It has been said that you cannot teach creativity. While there are certainly people who are just wired more
creatively than others, those who aren’t naturally creative can work on key creative strategies to strengthen
their creative abilities.
Recently, I had the privilege of hearing Sir Ken Robinson, TED speaker and author
of many books on creativity including Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, speak about the
importance of creativity, cultivating creativity and how schools are stifling creativity with standardized tests.
Sir Robinson was encouraging his audience of educators to open their minds to the type of questioning and
projects given to students. We are preparing a generation of children for a future that will demand unique
problem solvers, creativity and innovative thinkers. How can we encourage this type of thinking, when the
education system is stuck with standardized thinking?
One important ingredient for children of the future, is creativity. Sir Robinson’s research shows that
creativity can be nurtured and taught. The question is how? There are four main elements to creativity:
fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration. Here are some ways to cultivate these four creative
elements in your child:
1. Fluency – Fluency is the ability to consider multiple ideas as a solution to a problem. Too often children
are taught there is one correct answer to every situation and that the first idea is the the only idea.
Children need to understand and practice multiple ideas to each situation and that all options are truly
possible solutions. You can put this into practice by brainstorming all the possible outcomes to a problem.
It is important that you follow the rules of brainstorming (there are no wrong answers, the more wild and
far out- the better & no judgement). Apply this idea to family decisions and see how your encouraged
long list of ideas leads you to a creative path.
2. Flexibility – Flexible thinking involves the element of multiple solutions, opportunities and outcomes to a
problem. The idea of bending your thinking away from traditional outcomes. Practicing flexible thinking
can expand your thinking in surprising ways. One way you can practice this at home, is to take ordinary
household items and come up with other ways to use that item beyond the traditional use. For example,
take a spoon, we use a spoon to eat with, but what other ways could we use a spoon?
3. Originality – Original thinking means coming up with an idea that no one else would think of as a solution.
It isn’t necessarily the fact that no one ever in the world would come up with this solution, but rather, your
idea stands out as unique and different among many other solutions. You can practice this at home by
drawing a shape in a paper and have your child create an original drawing by finishing the drawing
started. They incorporate that shape into a story on the page, but using that shape in a way that most
would not. For example, if you draw a triangle, most children will turn that triangle into a house. A house,
an arrow, a butterfly would not be an original use of the triangle, but other creations might be something
more creative. When you see you child use an object in an original way, say ‘that is a really interesting
way to use that shape. I like your thinking!’
4. Elaboration – Being elaborate with your ideas is truly what sets them apart. Adding details to your idea,
makes your idea bloom into a life of their own. An idea is one thing, but an elaborate idea is something
else. Elaborate details fill in the blank spaces, it expands and stretches. You can practice elaborate
thinking by giving your kids the idea of ice cream and making it elaborate by asking questions like, who iseating the ice cream?, what flavor is the ice cream?, does it have any toppings?, sauces?, is it in a cup?,
a cone? Where is it being eaten?, etc. Help your children realize the full extent of their thoughts!
Putting the four elements of creative thinking; fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration, into practice
everyday in your home, can help foster the creative thinking that is possible in all people. Children should
have lots of opportunity to practice and cultivate creative thinking. If we don’t offer opportunities to explore
creative outcomes, who will?