through the 21st Century. Berkeley University’s Education faculties ‘Greater Good’ program identifies the benefits that creativity can bring, indicating that creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, which makes them more able to adapt to technological advancements and deal with change, two forces that seem to be ever present in modern life.
To further support the importance of creativity as a 21st century skill I would also like to highlight the work of Mark Batey, Psychology Today writer, whose article Is Creativity the Number 1 Skill for the 21st Century? identified a range of research supporting the benefits creative ability offered to organisations in the future. Some of the key points in his article are:
- In surveys conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (one of the world leading management consultants) creativity and innovation are ranked as the top strategic imperatives for firms.
- In a global survey of 1500 CEO’s, IBM found that creativity was considered to be the number one leadership trait for the future: more than rigour, management discipline, integrity or even vision – successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity.
- Creativity is part of our everyday lives. We can all find original and useful ways of solving the problems we encounter. In some industries and sectors, it may not be so much that ‘we can’, but rather that ‘we must’.
Reflecting on the data above it is clear that creativity is an attribute that will prove fruitful for those possessing it in the future, but also apparent that for many students it may not become fully developed depending on the selection of courses they choose.
This leads to two important considerations:
- That creativity is not a talent, it is a skill, and as a result it can be developed if allocated appropriate time and effort
- If stereotypical creative outlets and activities are being limited, as parents and educators we have a commitment to further reincorporate and foster these skills on a more regular basis.
In order to enhance creative development in your own families the following activities may be worth considering (adapted from 7 Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Kids, Berkley GGSC):
- At an appropriate time (e.g. dinner) allow the children in your family to brainstorm ideas and activities for the upcoming weekend, provided the activities are those that your family has not undertaken before. The focus of the activity is on idea generation not evaluation, so don’t be too quick to suggest the why’s or why not’s in relation to the activity going ahead.
- When asked for assistance by your children in relation to problem solving encourage them to find more than one path to a solution. Once the problem is solved ask for a second solution to the problem, before deciding on the best course of action.
- Scramble the screens. Allocate certain hours of the day as screen-free zones, a time to do other activities such as puzzles, games, books, or cooking. Time away from a screen can help facilitate creativity as it allows the time and space for every member of the family to find and pursue their own creative outlet. (Adapted from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-schreibman-walter/3-key-ways-to-foster-crea_b_9499252.html)
I trust that all families will enjoy some special time together over the coming Easter break, and hope that the opportunity for all of us to reflect on and develop some more creativity in our lives is available.