Creative Expression: Are Some Kids Missing Out?

Creative Expression: Are Some Kids Missing Out?

Education March 26, 2019 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
Creative Expression: Are Some Kids Missing Out?
SYNOPSIS

How can we ensure that ALL children have the opportunities and encouragement they need to express their creativity?

We live in a busy, demanding, and tumultuous world. Parents, families, and teachers are caught up in whirlwinds of activities and responsibilities. Meanwhile, many children live in poverty or experience adversity. Sadly, educational budgets are in flux and some important programs (such as guidance, library services, and arts) are being slashed. And schooling protocols adhere to strict curricular guidelines, in accordance with a spectre of testing measures.

In the midst of all this tumult, an insistent alarm bell is ringing, reminding us that creativity is hugely important—and that if we want our children to flourish we must make concerted efforts to cultivate and reinforce their creativity. We must ensure the equitable provision of opportunities for creative expression among all student populations and diverse kinds of learners across the spectrum. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.

But why? How? And, where does it fit in?

Here are 5 pressing concerns, each followed by practical suggestions.

CONCERNS AND SUGGESTIONS

CONCERN #1 – Undervaluing creativity 

Not everyone grasps the benefits of creativity. If the adults in a child’s life do not embrace creativity, that child may not appreciate how it can help people get beyond the status quo—by building upon knowledge, moving in uncharted directions, and feeling the sheer joy of creating something unique. Many kids are not exposed to ways in which creativity can help people tackle challenges, solve problems, and also adapt to (and maybe even change) environments. Kids may not be aware how much creativity contributes to pleasure, enrichment, and forms of expression in many domains (music, art, dance, literature, and so on), and how creativity is a means of exercising the brain with stretches (or maybe even lunges) into new and exciting frontiers. (Click here to find out why creativity should matter to kids.) Lots of children (and, sadly, even some adults) don’t know or appreciate any of this. 

SUGGESTIONS – Parents and teachers can help kids understand that creativity is empowering by demonstrating its benefits in daily life. When adults engage in creative endeavors—and show children that it is an active choice to do so—they convey the message that it matters. Adults can also chat with kids about how creativity can inform actions and decisions, and transform attitudes, initiative, and thinking. Creative pursuits can work to activate parts of the brain, and enhanced capacities translate into more efficient learning, as well as more excitement about learning, and then even more creative expression. Grown-ups can model how they use creativity when encountering difficulties, and how it helps people develop tenacity, and the courage to take risks and embark on innovative pathways. (Click here for a piece on how creativity can help kids overcome challenges.) 

CONCERN #2 – Thwarted interests and unrecognized talents

One might hope that all parents and teachers respect and celebrate children’s individual differences, abilities, and talents, including those that are not within academic realms. However, many children are not given adequate time, space, or encouragement to pursue their own interests, to step outside their comfort zones, to take a chance on trying something different even if it doesn’t work out, and to know that their views and efforts matter.

SUGGESTIONS – Rethink and improve attitudes about creativity. Lead by example. Parents, educators, administrators, counselors, consultants, curriculum advisors, and policy makers can be more proactive about inviting and cultivating children’s creativity, and fully accepting it as an integral aspect of the process of learning. Creativity can and should be incorporated into curriculum content and classroom instruction, be part of extracurricular programs, and be infused into activities whether at home, in playgrounds, or elsewhere. Teachers should also try to be attuned to a child’s interests, talents, and creative impulses beyond the school walls so that learning experiences can mesh and become cohesive. 

CONCERN #3 – Not enough partnerships and collaborations

Relationships are at the core of creative enterprise. They enable people to exchange ideas, support one another, and share the load. Nevertheless, some kids are fiercely independent, some are shy or introverted, and still others may experience sociability issues. These children (and others, too) may not recognize the merits of creative interactions, group dynamics, brainstorming, and collaborative ventures, and how sharing ideas and finding supporters (and cheerleaders) can foster creative habits of mind. 

SUGGESTIONS – Help children learn to forge meaningful relationships. Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore offers excellent resources on this. (See below.) Kids can also develop connectivity networks by engaging in unstructured play, and by taking part in teamwork. Parents and teachers can reinforce children’s contributions to joint efforts, and help them learn about active listening, patience, reciprocity, and compromise. Some kids may need help learning to respect and understand diverse expectations, capabilities, or points of view. However, keep in mind that even one or two meaningful connections can be a wonderful springboard for collaborative creativity, and help to increase a child’s confidence, too. 

CONCERN #4 – Creativity vs busyness

Kids juggle a lot of demands at home, school, and elsewhere, and therefore time can be at a premium. Children who have weak time management or organizational skills, or who have trouble with prioritizing, procrastination, or goal-setting, may not feel confident about trying to add creative expression to their burgeoning to-do lists. Creativity is a choice, and some children choose to not to invest the time or effort—which is truly unfortunate. Moreover, some kids find it difficult to wind down, and to find time to play or to relax and let creative ideas percolate. 

SUGGESTIONS – Parents can model a strong work ethic, and how to use time advantageously. This includes setting aside the purposeful use of time for cultivating interests and talents, for finding outlets for play, and for creative expression. Parents can also encourage children to reduce or eliminate distractions (people or things) that hinder creative thinking, or productivity. Other tips include bolstering skill sets, seeking new or better strategies for pacing or organization, finding a quiet and well-equipped workspace, and strategically scheduling in downtime. This might involve silence, solitude, and reflection. Or it might involve recreation, music, fun, leisure, exploration, multi-sensory experiences, reading, and play. In fact, play not only bolsters creativity, it is extremely important for optimal child development. (There are several resources on this listed below.) 

CONCERN #5 – Insufficient resources

If a child has never read poetry can s/he still become a poet? Why not? If a child has never held a musical instrument, can s/he become a musician? Yes. Possibility and promise are accessible. They are not limited to those who are affluent or to those who live in large municipalities. Kids can seek and find…

SUGGESTIONS – There are libraries, community centers, mentorship programs, afterschool activities, museums, galleries, online venues, and endless resources at our fingertips. The problem is not what to investigate, but rather how to do it safely, efficiently, and prudently, and in ways that truly address children’s interests. There are countless avenues to explore—from magic to music to mime to marionettes and more—any of which can provide channels for creativity to flow. Children who acquire resources through multiple access points, and across a wide spectrum, can follow their passions, and may even become motivated to try something new or to diverge from more “mainstream” notions of what to pursue. Support from adults, strong home and school connectivity, and a little ingenuity can help children acquire the resources they need to turn their aspirations into realities, and also keep the manageability in check.

Anyone can be creative. And children’s creativity should be encouraged. There is no reason for any child to have to miss out on opportunities—or to miss being able to co-create them with the help of parents, teachers, or others. Winston Churchill said, “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” With that in mind, all children can be winners. 

READING AND RESOURCES 

Readers can find additional information about optimal child development by checking out Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster.) Dr. Foster’s most recent book is Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (recipient of the Independent Book Publishers’ Association’s 2018 Silver Benjamin Franklin Award), and its predecessor is Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination. To learn more about these books, and for access to a wide range of articles and links, go to www.joannefoster.ca. Information about professional development workshops and speaker sessions with Dr. Foster can also be found at this website.

See the assortment of material published by Great Potential Press for excellent resources on supporting and encouraging creativity and gifted/high-level development. 

Scott Barry Kaufman recognizes that creativity “enables deep learning”—and he shares an insightful report on his blog. I love this descriptor: “Schools can make a number of changes to their culture to increase the chances that a creativity weather system might form, a system that might just coalesce into a perfect storm, causing creativity to rain down.” See more about how education can foster imagination and creativity here

Eileen Kennedy-Moore writes about relationships, friendships, confidence, and more. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics shares an article on the importance of play.

Dona Matthews explains why play is so critical in an article at Psychology Today

Katie Hurley has written a helpful piece about the many benefits of play. (She is also author of the wonderful Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World.

This article by Brenna Hicks is about why imagination and play are essential to a healthy childhood (see here)   

Marilyn Price-Mitchell writes about outdoor play and nature. She also focuses on creativity as one of the core elements of development. See the Roots of Action website. 


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