What If Kids Avoid or Struggle with Creativity?

What If Kids Avoid or Struggle with Creativity?

Education October 23, 2017 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
What If Kids Avoid or Struggle with Creativity?

Reluctance? Self-doubts? Sometimes children settle for complacency, and choose not to be creative. What can parents and teachers do? Here are eight ways to encourage kids’ creativity.

“The present belongs to the sober, the cautious, the routine-prone but the future belongs to those who do not rein in their imaginations.”
  ~ Quote attributed to Kornei Chukovsky, poet and author

You probably already know that creative expression can be fun. Sometimes it’s even exhilarating! It can also be motivating—helping to fuel enthusiasm, and solve thorny problems.

However, not all children and teens recognize or appreciate this. They may shun creativity. They may lack volition, or be reluctant to push past the status quo. Perhaps they find it difficult to “be creative,” or to tackle something in a unique or original manner. They might not want to invest the time, effort, or patience that creativity often requires. Or, they could be worried or nervous about uncharted routes. They may prefer to play it safe, or to take a path of less resistance. They may choose NOT to tap their creativity. (And, yes, being creative is a choice. People decide whether or not to engage in creative activities, including discovery, imaginative play, inquiry, and brainstorming.)

So, how can parents and teachers encourage kids to cultivate creativity when they’re hesitant to do so? Here are eight suggestions.


“Simply put, you can’t be creative until you have some knowledge and skills to work with.”   (from "Beyond Intelligence" - p. 30)

Help kids figure out what they already know, and feel comfortable expressing in one or more domains. It may be art, poetry, mathematics, music, drama, athletics, or some other area or interest, and they can use that as a means to launch curiosity and creative thinking. They can start by pausing to collect their thoughts—thinking about how they might be able to extend their knowledge by applying it in a new or innovative way.


"Children construct knowledge as they act upon and interact with the world… Sharing experiences links people together, and their identities grow, develop, and change in the process.”   (from "Not Now, Maybe Later" - p. 66)

Children and teens who are collaborative, and who are open to co-creating and talking about new ideas, are often able to find fresh and creative alternatives to approaching tasks, activities, and problems. When kids come together to ask questions, and respectfully challenge notions—and one another—they discover for themselves what they need or really want to know, so as to progress and further their capacities.


“The only way to stay creative is to keep looking for challenges, and devising innovative ways to meet them.”   (from "Beyond Intelligence" - p. 41)

Resources abound in different contexts, and through various kinds of experiences at school, home, in the community, online, and elsewhere. And, even a little resourcefulness can be the difference between ingenuity and complacency. When kids are resourceful, what starts out as an interest often becomes a strength or quality that they can develop, feel good about, and share with others. Resourcefulness furthers intellectual growth, and can spark inquisitiveness, reflection, and aspirations.


“For creativity to come to fruition, ideas have to move past the idea stage, out of people’s heads, and into the real world.”   (from "Beyond Intelligence" - p. 34)

Expressing ideas is like a springboard for further pursuit. Communication may take the form of words, pictures, music, or other forms of expression—which can fortify improvisation, inspiration, and creative possibility. Encourage children’s engagement in peer interaction, meaningful discussions with family and friends, and intergenerational activities.


“If you’re not sure about what lies ahead, you can take some time to assess the risks, plan precautions, get the support you need, and decide if you want to proceed cautiously or just stay put.”   (from "Bust Your BUTS" - p. 74)

Some kids are quite content to accept things as they are. Others want to try unusual approaches, create new-fangled methods, or investigate unfamiliar frontiers. Creativity involves looking at the world with fresh perspectives. This actually enables people to become more adaptive, and transformational in their thinking. However, it also involves being willing to take a chance. Therefore, kids may need more support or guidance, especially if something seems daunting or risky, or if a creative idea is somehow elusive.


“Sometimes, we need others to reassure us that we’re capable, and that what we do is worth doing.”   (from "Bust Your BUTS" - p. 112)

The best learning takes place in an environment that’s comfortable. For kids (and for adults, too), this would be a time and place where others are available to offer reinforcement and encouragement. It would also be a time and place where moving forward is a feel-good experience. This could stem from maximizing effort, setting reasonable goals, being spontaneous (or, conversely taking time), making mistakes but learning from them, and stretching boundaries.


“A framework for positive action starts by getting calm, and feeling that you can do what you have to do.”   (from "Bust Your BUTS" - p. 12)

People tend to accomplish more when they’re able to think clearly and calmly. Creativity can be enhanced by feeling “in control.” This might entail organizing concepts in meaningful ways, and keeping track of ideas (including clarifying, revising, or revisiting them). Being purposeful also involves forming good work habits, showing resolve, and honing research skills. Adults can demonstrate these capacities, and reinforce children’s efforts.


“People are at their most creative when doing what they deeply enjoy. Parents and teachers can support children’s creativity by helping them explore what they take pleasure in doing, and then providing the necessary opportunities and supports to try it out.”   (from "Beyond Intelligence" - p, 43.

Encourage kids to take advantage of their preferences, passions, strengths, and whatever gives them confidence. Help them determine what makes them feel enthusiastic, and how they might connect this to outside-the-box thinking. They might have to adjust their understandings about what they choose to do, or can do. Reassure them that there are no limits to creative possibilities!                 


“Choices are the hinges of destiny.”

These six words (attributed to the ancient scholar Pythagoras), transcend time. It’s vitally important to help children make wise choices—including deciding to exercise and extend their creativity!



Dr. Joanne Foster’s books contain information on productivity, creativity, intelligence-building, and more. See Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (2017), and its predecessor, Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination (2015), both published by Great Potential Press. Also, check out Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids, by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (2014, House of Anansi Press), and their first co-authored book, Being Smart about Gifted Education (2009, Great Potential Press). The column, “Fostering Kids’ Success” at The Creativity Post contains many articles with suggestions for encouraging children’s creative endeavors. For additional resources, visit Dr. Foster's website at www.joannefoster.ca

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