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)

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