Have you ever thought, “Maybe I’m just not creative.”? Or maybe you feel like you used to be when you were younger but no longer have the “knack”? You are not alone, and many people can relate to this sentiment. Sir Ken Robinson’s iconic TED Talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?explains this common feeling. In the talk, Sir Ken Robinson explores how educators are preparing students for careers in fields that don’t even exist yet. Consider the recent Chat GPT and artificial intelligence software that is taking media by storm right now. Anyone can use it to answer simple questions, create unique artwork, and even write detailed programming code. There’s talk about how disruptive this software will become to current jobs on the market. However, you must also think about all the jobs it can create. Why? Because our students, our youth, are innately creative, innovative, and talented. They see potential opportunity where we see potential loss.

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.

Creativity should not only be encouraged in the classroom. It can, and should, be encouraged in all aspects of life, especially at home. Mary Lou Cook, a famous peace activist, artist, and writer, said it best, “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” Her inclusion of “making mistakes” in exploring creativity resonates with Sir Ken Robinson’s talk as he discusses how children will take a chance. They aren’t frightened of being wrong but need to be prepared to be wrong in order to become creative. Mistakes have traditionally been stigmatized in education and it can lead to declines in creativity. Schools often teach pre-identified topics based on structures curriculum and processes. This makes education challenging for students that don’t fit in with the standard learning environment. Many students that fail to do something “right” on the first try won’t try again. This fear of failure diminishes their creative belief in themselves to learn.  We need to encourage students to fail and to believe there will always be more than one way to solve a problem, respond to a writing prompt, and express their individualism.

I have not failed 10,000 times - I've successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.

Beyond creative problem solving, to “teach” creativity we must address the stigma of failure. Failure is a key part of the creative process. By embracing failure, we can re-focus and re-shape our thinking to become more creative. Thomas Edison said it best, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” This adaptive way of thinking is how we should encourage our youth to approach problems. This builds a growth mindset, where we know we learn through these “failures” and grow our brains. (Literally – it’s neuroscience on brain plasticity!) 

A Simple Strategy: The Power of YET

A simple strategy for instilling this in our youth is to reframe your own and their language. Rather than praising intelligence, praise effort. When you hear them say “I can’t,” follow it up with a “…yet” and encourage them to do so as well. Creative people see success because they embrace making mistakes and view them as part of the process to reach their goals.

Creativity is defined as “…the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” Beyond artistic work, we also see creativity in problem solving when we try to think ” outside of the box” to identify new solutions and ideas to test. There is a common misconception that creativity cannot be cultivated and that instead some lucky people have an innate sense of creativity. We know this to be false. According to classical psychology research, there are three main types of creativity: exploratory, transformational, and combinational. Exploratory creativity involves trying to develop new ideas that are realistic within a given space. Transformational creativity involves ignoring fundamental beliefs while thinking. Combinational, as it sounds, combines the two of these to think of wild, yet feasible ideas. When problem solving, we engage these different types of creativity by looking at similar ideas, products, and drawing inspiration from things around us, even if they aren’t related.

What are some methods to do this at home?

First, create an environment where children have a compassionate and accepting area to express themselves and their ideas. They need to feel safe and trust that they can make mistakes and fail in front of you. You can even model your own failure, so they learn to see it as normal vs. scary. Next, we want to encourage autonomy. This means we want them to problem solve and create on their own without us influencing what is “good” or “right”. No expectations, just support and constructive criticism. Even if you know something won’t work, brainstorm wild and fun ideas with them. Last, we want to always embrace creativity, not just when it comes to arts and crafts. Try to be creative and innovative with common tasks like chores and meals, like making a meal out of different food items or identify other things to clean with instead of a rag.

Here are some additional fun activities we can do at home with materials we probably already have:

  1. Have designated journal or notebook as a creative outlet to sketch, write, doodle, and express yourself.
  2. Start a creativity box, which could include random items for crafts like paper and glue and things like cardboard and flowers where children can create sculptures or make an instrument out of a tissue box and rubber bands.
  3. Embrace “make believe” by building a dress-up collection with different clothes and props like kitchen utensils to encourage creative story telling or playing charades.
  4. Encourage children to build. Doesn’t really matter what, but the trial and error and strengthening of skills with puzzles is a great creative outlet. Build pillow and blanket forts inside or go outside with old boxes and sticks to build a structure or use clay or paper and glue to build houses for a pet rock.
  5. Rethink the norm. To do this you can pick any random item, say a fork or a paperclip, and then you want to think if as many alternative uses as you can in a minute or a set time limit. For example, a fork could be used as a hairbrush or as a shovel, and a paper clip could be used to pick lock, make jewelry, or pin your hair up.

To summarize, creativity is a necessary skill that can be learned at any point, all we need to do is encourage it. The EdVenture Group is committed to creating customized solutions to educational challenges, including mindset, leadership, and creativity efforts to build essential skillsets. If you’re interested in learning more about these efforts or would like to consider a partnership with us, please reach out to Cameron Keefe at [email protected]