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I want you to feel like I am here for both you and your kiddos.

As parents we all make thousands of parenting decisions a day.  With these posts,  I hope that my expertise will help you to better navigate the pitfalls that dealing with art can present.  I know what I know, because I made mistakes...many ...many mistakes.   Hopefully I learned from them and some of what I know I can pass on to you and yours.

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How do I nurture creativity in my child-keep that little light from going out

Updated: Jul 30, 2022



Why it is important:

If you do research on creativity, the data can be very confusing. I think we all innately know that the ability to think creatively is a benefit, but may not have processed how or why. Research on creativity tends to focus on people who identify and are identified as creative, usually artists, writers and musicians.


I would argue that creative thinking can be a part of nearly every facet of life. I cook, keep my garden, parent and teach as a creative person. Okay, what does that actually mean? I am constantly innovating. For example, I never cook a meal exactly the same way twice, every year my veg patch has a different plan, and when facing an odious job like washing the 54 windows in my home (yes, 54 windows...there are 26 windows just in my porch with 157 individual panes...let that soak in), I try to find a better, more efficient way to do it.


I encourage you to think of creativity as more than just an important aspect of pursuing the arts, as important as I think that is!


Creative thinking allows us to innovate, refine, combine or elaborate on an idea to create something new, whether it is a delicious dish of spaghetti and meatballs or the next great American novel. Also, the ability to think creatively allows us to be more resourceful, flexible, and resilient. I hope that you agree with me, that a creative mind is a gift not only to the person who wields it but also to the world. Where would we be without innovators and creative thinkers like Thomas Edison or Dwight D. Eisenhower?





The 4C's of Creativity

Confidence, Cultivating ideas, Curiosity and Content:

Let's start by talking about creative confidence. All creative ventures have an element of risk baked into them. For some children, namely those with more perfectionistic natures, this kind of risk taking can lead to anxiety, making safe choices (recreating something they have already seen), and takes the joy out of creating.


1. Creative Confidence:

  • Providing opportunities for practice and preparatory work and providing scaffolding for instruction is the best approach to building creative confidence. I have made every effort in this program, to make sure that opportunities for practice and preparatory work are included in their learning experiences. Also, scaffolding of instruction is provided in the content (supporting materials) and the sequencing of each learning experience ( learning experiences builds on previous learning experiences).

  • Developing a growth mindset and using growth mindset language when they are learning as well as when assessing their learning is also key. (I suggest looking into the work of Carol Dweck. She is the guru of growth mindset. Her ideas are deep in the bones of everything I do.)

2. Cultivating ideas: Helping them to learn to discard obvious choices and work toward more unique solutions.

Let's dig deeper into how to help learners better understand how obvious and unique solutions differ, and how learners can develop the mental tools to think more creatively more consistently.


Metacognition-a owners manual for your brain

I recommend doing the following: We did this exercise before starting the "Sound Effect Drawing" in the "Art of Ideas" pack, but it could be introduced at any point. I do recommend holding off until 3rd or 4th grade, because it requires fairly abstract thinking skills.


"Think of you brain like a great big room full of file cabinets, all full of your memories and experiences. When you ask yourself a question, your brain will take you to the file cabinet that has the answer. For example, "What color is a bear?"...Could you feel your brain working to find the bear file, and then it tells you that bears can be brown, black, or white? Did you need to ask what types of bears there are? Did your brain bring up pictures of different types of bears? What we just did is called metacognition, that is becoming aware of your own thinking process.


Okay, let's think about the word ZAP. What do you think of when you think of the word ZAP? (answer) ...Electricity? Okay, so what specifically could go ZAP? (answers...screwdriver in a socket, static shock, a lightning bolt....Okay, now think about things that could go ZAP in an outer space movie (answers) ..a ray gun...spaceship... Did you notice that your brain switches to a different file cabinet, because you asked it a different question? "

"The thing we all need to know is that the first answer to a creative question is usually the most obvious one. It takes time and patience to come up with a unique idea, and that involves finding the question that will spark a truly creative idea. Let's explore this with this exercise: "


Now introduce the circle test. I have this as a free downloadable image in the arted4kiddos store.



I recommend giving them 10-30 minutes to complete this task. Once that is done, have them cut out the individual squares and sort through their solutions asking them to, "Separate the solutions that you think are obvious from those you think are unique." This is a very powerful tool to do with a group of learners, because they are able to see that their classmates often came up with the same solutions as them.


Continue: "Why are some ideas more unique than others?" In what way?

Did you add interesting details? Did you use the space around the circle or combine the circle with something else to create something new? Did you end up thinking deeply and considering many solutions?" That kind of thinking is what we can call, "mining for gold not picking up rocks."

Can you imagine how you could use this way of thinking creatively (adding details, considering your picture space, combining ideas or considering multiple solutions) into how you make art every time? "


"It is important when thinking creatively to ask yourself more than one question. If you find yourself not able to come up with a unique solution, go back and question your assumptions. We did that when we questioned the assumption that ZAP had to involve electricity , and asked a different question. We were then able to come up with a different solution. One question to keep asking yourself whenever you are working is "What else could I do?" and let your brain do the work."



What does Arted4kiddos do to help learner cultivate ideas?

It is widely accepted that creative thinking always begins by asking questions. You will see that early on as they begin art learning, those questions are very direct, "What could you see in a garden?" As they progress in their artistic development, the questions become more specific to the project as well as to the interests and personal preferences of the individual. Choices in media, style, aesthetic preferences, and subject are increasingly built into the learning. The question stops being "What are we doing?" and starts to become "How do I want to do this?" (personal expression).


CREATIVE PROCESSES YOUR CHILD WILL EXPERIENCE IN THIS PROGRAM:

  • Experimenting with ideas and materials/ intuitive response "How could I use this?"

  • Generating ideas /brainstorming "What could I do"

  • Generating numerous solutions /sketches "What other way could I do this?"

  • Elaborating on ideas/ adding details "How can I make it interesting or unique?"

  • Combining ideas/ synthesis "How can I combine ideas to make something different?"

  • Collaborating with others/synthesis "How can we combine our ideas to make something unique or different?"

  • Using, seeking and collecting resources "What do I need access/ understand my subject?"

  • Developing/refining an idea "How can I make this more interesting, beautiful, funny or powerful?"






3 & 4. Curiosity and Content:

It is generally accepted that curiosity is a common trait of creative people. It is obvious that creativity and content are also linked. The more curious we are, the more varied and rich the content in our minds will be. The more those experiences are interesting to us, the more they will make an impression on us. Finally, the more interesting something is to us, the more likely we are to persevere through the difficult process of creative thinking, because we are more motivated to do so.


What we know or understand (content) is the raw material for creative thinking. We take what we already know and apply or combine it with something else to create something new. For example, John F. Mitchell and Martin Cooper were able to invent the cell phone, because Alexander Graham Bell had first invented the telephone. They combined that idea of the telephone with new technology and created a tool that changed all of our lives. In turn, they would never have accomplished what they did, if they weren't interested in and curious about cellular technology. That motivation kept them working through countless setbacks. I am sure Alexander would be amazed at how far his idea has gone.


Foster Curiosity:

To foster creativity you need to foster curiosity. Children are naturally curious little beings, but this curiosity often diminishes over time. There are likely a host of reasons for that. Rampant curiosity, like you generally find in a toddler, can be annoying, and they likely pick up on our annoyance eventually. Curiosity in school age children often derails the plans parents and educators have in a hectic day, so it is often put off. In older students , curiosity is not usually considered "cool", and that kid who asks questions all the time is often thought of as annoying...do you see a trend? So we learn to repress out natural curiosity and nurture apathy.


It should be noted that some kiddos are naturally little knowledge omnivores and others not so much. My experience is that some learners want to tell you what they know much more than they want you to tell them what you know. I feel that curiosity, like all human characteristics, is a product of nature and nurture. We tend to be more curious about something we have a natural intelligence for, likely because learning and processing new information is easy and fun for those that possess this type of intelligence. I have no curiosity when it comes to fishing, but my husband is an encyclopedia of flyfishing. I still really couldn't tell you what a roll cast is despite years of constant exposure.



It should be noted that some kiddos are naturally little knowledge omnivores and others not so much. My experience is that some learners want to tell you what they know much more than they want you to tell them what you know. I feel that curiosity, like all human characteristics, is a product of nature and nurture. We tend to be more curious about something we have a natural intelligence for, likely because learning and processing new information is easy and fun for those that possess this type of intelligence. I have no curiosity when it comes to fishing, but my husband is an encyclopedia of flyfishing. I still really couldn't tell you what a roll cast is despite years of constant exposure.


Model Curiosity:

Children of curious, engaged parents tend to have curious and engaged children (although they are rarely curious and engaged by the same subjects). My advice would be to model curiosity by pursuing your own interests and try your best to be enthused about what they are interested in exploring. Finally, try really hard not to force your interests on them, but keep exposing your child to a smorgasbord of subjects and ideas.


Allow opportunities to process new experiences:




It is also important to allow them to process what they have discovered by discussing it with them, keeping journals, or encouraging them to create art relating to that subject. Allow time for them to think about what they learned, saw, smelled, felt, heard, or observed.

They will then put their experiences away in their minds in an organized manner with numerous connections to it. If they have processes and experience they will be better able to call it up when they face a creative problem. Think of it as how important it is to take the time to organize the files on your computer.





Whew! That felt like a whole lot to say. To conclude, there are plenty of things I wish I could change about myself, but the one thing I value most about myself is my ability to think creatively. Every corner of my life is brightened by it, and I will forever be grateful to my parents for encouraging my creative impulses. Thanks Mom and Dad!


If you are more interested in the science of the brain and how creativity works, I recommend this video:


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