In the rush of a busy family life do you find yourself pushing creative activities to the side lines? Perhaps it’s time to ring fence some time for creative pursuits… Discover what research says about the benefits of creativity and what you can do to ensure that you allow more space for creativity as a family.
Creativity is notoriously difficult to define. In terms of our everyday usage of the term, creativity can be viewed as the ability to innovate, solve problems and adapt to change. Creativity is also very often seen as an indicator of good mental health. Thankfully, creativity is not something that is reserved for those elite individuals who can some up with works of art, it is something that everyone possesses and uses to some degree.
A recent article by the National Foundation for Educational Research stated that creativity involves imagination, originality, the ability to generate a variety of different ideas and a good deal of problem solving. It was suggested that whilst creativity might often result in valued or worthwhile outcomes, it is perhaps better to view it as a process rather than something dependent on an end goal- particularly when it comes to children.
The article highlights a number of psychological factors that are key to creativity. These include personality traits (such as confidence, curiosity and trait level motivation), emotional processes (such as involvement and being able to tolerate anxiety) and cognitive abilities (such as divergent thinking, breadth of knowledge, and being able to shift thinking sets).
Creativity is key to success in most things that we do in life, including health and happiness. A recent article highlights that creativity is therefore something that we need to support and encourage in our children and to view as a core skill that we nurture with them.
Before you begin to think about ways to nurture creativity it’s worth exploring and reflecting on what the benefits of creative activities might be.
The benefits of creativity
Research on creativity suggest that it yields a range of psychological benefits. These include:
- Increased positive mood and general flourishing
- Innovation and the ability to ‘think outside of the box’
- Reduced anxiety and stress and improved quality of life, relationships and body image (particularly in patient populations)
- Wider social impact such as entrepreneurship, social and cultural change, political development, and economic progression/growth
When it comes to creativity and children it seems that there may be extra benefits involved. For example, free play has been linked to benefits in relation to the following:
- Love of learning
- Reflection and later critical and analytical skills
- Communication and negotiation skills
Interestingly, research suggests that the benefits of creative activities carry over beyond the day on which creative activities are engaged in. So dedicate some time to a creative activity today and you could be feeling good tomorrow and beyond!
With all of these recognised benefits you might be concerned to read that experts tend to agree that children’s creativity can be facilitated or thwarted by their environment and that early creativity begins to decline as children enter the preschool stage.
Thankfully, creativity is embedded into the school curriculum in the United Kingdom. This starts in early years settings where creativity is seen to enable children to engage in flexible thinking and make connections between different areas of learning. In this regard, creative opportunities are boosted via creative environments involving time for free play and free choice of activities along with training for educational professionals to support them in striking the right balance between structure and freedom or flexibility. Asking open ended questions, allowing for ambiguity, modelling creative thinking or behaviour,and giving praise for novel or unexpected solutions and answers are highly valued strategies for encouraging creativity within educational environments.
Increasing creative opportunities for children
Wondering what you could at home to ensure that you are nurturing creative thinking and maximising your children’s opportunities for creativity? Here, based upon our recent reading, are our top tips for bringing even more creativity into your family life:
1. Provide creative resources
Try to provide resources for creative expression around your home- and, more importantly, ensure that children have time available for them to engage in unstructured play. Ring fence some time where there will be no adult direction or commercialised toys and provide space for children to be creatively messy!
2. Encourage a creative atmosphere
Foster a creative atmosphere where you look for variety in ideas without there necessarily being an early evaluation of those ideas. Look for new ways to do things and celebrate innovation.
3. Provide autonomy support
Support children in their autonomy and give them space to explore their creative ideas. Be aware of situations where you are restricting their flexible thinking by demanding that they only ‘think inside the box’.
4. Nurture a growth mindset
Adopt the view that traits such as intelligence are characteristics that can be developed rather than being natural abilities that are set in stone. Praise children for their efforts rather than implying that they have a natural ability- as this might suggest that they don’t need to try hard or that effort is a sign of lack of ability. Children with a growth mindset are more likely to embrace challenges and to develop a love of learning.
5. Be aware of the effects of external rewards
Whilst rewards are good mechanisms for socialisation, being rewarded for a behaviour that you already find rewarding can lead you to feel less internal motivation for that activity. Hence, external rewards for activities that an individual already finds internally stimulating and rewarding may well lead them to engage in those activities less!
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