Encouraging Creativity Reduces Screen Usage

Apr 19, 2013

Reducing the time our children spend on screens, while encouraging creativity, increases their usage of divergent thinking rather than a belief that there is only one right answer.

Today is Day #5 of my 10-day series on "Screen-Free Family Activities"
Did you know that creative thinking decreases as a child gets older?
“Of 1,600 children aged three to five who were tested, 98% showed they could think in divergent ways. By the time they were aged eight to 10, 32% could think divergently. When the same test was applied to 13 to 15-year-olds, only 10% could think in this way. And when the test was used with 200,000 25-year-olds, only 2% could think divergently.” - Sir Ken Robinson (Listen to this  YouTube talk: "Do schools today kill creativity?" by Sir Ken Robinson

Why Children Become Less Creative

Children become less creative when they are exposed to a one-size-fits-all environment or education full of stereotyped ideas. It falls back to the adage, "If you don't use it, you'll lose it." If we don't use our legs, for example, the muscles atrophy and we lose the ability to use them. Imagination works the same way. If we do not use our creative abilities, that portion of the brain simply stops working for us. 
The idea that each problem or question has only one right answer squashes a child's ability to think divergently. They're being asked, specifically, to think inside-the-box. As parents, we have the ability to help nurture that natural creativity.

A bird drawn from a child's memory and experience.

These are "birds" in the child's math workbook.
After seeing the workbook birds,
the child draws birds like this.

Source: Viktor Lowenfeld and W. Lambert Brittain.
Creative and Mental Growth, 6th ed. 1970. Macmillan, NY. p. 109

This doesn't have to happen. Below is a list of things you can do to encourage creativity:

1. Avoid stereotyping in activities. While it isn't wrong to offer a coloring book or dot-to-dot games here and there, allowing a child to draw freely will encourage imagination. They will color the pictures they have drawn rather than be locked "inside the lines" of pre-made coloring activities. 

2. Encourage Photography: Put a camera in their hands. My kids love taking photographs and are very talented at it. It definitely develops an "eye" for lines, shapes, composition and more.

3. Practice creativity yourself. If a child sees that mom, dad or an older siblings enjoys drawing, doodling, writing stories, or painting, they'll be encouraged and inspired. Drawing and coloring won't strike them as a "child's activity". 

4. Provide real-life experiences. Experience is a great teacher and children are natural observers. Providing opportunities for children to draw what they see is important to developing creativity. All mammals imitate but humans take it a step further: They create. While they may be drawing what they see, what they do with it (colors, textures, what medium they use) is all their own.

5. Provide an ample amount of materials. Crayons and paper are good. Crayons, drawing pens and pencils, oil pastels, chalks, watercolors, various types of paper, beads, bottles, poster board and canvases are better. You get the idea. 

6. Visit art galleries, museums and art shows. Talk about the art you see. Ask questions that make the children look and consider. You may not enjoy abstract art, but have the child look at the painting and tell you what they think it is. Then look at the card or plaque next to the painting. How far off was the child's guess? Have them look again to see if they can see the artist's perspective. (My 14-year-old told me she does this. What a great idea!)

Ask the children to tell you what medium was used such as oil, water color, chalk, acrylic, etc... My 10-year-old is an "ace" at this one.

7. Go on nature walks with a magnifying glass. If a magnifying glass isn't standard equipment in your nature study pack, change that. Having a child observe the smallest details allows them to see how very artistic their creator is and how beautifully nature is painted. 

By nurturing creative imagination, children will find better things to do than spend time on screens. I can attest to the fact that a creative child (even older ones) will spend a good amount of time exercising their imagination. The more time they're using creative imagination, the less time they'll spend on screens. My 14-year old does use screens, but as a means for learning more about the art she loves such as drawing techniques or dance moves. It's a productive usage.

What other things can parents do to inspire creativity? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Then please go visit the other talented ladies at the Spring 2013 Hopscotch.

Photo Credit: gloaming

Happy Homeschooling!

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