The Importance of Creativity for Children
It is often thought that teaching children art, music and drama is not as important as teaching them Maths, Technology and Science. Creative subjects have been maligned and are seen as frivolous time wasters. They are seen as merely part of “playtime” and that the most important subjects to teach children are academic. What’s the point of teaching little Jacob art as he’ll hardly make a living as an artist, will he?
Truthfully, to think this is not altogether incorrect. The chances of someone making a decent living on an artist’s wage are slim. However, children should not be taught creative subjects with the idea that they will grow up to be the new Banksy, or the new Adele or the new Cumberbatch (best surname ever by the way). No, children need to be taught creative subjects as creativity is needed in any job that they will end up doing. Whether they are an accountant, a scientist, a teacher, a secretary, a shop assistant or a lawyer. They will be required to use their mind creatively.
One of my all time favourite heroes, educationalist Sir Ken Robinson’s (he’s definitely invited to my dream dinner party) definition of creativity is:
I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Creative work in any field often passes through typical phases. Sometimes what you end up with is not what you had in mind when you started. It’s a dynamic process that often involves making new connections, crossing disciplines and using metaphors and analogies.
He goes on to debunk some myths surrounding creativity:
There are various myths about creativity. One is that only special people are creative; another is that creativity is just about the arts; a third is that it’s all to do with uninhibited “self-expression”. None of these is true. On the contrary, everyone has creative capacities; creativity is possible in whatever you do, and it can require great discipline and many different skills.
Considering that the same areas of the brain that are used to create music, are also used during mathematical processing, you can see how encouraging creativity can benefit across the board. You can watch Sir Ken’s excellent TED talk on the subject here
So, why is it so important for children to be taught creativity at an early age. Can’t we just encourage adults to think creatively in their jobs?
There have been numerous studies that show children’s experiences early on in life can greatly influence the developing brain. Children are born with billions of neurons, but only a small portion are connected to each other. Throughout childhood the connections that are underused are cutback to make the brain more efficient. The connections that are used regularly become stronger. Therefore, the optimum time for people to develop skills are in the early years of childhood. As you may have often heard before, the early years develop the foundations of a person.
Creative play fosters cognitive and social development. Crucially, it also helps nurture problem solving skills. Critical thinking and social skills are vital for a person once they join the workforce.
Whilst academic subjects such as Maths and Science are important, creative subjects are as important. Without the nurturing of creativity, our society will stagnate and languish. We won’t see new inventions that will help enable people and create a more dynamic society. We won’t see new cures for diseases. We won’t find easier and more efficient ways of doing things, thus deterring a more economically sound society. Our progress will halt and everything our ancestors have done for us, will seemingly be futile. For society to be able to progress and evolve, new ideas need to be “created”, new and innovative ways of doing things need to be discovered and implemented. This progress with society is not possible without creativity.
Sir Ken believes that the current education system is stifling children’s creativity due to more focus on academic subjects and the way subjects are taught. There are already studies that show a child’s creativity starts to decline once they enter schooling.
Nobody knows what the future of this planet and the human race holds. These are unpredictable times. We need all the creative thinking that we can get. Creativity is not to be sniffed at.
So in short, let your child do as many rubbish paintings as they like, let them build countless structures with Lego, let them role play, let them try out the violin and let them sing to their heart’s content. Children are the future and all that.