By Hannah Michels
Every area of a child’s life can benefit from cultivating their creativity. The creative process builds a child’s problem-solving skills along with resilience and adaptability – skills that are crucial for living in the 21st century.
The Summit Country Day School’s 10th annual Early Childhood Education Symposium this year featured a presentation called “Hands-on Activities Building Creativity and Resilience.” Michelle Sullivan, The Summit’s Lower School math coach and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) teacher, co-facilitated the talk alongside Priya Klocek, a Summit parent, professional leadership coach with the Xavier University Leadership Center and national presenter on creativity and problem solving. Joining them were Summit fourth grader, Elizabeth Klocek, and Summit seventh grader, Owen McEachern, who attended the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI) in Buffalo, NY this past summer. In the course of their presentation, they offered a number of ideas on cultivating creativity.
Build a problem-solving tool belt
“Creativity and problem-solving are linked,” Mrs. Sullivan said. Perseverance, adaptability, resilience and the ability to learn from failure are all skills that fuel creativity. But how do we engender these traits in our children? With a “tool belt,” she said. Every small problem solving experience provides a “tool” in a person’s creativity and problem-solving “tool belt.” The more tools a child has, the more things a child can do. Children develop a perspective of themselves based on what they believe they are confidently able to do by themselves.
“Try to look at problems as an opportunity,” Mrs. Sullivan said. “And include your kids in them.” Inviting children to watch problem-solving in action, whether it be a home repair or cooking dinner, helps them learn by simply observing.
Learn from failure
Sometimes solving a problem doesn’t work on the first try, leading to mistakes and even failure. However, failure is a great teacher. Inventing new products and developing new ideas do not come from a single lightbulb moment, but rather a sequence of small improvements upon an existing idea.
“Every time your child fails, ask them what went wrong,” Mrs. Sullivan said. “Failure is an opportunity to learn, not something to shy away from.” She encourages parents to let children experiment and be messy, but then also to teach them how to clean up afterward and take responsibility for the process.
Emotional benefits of creativity
PBS said that the creative process can also benefit children emotionally as they learn how to express and cope with their feelings. One way to acknowledge a child’s uniqueness and diversity is through having them pursue creative activities.
Outdoor self-sufficiency skills are a great way to give children confidence in their ability to affect their lives and surroundings. Groups like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, YMCA Adventure Guides & Princesses and 4-H have a strong emphasis on camping and outdoor skills. These groups can teach children lifelong skills that can make them feel confident and independent.
When Elizabeth Klocek and Owen McEachern took their turn at the symposium presentation, they each led creative problem-solving exercises. The first exercise involved every person in the room partnering up and then secretly altering a few things about their appearance. This exercise emphasized observation and quick thinking. The next exercise asked the room to find a creative use in pairing up two random objects, such as a coat hanger and sliced oranges.
“It’s about thinking differently,” Priya Klocek said. “Don’t judge the idea, don’t judge your child’s idea. Take it for what it is and move forward.”
Learn the PIP strategy
Ms. Klocek recommends a strategy called PIP: Problem, Idea, Plan. This strategy involves identifying the problem or roadblock in your way, picking the best idea for solving the problem and then planning how to execute that idea. This could be used for anything from forgetting a grocery shopping list at the supermarket to when a plan for a bike ride goes awry when it starts to rain.
Help kids pursue their passions
Ms. Klocek stresses the importance of helping kids pursue their creative passions. Whether it’s helping your child plan a small carpentry project or letting them cook dinner for the night, helping children pursue their passions will fuel their creativity and problem-solving skills. “If you find what your child’s passions are and you engage them, finding out how to make it happen doesn’t become extra work,” Ms. Klocek said.
But projects and creativity don’t have to be grand or complex. Ms. Klocek said to keep it simple. And lastly, designate a space for creating so your child has an area that is specifically meant for creativity, problem-solving and imagination.
For more information:
- Find free resources from the Early Childhood Education Symposium.
- A free guidebook called “Tips on Using Creative Thinking to Develop Divergent Thinking,” written by Kendra Thornton, Ed.D., Lower School Director and Kathy Scott, Montessori Director, is available for download here.
About the author
Hannah Michels is an intern in the Communications Department at The Summit. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in digital innovation, film and television at Xavier University with a minor in writing.