Living and Learning

How can we encourage creativity in today's children?
Answered by Brenda Way, Nicholas Negroponte and 1 other
  •  Brenda Way

    Brenda Way

  • Nicholas Negroponte

    Nicholas Negroponte

  • Diana Bocco

    Diana Bocco

  1. Brenda Way Founder and Artistic Director, Oberlin Dance Collective


    That's why we're working. Honestly, that is why we have a big children's program, and we are in a dozen schools in the neighborhood. So basically my view is, do everything you can; and that's what we're doing.

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  2. Nicholas Negroponte Founder and Chairman, One Laptop per Child


    Family and background have an awful lot [of influence]. If a child's going home, has no parental support, maybe doesn't even get dinner, doesn't have a place -- you can paint a picture which then handicaps that child no matter what school is like. And I can likewise paint a picture of a child who's read to every night by one of his parents, grows up in a much more nurtured environment and makes it through a really crummy school system and still is filled with curiosity. And you can see examples of all of those things. It's a shame that school still doesn't help -- and usually hurts the creative, innovative side of children.

    But I think we'll fix it, and what I'm seeing today, which children really didn't have 10 years ago, are the extracurricular (for the lack of a better word) things that they can do on the Internet, or with DVDs, or with even game systems are just so much richer -- not richer, they didn't even exist before. But they're so rich in the content and the exploration and the connectivity and talking to kids in other countries; that's going to be a very strong force.


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  3. Creativity has always been a big part of children's lives. Every time a child draws a picture, organizes a tea party for her teddy bears or builds something out of modeling clay, creativity is at play. The problem with many kids today is that they're spending too much of their time in front of video game consoles or televisions and too little time in those activities that foment creativity. Take, for example, the "creativity quotient" test, which is given every year to children all over the country. According to researchers and the analysis of more than 300,000 test results, creativity in children has been steadily declining since the 1990s [source: Newsweek].

    Encouraging creativity is a bit tricky. You need to steer kids toward a creative activity and give them the tools to get started. Then you need to step away and let them explore on their own. If you get too involved, you might end up inserting your own ideas into the activity, crushing the kids' creativity in the process.

    The activity you offer is not as important as how much the child enjoys it. Figuring out what works could require some trial and error, though. Some kids might enjoy finger painting while others might prefer make-believe play. The more interested a child is in an activity or topic, the more questions he or she is likely to ask. According to experts, the average preschool-aged child asks about 100 questions a day [source: Newsweek]. As kids grow older, those questions became less common. A good way to stimulate creativity in children is to get them involved in activities that spark their curiosity. The more questions children ask, the more they can explore and the more their imaginations and creative minds will expand.

    Role-playing is a particularly important tool to encourage creativity. Children who have artistic inclinations might do well participating in theater workshops, musical choruses, dancing classes or other activities that require acting out characters or art pieces.

    Some experts recommend introducing some "structured boredom" or "creative boredom" into children's lives. That is, force them to be bored by limiting easy ways to have fun, such as TV or computer time. Although children might initially protest, they'll eventually find ways to entertain themselves. Parents can steer a child in the right direction by stocking up on art supplies or building a sandbox in the yard, but shouldn't take over the task of providing entertainment. According to Karen DeBord, state extension specialist in child development at North Carolina State University, parents should not be in charge of providing entertainment for their kids [source: Kids Internet Radio]. If the goal is to encourage creativity, it's important to let the kids find their own answers and figure out their own entertainment.

    Encouraging children work on their creativity also prepares them for more open thinking and enhances their problem-solving skills.

    Childhood Mental Illnessqa4
    (Seiya Kawamoto/Getty Images)

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