Creativity for kids:Increase it with 9 creativity exercises

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creativity for kids with copycat picture

Which of the pictures above shows more creativity for kids, the one above or the ones below?

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And what is creativity anyway?

The first picture above was one done by an adult and shown to children to follow. The ones below were done by children who had a choice of materials to choose to create their own flowers. So you tell me, which is more creative for kids. Ones that children have to copy or when they get to think for themselves?

In this post I am going to explain how children demonstrate creativity, why certain children don’t seem to be creative, 7 traits that indicate that the person or child is creative and will then give  you 9 exercises that can be used to  help children ump start their creativity.

What is the actual definition of creativity for kids

If you look at wikipedia this is their definition

“Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new (a product, a solution, a work of art, a novel, a joke, etc.) that has some kind of value. What counts as “new” may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs. What counts as “valuable” is similarly defined in a variety of ways.”

To paraphrase the above:

  1. Creativity is the ability to see many things in new ways
  2. Creativity is breaking tight boundaries and going beyond information and material given
  3. It is when one thinks unconventionally
  4. It is when someone makes something unique that was not there before

When it comes to kids how do they demonstrate their creativity and creativity is not the same for children as it is for adults. what is creativity

Children’s creativity however, does not manifest itself is the same ways as adults since……In their early years for  children, the creative functioning of kids is a process orientation….. making and doing…. rather than finishing.

This is huge. This means that with creativity there are no right or wrong answers

Kids are creative when they

  • Try out new ideas and ways of doing things
  • When they take materials and manipulate and transform them
  • Take things apart and then put them back together again
  • Fantasize and imagine
  • Solve problems and figure things out

There is very interesting  research  (Torrance 1965) that says  that creativity peaks at about age 41/2 years old. Once kids reach elementary school there is a sharp drop in their creativity.

Why is it that kids are so naturally creative at really young ages and it then takes a steep nose dive.

A number of yeas ago a very famous songwriter named Harry Chapin wrote a song called flowers are red where he sings about a little boy that had to create red flowers and green leaves because that is what the teacher said it had to be. The teacher ends up totally suppressing this little boys creativity and he just can’t seem to get it going again when he moves to another more creative school.

That song always touched me very much as I was totally able to relate to that song, from my own childhood and in my work with children and art. This is an extremely common occurrence as schools value academics and conformity and NOT creativity.

Which brings us to the  pictures at that top of this page

Classic preschool, kindergarten and after school programs for young children are comprised of crafts activities that often look like the image on the above left.A teacher creates a  flower or some other copycat type of project that the children are supposed to copy exactly as it is presented to them by the teacher. By doing this they are telling them that they don’t trust their ideas and don’t believe that they are capable of doing things on their own.

Creativity however, fosters successes, mastery, competence and cognitive development. If more adults would allow their children to create as the pictures on the right allow we would a society that are more competent, self confident and creative.

Adults have come to expect certain things from art and art is usually centered around areas of external beauty and aesthetics.Art for children which is often a basis for all things creative,is something very different. Its a means of expression and it the conduit to developing a good self esteem and good problem solving skills.

Museums are full of modern art pieces that most of us don’t understand unless the meaning are explained to us, but for some reason young children are expected to “make something” in art.One of the problems with adults who are involved in children’s art is that they don’t have the patience to wait for the children to grow up to attempt to create some sort of representational art.

If we judged creativity only by finished works then the only creative people would be ones likes Einstein, Bell, Mozart, Picasso and any well know creative person.People can be creative in so many different ways. cooking,  sewing, carpentry, art, interior design, writing are all areas that need creativity to flourish. Why concentrate on the finished product only when judging creativity.

Even though all children have the capacity to be creative there are ways to determine if a child is particularly more creative than his peers.

 How to determine if a child is creative

Even though all children have creative potential there are some children who are born more creative. A high IQ does not guarantee creativity. Research has shown that if we only judge children’s creativity based on their IQ than we are eliminating 70% of the children. Intelligence is definitely a factor but, it is only one factor.

According to Torrance (1965)there are 7 indicators of children’s creativity

  1. Curiosity. It is rare to find a truly incurious child who is very creative.
  2. Flexibility: Creative children will usually try to find more than one approach
  3. Sensitivity to problems: Usually quick to see and sense gaps in information given
  4. Redefinition: They find new uses for familiar objects
  5. Are individualistic: can work alone
  6. Original
  7. Insight: spend lots of time on their ideas and possibilities

 Obstacles to kids creativity

What happens to most of the creativity in children is quite sad. The crazy thing is that the ones that should be fostering creativity are often some of the major obstacles to kids creativity.Parents, the school environment and the culture they are in.

What happens is that parents and often teachers have great expectations for children without really understanding how children develop and what their needs are. Creativity is not valued in the school system, conformity and emphasis on academics is. Society is also a problem as there are boundaries  in our cultures that don’t allow for children to express their creativity and again, high scores and academics are much more valued than creativity.

In their early years children’s creative function has an emphasis on a  process orientation making and doing rather than finishing. Kids only get into making products to please adults.

How to increase creativity in children

If you are a teacher or a parent of young children and want to learn how to increase your child’s creativity then are a few things you should be aware of in fostering creativity.

Creativity is something that is new to the creator. It doesn’t matter if we all know that red and yellow make orange, when a child is allowed to discover that on her own that makes her creative.

If you think creativity is doing any kinds of crafts then you have the wrong ideas about creativity. Creativity not only about art. When art is what you are using to be creative and you want to know more about arts and crafts that does encourage creativity then you will want to checkout creative crafts or if if you have toddlers than art projects for toddlers or any one of the number of posts on this blog that teaches you how to do art in a developmentally appropriate manner.

If you are also interested in fostering creativity in your home environment aside from just giving them developmentally appropriate art activities that are some things that you should try to incorporate into their daily lives.

  • You as  parents must respect all of children’s work and attempts at creativity.
  • You must respect their abilities not only their output.
  • Children should be given the freedom to explore and make decisions in areas besides art as well
  • The discipline in your home must be consistent and predictable

Even though these don’t sound like they are so connected to creative ability, they will help the children feel confident enough to explore and express their creativity.

If you want to help your children along in their creativity below are 9 creativity exercises I got from Art & Creative Development for Young Children by Robert Shirmacher. They are great ways to spend some quality time with your children as well.

9 Creativity exercises for kids

Very important to tell children before you do any of these exercises that are there are no right or wrong answers

#1-Finish my picture: You can make various picture on separate pieces of paper and ask the children to finish the pictures any way they see fit. Two examples are



#2 What are these pictures– Have the children look at these marks on the paper and tell them to tell you what you see in those pictures. Of course, you can make up your own as well. (I  made these on my computer and they didn’t all copy over exactly  but, I just wanted to give you some Of these ideas that I got from the book noted above)

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#3-What would happen if: This is a verbal creative activity. Give children various scenarios to see how they can think and stretch their minds.(think of your own scenarios as well)

  • What would happen if a refrigerator could eat food
  • If bathtubs could talk
  • If you could be invisible
  • If toys were real
  • If pets went to school

#4 -What can we do with: Have them think of the various uses they could give to these items aside from their regular everyday uses.

  • Newspapers
  • Shoe box
  • Dish
  • Balloon
  • Brick
  • Napkin
  • Paper clip
  • Rubber band

#5- How many ways can you: Another activity getting them to think

  • How many ways can you scare your sibling
  • Make your parents happy
  • Get in trouble
  • Make a friend
  • Go in a vacation
  • Earn money

Of course, the possibilities you think of have to be age appropriate. You will not ask a 4 year old how many ways she can make money.

#6-How would you describe this item..(Encourage them to use color, shape, size, use, form, texture, weight)

  • Key
  • Umbrella
  • Toy
  • Box
  • Sock
  • Hamster
  • Pencil

#7-What could these pictures be- (Again I drew them on my computer and you can copy them over and use them and add others as well)Have the children look at these pictures and let them give you the different things they could be

creativity with kids

tasks to help kids creativitykids creativity tasktasks for kids creativity

#8-What things are– For this activity you will name certain characteristics and ask the children what things are round etc.

  • What things are round
  • What things make noise
  • What things sink
  • Which things are wet
  • What smells
  • What has horns
  • What shine
  • What Rolls
  • Which things are green
  • What hurts
  • What’s square
  • Which things are sticky

#9-Pretend- Or what would you do when…

  • Pretend you have  paint, paper but, no paintbrush what would you do
  • What happens if you are ready to go to a birthday party and you realize you have no present
  • What do you do if you have no friends to play with
  • You are playing store with your friends and you have no money for your store

There are many scenarios like the ones above that you can make up on your own to get the children to think and to think creatively.

Creative toys for kids

If you are looking to buy children toys or any  kinds of products that are creative then there are certain things you should be looking for.

One thing you should be aware of is that just because an item or a toy says “creative” doesn’t mean that it real is. The way to tell if a toy or art project is truly creative is to notice if a toy…

  • Has more than one use- If it only does one thing then there is no creativity in it
  • Has many right and wrong ways to do things
  • Is flexible and reflects a wide range of uses for various abilities.
  • Does not expect the outcome to be the same for everyone using it

The classic creative toys are things like this Custom Kitchen and all of the other pretend play items that young children need.

Good luck with your children’s creativity and you may want to check out this really cool video from TED on creativity and play that I discovered recently.

Don’t forget to check out all of the many creative art activities that are on this blog that will greatly increase your child’s creativity.

If you think this post speaks to you…can you share it with others?


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