Creativity is one of the most important qualities we can encourage in our children. It helps them solve problems faster, makes them better employees, and contributes to better health.
Unfortunately, the way we raise our children may actually be damaging their creativity according to researchers. A landmark study by creativity experts Beth Jarman and George Land showed that an amazing 98 percent of 5-year-olds tested in the “genius category” for creative imagination. By the time they reached adulthood, however, that number had fallen to just 2 percent.
“98% of 5-year-olds test at the genius level for creativity. By the time they are adults, that number falls to just 2%”
What is happening? Are we doing something unknowingly that makes our children less creative? If so, can we can do anything to change it?
In the study, 16,000 five-year-old children were tested for creativity and followed up with again at ages ten and fifteen. The same test was then administered to adults to compare their results with those of the children. During the first five years, researchers found a shocking 60 percent decline in the number of children who tested as “exceptional” in creativity. This percentage fell further as the children became teenagers and adults.
Researchers believe the decline may be related to which part of our brain is being encouraged as we grow.
The human brain basically has two modes of problem solving. Our CREATIVE BRAIN seeks to solve problems through broad exploration and curiosity, while our LOGICAL BRAIN tries to solve problems by narrowing down options to find one right answer. The best results come when we use a balance of both.
Unfortunately, the way we raise children can sometimes discourage the use of their creative brains. When children are young, their minds are in constant learning mode. They’re intensely curious about everything they see. They want to explore new ideas, try new things, and ask lots of questions. Their creative brains are running at full speed, which is why they perform so well on creativity tests.
As children get older, we tend to discourage play and creativity. School often focuses on questions that have one right answer, and job training tends to reinforce this further as we reach adulthood.
If we’re not careful, children become afraid to make mistakes, and afraid to think outside the box. If that happens, they may have a harder time dealing with the complex challenges of life where there is not always one simple answer.
If you have children yourself, you know that it can seem impossible to balance the simple thought of what to make for lunch, let alone how to foster a creative learning environment. But fostering creativity may be easier than you think. Here are a few simple tips.
When your child asks you for help with something – whether it be a homework problem or a social situation, try your best not to rush in with a quick answer. Kids are incredibly smart and will come up with many out-of-the-box solutions adults would never dream of. Before you give your answer, ask your child what they think would solve the problem and take the time to discuss the options with them.
The best way to teach creativity is to practice it yourself while your child is watching. For example, take a favorite dish you like to cook and experiment with new ingredients. Ask your children what they think will happen if you try something new and test the results together. Small acts like this will show your child that it’s a good thing to experiment and be curious. It also gives you a chance to model failure or mistakes. When your child sees that it’s ok to fail and try again, they develop important learning skills that will help them in all aspects of life.
Some of us like to plan our days by the hour to be on top of everything. While order and routine are important, overdoing it can make our children nervous and afraid to try new things. Try scheduling some free time with them every week. Your only job would be to bring out some art supplies or random toys and see what they do! You can also try making small changes to your daily routine. Play different music in the morning and ask what they think of it. Maybe even start letting them pick some of their own outfits if they don’t already. Affirm their choices and ask them to talk about what they like and dislike along the way.
Do you have tips you’ve learned to encourage creativity in your home? Can you remember a moment an adult encouraged you to think outside the box in your youth that changed the way you think now? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!