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Marjorie Sarnat : Creative Talent Comes Out to Play

Creative Talent Comes
Out to Play

By Marjorie Sarnat

Game pieceI’m a big fan of board games, parlor games, and any games that kids and families enjoy. They’re all designed for fun but some games have hidden benefits, too; they reveal creative talents.

Observe your child at play with some of the games listed at the end of this article, and notice if he or she excels at one or more of them. Try to detect the creative thought your child uses while playing that game.

What Is Creative Thought?

Creativity is about problem solving in a new way, making new connections, and using imagination. Dr. E. Paul Torrance identified four basic components of creative thought,* which usually interact in combinations with each other.

  • Fluency is the ability to generate quantities of ideas.
  • Flexibility is the ability to process information or objects in various ways, and to perceive things from several points of view. This also includes redefining and re-purposing things.
  • Originality is the ability to generate new, different, and unique ideas that others are not likely to think of. Originality includes imagination, as well.
  • Elaboration is the ability to expand on an idea by embellishing it with details, or the ability to develop an intricate plan.

Fluency Scorned

When I was in the fourth grade our teacher, Miss Malkin, gave us an unusual assignment. She wrote a word on the chalkboard and gave us ten minutes to list as many words as we could think of using only the word's letters. (I now call this game “Word Flurry.”)

When the time was up, Miss Malkin asked the top student in our class how many words she had. Bonnie announced that she had 34 words. The teacher asked if anyone had more.

I was the only other student who raised a hand, and I reported that I had 116 words. As Miss Malkin approached my desk she declared loudly, "You must have done it incorrectly." But when she scrutinized my list, she saw that I had, indeed, done it correctly!

Miss Malkin was slack-jawed, and sat staring at me for the longest time. She was clearly astonished, for I was a bright student, but didn’t usually earn the highest grades.

Miss Malkin didn't know anything about creativity. If she had, she would have known that creative thinking embodies the skills used in a task such as this (fluency), and that high intelligence (as traditionally measured) and high creativity operate independently. Highly intelligent kids may or may not be highly creative. Highly creative kids are usually very intelligent, but they’re not always the most successful students.

As a parent or teacher, be on the lookout to spot creative talent. Encourage your kids by acknowledging their creativity and letting them know that creative thought is an awesome and important kind of intelligence.

Kids Who Play Games Play With Thoughts

• Scrabble® — The game of Scrabble and its variations require the creative thought skill, flexibility, to score well. Many people think this game is about vocabulary and spelling. That’s part of it, but players must be able to see several word possibilities on the board and form many combinations from the letters on their racks — and quickly, too.

• Monopoly® — This longtime favorite is an involved game that depends mostly on luck — until later in the game when good players must strategize purchases, trades, and sales for managing expenses with available funds. That can require some fancy flexibility, elaboration of plans, and original ideas to negotiate staying in the game.

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