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Creativity Triggers for Everyone by Edward Glassman Ph.D.
Edward Glassman : Enhancing Creativity in Children

Enhancing Creativity in Children

By Edward Glassman, PhD

"It's better to make lists than fight."

A TRUE STORY: I led a three-hour creativity session for two combined classes of second graders in a local school. After we formed groups, I asked them to choose a recorder to do non-evaluative listing, and something unique happened. Everyone who could write wanted to be the recorder (with adults, the opposite usually happens).

So I asked them to non-evaluatively list ways to pick a recorder, select the way they wanted to use, and use it.

A second surprise occurred: each team used a different, unexpected method to choose the recorder. One chose the fastest runner, another chose the best writer, and a third chose the person who could draw the best. A fourth tossed a coin, while another used "one potato, 2 potato." A startling display of creativity. None chose voting.

Then I asked them to non-evaluatively list ways to do some additional things. At the end, we all sat in a large circle on the floor. I asked them to go around the circle and tell what they had learned.

One girl said it best: "It's better to make lists than fight."
(Note: The slump in creativity of children is thought to occur in the fourth grade.)

Fostering Creativity In Children

This topic would fill many books, so this column will remain a reminder for future endeavor. Still, we can cull my preceding columns and my book to find creativity triggers that children can effectively learn and use, and ways adults can respond to foster children's creativity.

Role Model What You Want To Teach

Children learn in all sorts of ways. One of them that works well involves role modeling, that is, doing creative efforts together. So teach them one-on-one, or form a group. Your child's desires must be taken into account.

FORCED COMBINATION: To start with, we can teach children to combine thoughts, and produce new and useful ideas.

ALTERNATIVES: We can stress the importance of seeking many alternatives when solving problems.

CREATIVITY TRIGGERS: We can teach and use many of the creativity triggers found in my book, especially brainstorming and brainwriting. This includes some of the creativity triggers used in the problem-solving ladder.

WARMUPS: Children love warmups. It's what they would do all day, if they had their way.

RESPONDING TO YOUR CHILD'S IDEAS: Using the responses to hearing an idea, yes-if, what's good about it, and pretending their ideas come from your boss, will create a creative climate and encourage children to share their ideas with you. You do have 100% responsibility for the creative climate of your child.

A good book about active listening: "Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.)" by T. Gordon (1970).

ANTI-CREATIVITY FORCE: At the very least, avoid and repel the anti-creativity forces, and champion the use of creativity triggers.

OUTREACH: Form a creativity club that kids will love to join.

MOTIVATION: As with adults, children who engage in creative effort for their own enjoyment, their internal motivation, produce the most creative outcomes. Those who respond to win external praise or other external rewards (money, candy, etc.), produce less creative outcomes.

Research has shown detrimental effects on children's creativity by competition, promised and expected rewards, external evaluation, extrinsic motivation, lack of choice, etc.

In contrast, creativity was higher when the opposite conditions existed: lack of competition, no external rewards, no external evaluation, intrinsic motivation, lots of choice how and what to do, and self-direction.

Immunize your children against the lure of external rewards that lower creativity by discussing internal motivators with them. Make them aware of how good it feels to be self-directed and free of external control.

Recommended Books

The topic of fostering your child's creativity so they will be creative throughout life goes far beyond the resources of this column. Still, you must pursue it for the sake of your child.

I recommend the following:

  • "Growing Up Creative: Nurturing A Lifetime Of Creativity" by Teresa Amabile (1989).
  • "Nurturing Creative Children" by Dr. Yew Kam Keong
  • "Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) by Thomas Gordon (1970).

© 2012 by Edward Glassman. All rights reserved.

Edward Glassman, PhDEdward Glassman, PhD was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he headed the Program For Team Effectiveness And Creativity. More »