What is creativity and what are we doing to empower ourselves and our children to cultivate our creative impulses?
Being creative isn’t just about being the next Picasso. Creativity can be expressed in many ways. One of the definitions of creativity is indeed the process of thinking and producing something novel, appropriated and practical. Does this mean that creativity is a skill that can be developed and strengthened… the Holy Grail of critical thinking and solving problem skills? And if so, then what steps can we take to develop creativity? Here a list of few tips I gather from different sources and personal experience:
- Taking ourselves out of our comfort zone. Forcing yourself to try to optimize a new situation and therefore think differently makes room for creativity. There are many examples of great artists that have given their best performances under challenging conditions (look up the story of Jazz legend Keith Jarrett and The Köln Concert for a sweet example!)
Learn to embrace mess! Disruption forces us to solve problems in creative ways. It forces you to slow down, think harder and therefore learn more. Here is a fun exercise that you can do with your kids to take them outside of their comfort zone while still having fun: Try to paint with your feet or your mouth! Or play a game about trying to come up with new uses for typical everyday household utensils. My little five year-old proposed that we can also use a chair as a catapult!
- Physically change the environment. The idea is that if you want to create something different, start from a different place. Don’t always work or study in the same place. Changing the location or tools you use will immediately create a different output. So here another activity you can do with your kids: Instead of doing your painting on your everyday table or easel, pin sheets of papers to a tree with a broad trunk, and then do your painting or drawing and see where it takes you! I cannot tell you how much fun it was to do this with my kids… what I intended to be a “tracing the trees bark with crayons activity” ended up being a paint , glitter and glue mess!
- Get outdoor and get moving! Did you know that studies have shown that people are more creative when they are moving than when sitting down? So if your kid is dealing with a difficult concept, instead of trying to explain it at the homework table, go for a walk and chat about it. Explain it as you are walking. But be prepared - your child may have questions and ideas! And you can make it even more interesting by recording it! Don’t write it down and stop the flow of the conversation, just record the conversation on your phone.
- Try “Slow Motion Multitasking”. This is a brilliant concept explained by Tim Harford in his Ted Talk “A powerful way to unleash your natural creativity”. If you get stuck on something just leave it and come back later. A study of the greatest scientists and artists showed that they all had a tendency to work on many different projects at the same time. Why does this work? As your natural curiosity jumps from one topic to another it helps you to overcome whatever you were stuck on. Also, there is a cross-pollination between your different interests that can help you find solutions to your current problem using insights from the new context. Plus, you come back to your struggle refreshed! So expanding into different interests is a good thing. We tend to think that a single-minded focus is the path to achievement, but perhaps exploring our creativity is a valid alternative or maybe even better? Paying attention to the process and not just obsessing about the end-result can certainly reduce the amount of stress that all of us - adults and children alike - are going through with our modern lifestyles.
So there you go, a little summary of things we can try to enhance the creativity in our kids (and ourselves too!). I hope this encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. If you want to create something different you have to start from a different place, so go and make unpredictable changes to unleash the creativity that you know we all have inside us!