Creativity in Children

Creativity is something I have always held in high regard. I find it to be one of the most important characteristics in a person.

Apparently, so do America's highest ranking CEOs. A recent IBM study showed that CEOs chose creativity as the most important trait for leaders of the future. Ok, so what's the big deal? Children seem pretty darn creative, right? Maybe not. The best ways to measure creativity in both children and adults is known as the Torrence Test of Creative Thinking. TTCT scores have risen every year since its creation, that is until 1990. Every year since 1990 scores have steadily declined.
Torrence Test of Creative Thinking, or TTCT has been the definitive tool in measuring creativity in the USA for the past 45 years. This test is broken up into two parts - figurative and verbal.
The figurative portion uses three picture based exercises. These three exercises examine fluency, elaboration, originality, resistance to premature closer, abstraction of titles, emotional expressiveness, storytelling articulation, movement, extending and breaking of boundaries, fantasy, imagery, and humor. This portion takes about 30 minutes to complete and is available in age related, grade related contents (tests for kindergarten- adult). National and regional scoring norms and percentages are supplied I within the creativity portion. The verbal portion is available for 1st grade-adult and uses verbal based exercises which, in addition to what the figurative portion measures, focus on: opportunities to ask question, improve products, and think hypothetically. You can obtain testing booklets for $6.90/student and scoring booklets for $8.50/student. There are also scoring workshops available by STS 

Ok, so what do we do about this???

First we have to examine what could possibly be causing these declining scores.

It's no secret that America has become preoccupied with standardized tests. The outcome of this preoccupation is also no surprise. Teachers are hounded about scores and are forced to spend the majority of class time teaching test-taking skills and material only relevant to that particular test. There is no room for exploration, discovery, imagination, or even just some educational fun. Classes in the arts have been cut drastically To make way for this academic structured school environment. Even more alarming than anything else is the fact that children as young as preK and Kindergarden feel pressure to do well on tests. I know I always did. I was always a creative kid, but as I grew up I had a harder time letting that creativity out in it's freest, truest form. I became hyper-aware of what was expected and what I should be creating rather than what I thought and felt should be created. I certainly DO NOT want my children to feel this ridiculous pressure. But, alas, tests are not the only thing standing in creativity's way. Over scheduling and over achieving are equally detrimental. There is an extreme pressure, as a parent, to keep our children busy with activities in order to produce well-rounded adults. Unfortunately, this is probably the exact opposite way to go about that.

So, what can we as parents do?

~ Look for programs that provide a mix of play and academics.
There are MANY different charter schools now available with a wide range of focuses. If you have the opportunity, please check these out! 

 * Side note- My daughter is three and will be entering preK fairly soon. We just moved back to my home town, where charter schools with voucher programs are widely available. I have had no experience with these before and wasn't fully even aware of them. My mom told me about a school that just recently became a charter school. It's right around the corner from performing is a performing arts school. My daughter absolutely loves the arts and I think this could be a great thing! 

  ~ Promote imaginative play with prompts -sand and water tables, dress up, building blocks of any kind, paint and other art supplies, etc). Great sites for this include

~ Encourage brain storming to solve problems. 

~ Ask open-ended questions "We don't have a princess tiara. What could we use instead?", etc) 

~ Turn off the TV, computer, video game, and what ever else entertained your child and encourage play with out these stimuli. 
When a child watches TV or plays a video game they are being entertained by someone else's imagination. TV and video games are not bad, they just shouldn't be your child's go-to entertainment. It may take a bit, but after the initial "I'm bored" statements and goans, their imagination will guide them.

~ Provide low-tech toys: art supplies, non-motorized cars (hello hot wheels!), dominoes, bouncy balls, blocks, figurines... The list goes on and on! 

~ Go outside!!! The outdoors are the biggest toy box in the world! 

Think about it- rocks, sticks, trees, dirt, bugs, creatures... I know I used to have "treasures" from my exploring adventures consisting of sticks, rocks, and leaves that I felt were special. Just go EXPLORE!!! 

~ Allow kids to indulge in any particular subject they find fascinating.
Right now my (almost 2 year old) son is fascinated with dinosaurs. Now honestly, I never thought much of dinosaurs. They just never interested me, but I'm finding myself eager to learn more and more about them because of his love for them. We currently have a small dinosaur book, several figurines, play stuff like little trees and rocks, and he loves that show Dinosaur Train on PBS (got to love PBS). If he continues to like this subject as he grows older I plan to take him to museums, encourage him to write stories involving his dinosaurs, design play areas for his figurines, etc. If later on he still likes them, then it's on to scientifically accurate books, documentaries, more museums, and anything else he can come up with. Right now Parents.com is running a Thrive in 2025 campaign targeted at this very  topic. There is a parent pledge - Vowing to nurture your child's creative thinking. I have already signed this and plan to share their Thrive in 2025 campaign on Facebook as well. 

Psychology Today has some great articles about creativity and children. Check them out! (click images for links)


Childhood Wonder

Children are full of genuine curiosity. They are so eager to learn. If nothing else, I want to seize this opportunity and to instill values in my children whilst keeping their insatiable thirst for knowledge and truth intact. I'm still not sure how I will accomplish such a feat, but lets just assume that I can. My wish for them:

  • A love of books
  • Respect for their elders
  • Kindness
  • Always fight for what they believe in
  • Seek the truth
  • Question everything
  • Follow their instincts
  • Speak for those who can not
  • Be advocates
  • Respect all living creatures
  • Know that all animals are innocent, just like children
  • Humanity is flawed, be humble
  • Create
  • Do not restrain your imagination
  • Try not to judge before knowing all the facts
  • The Earth is precious, don't waste her resources
  • Always help when you can, but do not feel guilty when you truly can't
  • Do not let guilt run your life
  • Do not let your past dictate who you are, but let it be a part of who you become


Obsessing over what You're teaching you're children? Me Too!

I'm always obsessing over what I'm teaching my kids

What I should be teaching them, and what I should NOT be teaching them. My husband says that I over complicate things. I stress about this constantly. He is of the "they're kids. Let them be kid's and they'll learn along the way" school of thought.. Which is great. I totally agree, but what about their emotional growth and adjustment? Are we damaging them? Should we be going about things completely differently? Are we totally messing them up?... Ok, yeah, that's what goes through my brain, in a nutshell. Scary, right? Anyway... I'm trying to relax and  let things go, but at the same time I want to ensure that I'm helping them grow into compassionate, inquisitive little beings, guiding them with love, and instilling positive habits. All with a huge dose of enrichment. Now for the threads of this tapestry:
  • My son (18 months) is very laid-back and perfectly happy just hanging out. He likes to explore on his own and would rather do so than be led through something. He is just like my husband and fits well with his parenting style.
  • My daughter (3 yrs. old), is much more like me. She craves activity and routine. She gets very irritable when cooped up, or stuck in an "entertain yourself" type of atmosphere for too long. She loves interaction and sensory play. As I am almost positive that we are failing at some stuff, there are a few things that I am proud of. I hope that my family will continue to incorporate new, enriching activities as time goes on. Admittedly, there are also some things I am NOT proud of and want to NIX right away.
Things I am Proud of:
  • Kelly and I started keeping art journals about 6 months ago. We call them our "special books". Usually at night, before bed, we get them out and work on them a bit. Our special books are just for us and we can write/draw anything we want in them. I have pages dedicated to certain people/themes, and she has adopted this idea into her book too. She will tell me, "I'm working on daddy's page". Though she is only 3 and cant write yet, I know that soon she will and i hope to still be doing this. I plan to keep the journals as they fill up over the years and give them to her when she turns 18 (or something like that). On my sons next birthday, I am going to give him his very own Special Book to fill up. 
  • Both my children already love the outdoors. I don't really think I need to go into detail about why this is a good thing, but I definitely want my children to love and respect nature. 
  • My husband started a great tradition with my daughter about a year and a half ago. Each night (most nights, as long as weather permits) they go outside to say goodnight to the moon and stars. I absolutely love this. 
  Things I want to try:
  • Before a holiday, I want to have my children (and us parents) go through all their toys and clear out all the stuff they have outgrown. The catch: They have to donate the old stuff so that they will have room for new stuff.
  • Family Sleepovers!!! I think this is an awesome idea. Pick a night each week/month (whatever you want) and set that night aside for a family sleepover. Have everyone sleep in the living room with their sleeping bags, etc. Watch a movie together, pop popcorn, tell stories! Right now my family kind of already does this. Every night. Since my husband just got out of the military we are kind of in limbo. We have moved back to Florida and are staying with my parents while we look for a pace and get settled. This means that we are sleeping in my old bedroom. That's right. Two adults, two toddlers, two dogs, and two snakes. One bedroom. Cozy. That being said, I am beyond grateful for my parents, and everything they are putting up with - Because, you know, all of the two adults, two toddlers, two snakes, and two dogs are running rampant through their house. Which, by itself, has three adults (one with special needs), and two dogs.
  • Night time "thank you for...." - Every night, before bed, have everyone say a thank you prayer. 
  • Write a letter to my child each year on their birthday. In a way, I already do this with my Special Book. Every few months (as soon as they have outgrown the previous page) I make a page dedicated to that child. I write on it their favorite things of that moment and date them. I include favorite colors, songs, activities, foods... Anything and Everything.
Things I want to NIX!
  • Parenting from two different books - I absolutely HATE this! Not only does it cause arguments, but it also confuses the kids
  • Communication interference - In powder for my husband and I to be parenting from the same book, we need to communicate better. 'Nuff said.  As my husband and I continue this journey, we have been able to identify our main goals. Hopefully, we can solidify them and make peace with the inevitable conclusion that we will scar our children in some way. I can only hope that it will be something very miniscule.


Savoring Childhood

Childhood happens fast, and the toddler years to fly by even faster. One day I was blog hopping and stumbled upon this list over at Hands Free Mama. Apparently, a teacher named Erin Kurt asked her students what they liked/wanted their parents to do with them the most. After sixteen years of answers, she compiled this Top 10 list.

Top 10 Things Kids Wish Their Parents Would Do With Them

1.) Come into their bedroom at night, tuck them in, and sing them a song or tell them a story.
 2.) Give them hugs and kisses, sit with them and just talk to them. 
 3.) Spend quality time with just them. No siblings or distractions. 
 4.)Give them nutritious food so they grow up strong. 
 5.) At dinner, talk about what we could do together on the weekend.
 6.) At night, talk to me about anything. 7.) Let me play outside a lot. 
 8.) Cuddle under a blanket and watch our favorite show/movie together.
 9.) Disciple me. It makes me feel like you care. 
 10.) Leave special messages in my desk, lunch, wherever for me to find. 
  I implore all of you to take a moment and to read How to Miss a Childhood over at Hands Free Mama. A woman who has raised children since 1977 wrote an email to her detailing the tragedy of this uber-connected, modern world. Every parent needs to read this!
  "I can recall a time when you were out with your children and you were rally with them. You engaged in a back and forth dialog, even if it was pre-verbal. 'look at that bus, see the doggie?, etc' Now I see you on the phone, pushing your kids on the swing while distracted by your devices. You think you are spending time with them, but you are not present really. When I see you pick your kids up from daycare while on your phone, it breaks my heart.... What is the message they are receiving? I am not important."  

 As someone with toddlers, it's easy to get wrapped up on the day-to-day whirl. It's even easier to forget that these little tornadoes won't stay that way for long. Sometimes that's an awesome thing - read, tornadoes. Especially when you gave one screaming, one down right hysterical, dogs barking, and something sticky flying through the air. Other times, it sucks. With all of the tantrums, boogers, tears, are bed time stories, butterfly kisses, and so many more things. A while back, there were so many things that my little ones were no longer doing that I stopped and made a list of the mundane everyday things that we take for granted. MANY of these things have changed and with each one that passes, I am that much more grateful that I made that list. Here is a collection of things to do before those toddler years slip away
  • Play Play Play!!! Dress up, peek-a-boo, hide and seek, dolls, cars, blocks... The list is endless. Take advantage, because anyone with older kids can tell you that soon they won't want to hang out with mom and dad.
  • Explore! Go outside and see what you can discover. Walk in the rain, feed the ducks, pick fall leaves and treasure (we all remember those treasures of rocks and sticks), play in the snow - or sand if your where we are.
  • Go visit petting zoos (please remember to make sure they are more concerned with animal welfare rather than road side attraction). Better yet, take them to rescue/rehabilitation centers! Check out children's museums, library story times, community events, and gardens.
  • Sensory Play! Toddlers LOVE sensory play, and it's fantastic for them! Play with play dough, dried beans, rice, beads, and anything messy! Build sand castles, make water stations with buckets and cups, and just about any arts and crafts activity.
  • Songs and Stories! Toddlers love to sing and dance. Take advantage of this and sing everything. Have random dance parties. Read books and tell stories.
  • Daily To-Do's! My daughter loves to help with everything. She is particularly fond of dusting, sweeping, and helping in the kitchen.
  • Be curious! Ask them questions about what they are doing, what they want to do, what they think about things. This is a great way to bond. Not only are you engaging with them, but you are also actively showing them that you approve of what they are doing.
  • ALWAYS tickle, hug, and snuggle.
Truth is, you know your little one better than anyone. You know what they like and what they don't. Just go with it. Follow their lead.