For students, problem solving skills are crucial in all areas of education. When an answer doesn’t immediately present itself, students are encouraged to find creative solutions. Not surprisingly, children with good creative thinking skills often possess stronger executive functioning abilities, and as a result perform better in school. Here’s how to nurture your child’s creativity (and why it matters)!
Why is creativity important?
Increased happiness. Students that are more creative generally feel more comfortable in their ability to approach academic challenges, especially when it comes to more difficult subjects. Having a positive outlook on school is integral to a student’s success, and ideally we want all students to feel confident in their problem-solving skills. Encouraging creative approaches to difficult tasks builds resilience. When something doesn’t make sense at first, creative students will begin working to find another approach rather than becoming discouraged.
Better grades. Executive function skills are heavily tied to a student’s academic performance. These abilities encompass a wide array of useful tools, ranging from time management to organizational skills. Part of helping students to develop executive function skills involves critical (or creative) thinking. From challenging math problems to literary analysis, critical thinking skills are crucial for students to begin to develop a deeper understanding of the material they’re learning. Creativity is also important when coming up with alternative solutions and workarounds, as we want students to feel confident in their own abilities to tackle and deconstruct challenging concepts. As we’ve often referred to on our blog, this frame of thinking is referred to as a growth mindset, or the internal belief that we can improve our skills with genuine effort and practice.
How can we nurture creativity?
Encourage them to think outside the box. For many students, we can encourage creativity (and coming up with alternative approaches) by simply asking “What’s another way you can solve this?” or “How could you do this differently next time?” We always want to get students into a mindset where they feel there are many tools at their disposal, and multiple ways to accomplish what they need to get done. Students sometimes fall into a cycle of thinking there’s only one way to do something, and encouraging the use of creative solutions helps to avoid this mentality.
Let them know it’s okay to be different. Just because something is “supposed” to be a certain way, it doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be. For younger children, we can encourage creativity with simple activities like coloring. Who's to say trees can’t be blue and grass can’t be red? We want to encourage our children to use their imagination, and to always let them know the sky's the limit! For older students, our tutors often work with multiple instructional techniques and approaches when dealing with challenging subject areas. This lets students know they shouldn’t take a linear approach in their academics, and to always keep an open mind for trying alternative methods and solutions.
Ask open-ended questions. Rather than multiple choice or yes or no questions, asking open-ended questions is a better way to encourage creative thinking. For this reason, both the SAT and ACT tests offer an open-ended essay section that is heavily weighed by many colleges. Most importantly, asking your kids questions encourages them to ask questions of their own! Here’s a few ideas for general open-ended questions:
- “How did you come to that conclusion?”
- “What’s another way of figuring that out?”
- “How would you change your approach if you had to do it again?”
- “What did you find easiest? What was most challenging?”
- “How would you explain this to someone else?”