3D Printed Crayons. Source: Paul Stein on flickr.com
3D Printed Crayons. Source: Paul Stein on flickr.com

Encouraging Creativity

Children are wells of creativity. However, as they grow older, the well of creativity often dries up. By the time we are adults, most of us do not consider ourselves as creative. What can we do for our children to ensure their creativity doesn’t die?

It is important for children to have time to themselves where they can play make believe, involve themselves in arts and crafts, and get their hands messy. Finger-paints, clay, play dough, musical instruments, pencils and crayons, chalk, and other interactive materials are great choices. Instead of giving your kids coloring books, give them plenty of paper, markers, colored pencils, and crayons and let them draw freestyle. This allows their imaginations to soar while they figure out what they want to draw.

Creation and pretend-play also allows children to explore their feelings in a safe environment. They can express anger, frustration, sadness, and other emotions in the safety that it is “just pretend.” This allows kids to explore solutions to problems and gives them an avenue of expression for these emotions.

The Bias against the Arts vs. Practical Applications

So how do we lose creativity, as we grow older? We are taught that we need to put our minds and efforts towards practical applications, such as math, science, and engineering. Art, music, and writing are considered indulgences that the school system cannot afford, so arts and humanities programs are the first to go in lean times.

This, however, is problematic. As wonderful as it is to have strong math and science scores, new discoveries will not be made when children are taught, “There is one right answer and one right answer alone.” Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He demonstrated this in his own life. He imagined possibilities and stretched the knowledge of the day in ways that had never been seen before. He did not accept that there was “one answer only” and he explored the universe with the awe of a poet. Einstein used divergent thinking to come up with his theories.

For our children, creativity allows the exploration of divergent thinking, which creates multiple solutions for a problem. In contrast, convergent thinking uses a set of rules or a formula to determine the answer, such as found in solving mathematical problems. We need to look at problems with critical thinking and creativity so that we can come up with innovative solutions. Creativity is an important part of this. By coming up with their own ideas, children become comfortable with the critical thinking process. Rather than waiting to be told how to solve the problem with predetermined formulas and rote memorization, children can come up with their own ideas. As they grow older, this creative imagination will help to solve the world’s complex problems.

Traditional Testing: One Right Answer

One problem that children face in school is rote memorization vs. questioning ideas. Children are taught that there is one right answer to any given question, and the answers are typically memorized. This type of schooling does not allow for creative solutions or critical thinking about problems.

Children learn ideas and concepts best when they are engaged in creative solutions within their environment. If children can learn mathematical concepts and scientific principals by solving real-world problems, they can learn critical thinking skills that will be vital skills later on in life. Creativity is not just for the arts and humanities, it can also be used in the hard sciences to create scientific breakthroughs and theories to better understand our world.

Criticism of Artwork and Creative Pursuits

Children are not afraid of making mistakes. They are not paralyzed by fear that what they create is not good enough. They do not stay up at night worrying that they made a fool out of themselves through their creative mistakes. But over time, parents, teachers, and peers begin to judge the artwork, musical piece, or short story. We ask children why they cannot color within the lines or why they are not creating a realistic dinosaur. We criticize their mistakes and do not offer encouragement for what they have done right.

One way we can encourage our children is to take a step back and just let our kids create without fear of judgment. They will have plenty of opportunities to receive constructive criticism. And as they grow and learn, they will naturally grow better the more they practice. They will see their earlier drawings and learn to improve upon them. This is a great way to let our kids have some time to themselves where they can “just be” without having to please anyone or follow strict rules. They need this to reconnect, recharge, and renew their spirit. Adults could use this renewal as well.

Practice and Deep Focus

We often think of creativity as “a stroke of genius” or an epiphany that just hits us when we are doing the dishes. But research shows that those who practice creativity on a regular basis, preferably every day, the chances for creative genius soars. Those artists, writers, and musicians that we admire have practiced their art for years to develop their skills. This might sound heavy; who has time to devote years to a creative outlet? You do, actually. Think about it: All the years that you have spent on this earth can be used to fuel your passions. Even if you are starting for the first time today, you can have years of creativity ahead of you.

Kids need this time each day to relax, make believe, and create. Allowing children the freedom of free time lets them unwind from the rigorous demands of school and gives them a break from chores, assignments, and rules. By fostering creativity, children are more likely to become successful in life, engaging with their world in a unique and productive way.

Honoring Your Child’s Creativity

Your child needs to know that you are proud of him or her and that their creative pursuits are not going unnoticed. Proudly display your children’s artwork on the fridge or place their hand-crafted items in a conspicuous place. Do not simply gloss over something that they show you by saying “that’s nice, dear.” They need your undivided attention. Your children will glow when they see how proud you are of them. They need to hear this. Take the time to create with them, as well. Do not worry about the mess you are making; enjoy the feel of the paints or clay. Enjoy the time creating with your child. This is sacred time. Breathe it in.

Bringing Creativity Back into Your Own Life

It is difficult with all of our obligations to squeeze in creative pursuits. However, if you take just twenty minutes a day, you can make great progress on your own creative projects over the course of a year. Twenty minutes is not that much time out of your day and it will allow you some time to pursue your passions.

Know that when you first start, it is going to be a slow road as you learn new skills. Do not trash your first efforts just because they are not perfect. It is the mistakes that we make which allow us to excel. Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb on the first try, but he kept experimenting until he got it right. Have patience with yourself and treat your first works with kindness, and look to them to see where you would like to improve.

3D Printed Crayon Drawings

A fantastic way to celebrate your children is to 3D print their crayon drawings. WhiteClouds can take your child’s two-dimensional drawing and turn it into a three-dimensional keepsake. This is a great way to show off your child’s work and makes a great gift for the holidays. Your child will be thrilled to see their drawings come to life and this precious gift will be cherished for years to come.

Watch Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk: How Schools Kill Creativity