Blog for Parents

5 Ways to Cultivate Creative Thinking


An article in the Pacific Standard (Nov 4th, 2013) discussed how standardized testing is killing our youth’s creative potential in the United States.  So, let’s counteract national demands and discuss how to harness and cultivate creativity in our children.

Creativity is often thought of as original thought. However, it is more likely a composite of ideas, feelings, and thoughts that we encounter during everyday life. If we examine the great thinkers and producers over time, common characteristics become apparent:


1. Value Brainstorming

Oftentimes in a classroom, a teacher-coach will ask students to brainstorm. That’s fine as a model, but brainstorming needs to become second nature.  Creating ideas and having lots of them is to be applauded. So, encourage owning a journal! A journal can be a small 2×3 inch notebook that can be placed in your pocket or a notepad on your cell phone. You can sketch there, write lists, generate random thoughts, create games, or just doodle away.  Look at how much fun Javier Perez  has by doodling with common objects (above)!

2. Be Open-Ended and Let Your Imagination Run Amuck

In order to be creative, it is critical to allow yourself options. It is essential to first brainstorm without judgment and then to push yourself to expand your imagination. In the classroom, a teacher-coach might say, “Great! That’s one way, what’s another? And another?”  A student in my after-school program designed lines of musical notes. After brainstorming, I was thrilled that she had a plethora of ideas. I then asked her to circle her favorites. The fact that we could select her preferences and cross out the ones that were ordinary was all part of the creative process.

3. It’s Okay Not to Know

In a world where every data fact is at our fingertips, getting the RIGHT answer is an easy gig. The push for overemphasizing standardized tests also feeds into this behavior. However, RIGHT vs. WRONG fights the creative process. Living with ambiguity and feeling okay about it, is part of the process. Not knowing the answer and letting it percolate for a while is extraordinarily healthy. When two uncommon notions collide, the “a-ha moment”  peeks its head out, and an idea is born. While there are many exams that try to test for creativity, I laugh at their legitimacy. You can’t test creativity under stressful circumstances.

4. Connect the Dots

When two ideas collide, which have nothing to do with one another, it’s loads of fun. I recently posted playful doodles that incorporate everyday objects on my Facebook page and loved the connections that were made. So, make ideas connect, look at things and make the effort to associate them together (synergistics) and experience life in a fun way.

5. There’s No Such Thing as Failure

For the really creative, there is no such thing as failure. It’s like the scientific process. You keep testing things until something works. It’s a mindset that comes into play that always leaves you feeling great because you felt compelled to try.