By Kimberly Nichols
As an artist who is also a mother, I was heartily depressed when my daughter was going to elementary, junior high and then high school, and found not a single art class in her standard public school curriculum. I will never forget the high school teacher I had early on who taught me how to articulate the ideas I had in my mind through unheard of mediums or the solid hour devoted to arts and crafts that sustained my otherwise boring junior high school period. For someone like me, who didn’t find the nurturing of my inherent creativity in the home, these classes were a godsend where I found my own inspirational eureka! Unfortunately, while my daughter was growing up, creativity was relegated to a luxury offered in the pricey, private extracurricular sector no longer mandated as an important element in the standard educational experience.
This makes me terribly sad. Not only because many little misunderstood artists out there will not find the encouragement and wild, liberation that art classes tend to unlock in their burgeoning little brains, but that all kids won’t benefit from the lessons that the trait of creativity alone informs. Lessons in developing characteristics such as imagination, daydreaming, risk-taking, perception, open mindedness and curiosity that are crucial to the development of well-rounded little humans and thinkers.
Author Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind, argues that any activity that does not involve creativity will someday be automated and that most jobs in the future will require a high level of creative thinking. But if creativity is no longer taught in the schools, than where will our children learn? Dr. Susan Daniels and Dr. Dan Peters of the Summit Center for Gifted Children recently published a book that answers this question. In Raising Creative Kids, they offer a manual that allows parents to take control of this important task in ways that are not only fun but also entirely fruitful.
I interviewed Dr. Daniels about the book and the ideas presented within.
Why was this book important to write in your eyes?
Nurturing creativity in myself and others – especially children and teachers – has been a passion of mine throughout my career. Oftentimes when someone thinks of creativity, the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Georgia O’Keefe, or Albert Einstein come up. But, everyone has creative capacity, and this book helps readers tap into that for themselves and their children.
Recently, creativity has come to the attention of the media and, to some extent, schools as a necessary capacity for life in this century. Yet, there are few schools that are implementing creative curriculum. Also, researchers have consistently determined that children’s creative abilities drop sharply at about 4th grade. Well, we can’t continue let that happen.
There is much that parents and teachers can do to nurture the creative spirit and build creative capacity in our youth, and frankly, in themselves as well. So, my coauthor Dan Peters and I wrote the book to share what we know about creativity development with parents and teachers. The book is written in a very accessible style, very conversational. And there are strategies and activities that parents and teachers can utilize right away to raise creativity awareness at school and at home. It’s time.
Why is it important for parents to foster creativity in the home environment?
Some schools are beginning to use the word creativity and incorporate it in building curriculum, but this change is coming slowly. There is so much that parents can do with their children to incorporate a creative lifestyle, right now, that it’s important for them to have information to help them do so. One of the foremost characteristics of creative people is that they notice and are aware of creativity in their environments, and they seek to create creative opportunities. This is something that parents and children can do together – readily. In the book, we talk about creative mini-moments. These can be spontaneous and don’t necessarily require a lot of materials. For example, in five minutes, what can you design and build with this bag of “repurposed” materials (paper bag, plastic cups, cardboard tubes, etc.)?
Why did this resonate with you in the first place and how does it relate to your life and perhaps your own experience growing up?
I grew up in a relatively low-income working class community, and I was fortunate that my school had a drama program. I ended up acting in professional theater by the time I was in high school. This occurred both by chance and by seizing opportunities to continue doing something I loved. We need to help our children find and develop their passion, purpose, and creative capacities in what they enjoy doing. This is the key to lifelong satisfaction and joy.
What has changed in the school system that now propels parents to need to be more active in the home in regards to teaching things like critical thinking, creative thinking, out of the box conceptualization etc.?
Through my experiences in working with teachers, especially in K-8 schools, we are on a cusp. As I indicated, schools are beginning to embrace creativity. However, we are still mired in excessive standardized testing and a one-right-answer mentality. Usually if we choose to look there are many right answers. We just need to choose a more open-minded point of view and choose to look for creativity. Parents can use the techniques and activities in our book to heighten awareness of creativity at home and to have fun with it. This is a strong message to children about the value of being playful, imaginative, inventive, and creative.
What does creativity and being creative add to the overall personality of a fully rounded person and how does it help children in general through their self-individuation process and years?
Another movement underway is that of positive psychology. It deals with how to optimize our development over the course of our lifespan. Consistently, those who nurture the characteristics associated with creativity: open-mindedness, curiosity, aesthetic awareness, a design perspective, persistence, curiosity, originality and risk-taking amongst others, live happier, more fulfilled, healthier and longer lives.
What’s one of your favorite exercises from the book and why?
There are many to choose from, but time and time again, I go back to “Celebrate creativity!” This involves cultivating a creative mindset, looking for creativity in ourselves, in our children and in the environment, and taking time daily to engage in some small creative act. Cultivating a creative mindset shapes the day differently than moving through our days in a routine way.
In the end, what was your real mission with this book?
Raising Creative Kids was written to empower parents and teachers to access creativity in themselves and their children. Honestly, I view creativity as a birthright. The first line in the book is “Everyone has creative potential,” and we wrote the book to provide readers with approaches for accessing this creative potential! We hope this enriches the lives of our readers and the young people whose lives they touch.
Buy “Raising Creative Kids” on our Amazon.com store. (thanks for supporting Glad.is!)
If you liked this article, you’ll like: Bedtime Will Never Be The Same – 5 Great Spiritual Books for Kids. Another great read: Do You Have A Spiritually Sensitive Child?