Raising Children to Be Creative Thinkers
Creative Thinking: The Best Skill You Can Teach Your Kids
It is easy as a parent to be overwhelmed by all the things you want to teach your children, nurturing talents and interests in them in even the earliest years. Certainly the ability to read, write, and count will set them on a course for success in school, but there is a gift you can give your kids that is far more valuable.
Creative thinking is the ability to make connections between ideas and solve problems in a unique and unexpected way. Knowing the ABC's will help your child through kindergarten, but what about their long-term success? What about their future professional endeavors? Once your child enters the competitive collegiate arena and the even more competitive job market, they will need something more than just perfectly memorized answers to allow them to advance.
Creative problem solvers are the most highly sought after assets in most fields. The trait that separates the largest, most successful companies from the rest is the value they place on imagination and innovation. They are not simply looking to hire straight-A, 4.0 college graduates anymore. They are seeking out individuals who see the world in a different way from most.
So how exactly do you teach this incredibly valuable skill? Here are three ways to build creative thinking in your young one, as early as the toddler years.
It may sound too simple but really games are a breeding ground for creative problem solving. Skip more straight-forward games like snakes and ladders- they don't leave enough room for creativity. Opt instead for charades, mad-libs, and strategy games. Obviously you will need to adapt to the age and ability of your child, but games that allow for your child to make connections between abstract ideas will stretch their minds in ways that will have lasting effects.
Kids reach a certain age when it seems like all they do is ask questions. It can make a parent feel like they are really about to lose their minds. It's easy to fall into a habit of simply giving them absent-minded answers, like "Because I said so" and "I don't know", because any real answer usually launches another set of 50 questions. As difficult as it may be at first, try to take the time to use their questions as a learning opportunity- not just for giving the answer but for expanding the way they think and view the world. When your child asks why there is a rainbow in the sky, respond with your own question: What happened today that might have made that rainbow? As they connect the dots between the rain and light and the colors in the sky, they will begin to unlock the skill of piecing together mysteries around them, without someone simply telling them the answer. As much time and effort as it might take to engage your child in this way, it will be incredibly valuable for them.
Thoughtfully choosing the toys your child has around him can have a huge impact on his ability to think creatively. An example of a close-ended toy would be a puzzle. While it does engage a child's mind and teach important motor skills, there is only one way for a child to play with it. An open-ended toy would be a set of blocks or Lego's or any art supplies. There are a million ways for your child to use these kinds of toys and the play they will engage in will not be as straightforward and black-and-white, opening up space for creative problem solving. Opt for blank paper instead of coloring books and recycled house hold items like paper towel tubes and boxes for hours of open-ended play.
Once you engage these different strategies for bringing creative thinking into your home, it really is a joy to see the way young minds grow and develop to see the world in an entirely different light. Your child will soon surprise you with the questions and ideas she invents all on her own. By taking the time to cultivate this creativity and problem-solving in your children, you are giving them the greatest possible asset that will set them apart in all their future exploits as they strike out into the world.