Let’s face it. None of us wants our children to be dull automatons who believe or do simply because someone says they should.
If you are homeschooling, it’s a pretty good bet that you’re wanting your kids to develop the ability to be innovative, ingenious, imaginative, and original. Creativity is in high demand amongst homeschoolers, and is increasingly understood as a critical part of intelligence and a quality necessary for productivity in the work world. Take, for example, the study of 1,000 college-educated, full-time employees called “Creativity and Education: Why It Matters”, in which 85% agreed that creative thinking was critical for problem solving in their career, and 78% wish they had more creative ability.1 Nine out of ten professionals agree that creativity is required for economic growth, and 96% believe it is valuable to society.2 Creativity enables individuals to find innovative solutions to problems, to go beyond the expected into the innovative, and think outside the box – all qualities that help children become productive contributors to society.
So, yes, we want creative kids. And, as homeschoolers, we can get our kids involved in music, provide them with art lessons, and give them the freedom to come up with ideas on their own and implement them – all of which are great ways to encourage creativity. Certainly having a home atmosphere in which children are encouraged to try out new things, express differing opinions, make mistakes and fail without retribution, and use lots of resources in ways they come up with on their own is critical to children developing their creative sides, and learning to express themselves in new and interesting ways.
But there is something else.
Yep, a little secret I have found, that is the key to encouraging creativity for kids. In fact, it is so powerful, that I’ve even seen instances in which implementing this one little tidbit will get kids to start being creative – even if none of the other wonderful creativity-establishers listed above are implemented.
And, even better – it is simple and completely free. No…even even better…it can save you money!
I know, you are quivering with anticipation. What is this miracle secret?
Turn off all of the screens in your house.
That’s right. No TV, no iPod, no iPad, no computer, and no phone. If it has a screen, keep your kids away from it, outside of school time.
Now before you start yelling at me about how academically beneficial each of those things can be, let me just say that I know. Yes, National Geographic television programs can be wonderful supplements to Science. Yes, movies and historical documentaries can bring History to life. Yes, iPad apps can be incredibly effective for teaching Geography or reviewing multiplication facts. Yes, phones can…
Um, I’m a bit at a loss for that one, unless someone can convince me that texting provides good Spelling practice, but you get my point. Screens have their place. And they can be very effective educational media – we use an online History program ourselves, and love it.
But screens can also be the #1 creativity squashers.
The truth is that the more time children spend in front of a screen, the less time they are spending having to generate new things from their own brains. Screens support primarily passive learning, in which the child responds to information being presented to him or her. Creativity, on the other hand, requires students to come up with ideas on their own.
Even if kids are given plenty of creative resources and are encouraged to create on their own, if they are simultaneously presented with the option of spending time in front of a screen – they will usually choose the screen. The reality is that once screens have fulfilled their usefulness as a direct part of education – they should be turned off.
Free time should be screen-free – so it can be creativity-full.
I’ve seen this work in my own family. While we use screens as supplements to our academic curricula (online History courses, academic programming that relates to something we are learning, academic iPad apps, etc.), once school is done, the screens go completely off. Except for the occasional family movie, the kids do not watch t.v. for entertainment. They do not play video games, or even iPad games. (Well, in the interest of full disclosure, that is the case when Mom is around. On those infrequent occasions when Mom has been gone and Dad has been the only one in charge, there have been occasional instances of surreptitious, Daddy-condoned iPad game usage). But, in general, they don’t even need to ask, because screens are not an option. They know that if they do not find something to do to entertain themselves on their own, without a screen, Mom has plenty of household responsibilities with which they can help.
Under those guidelines, it’s incredible what kids will come up with.
We get dramas, including costumes and staging, about tornadoes that destroy a house, which then has to be rebuilt. We get ballerina recitals, sometimes with storylines in which a dancer breaks her arm and the dance team must figure out how to have the show go on. We get rocket ships made from plastic cups and construction paper fire. We get home-constructed fairy houses. We get hand-written “newspapers” telling the weekly events, complete with hand-drawn pictures and documentary-style prose. We get pipe-cleaner jewelry. We get tailor-made dresses constructed completely from printer paper and staples. The dog has even received homemade costumes.
You get the picture.
Yes, we could finance our kids’ college educations with the money we spend on Scotch tape in our household. But when no screens are available, kids start using their minds. Children are naturally creative when there are no creativity squashers available!
So if you want to encourage creativity in your kids, don’t fret about needing the latest and greatest art supplies, or Suzuki violin lessons. Just make the screens off limits. With this one little secret, you’ll open up a world of creativity to your children, as they begin to make their own fun rather than expect to be entertained.
Just think…you encourage creativity and lessen your cable bill at the same time.
Not bad for a secret that will give your kids one of the top three traits most important to career success!3
1 Adobe (2012, Nov. 7) “Creativity and Education: Why It Matters”. Retrieved from http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/pressroom/pdfs/Adobe_Creativity_and_Education_Why_It_Matters_study.pdf
2Adobe (2012, Nov. 7) “Creativity and Education: Why It Matters”. Retrieved from http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/pressroom/pressreleases/201211/110712AdobeEducationCreativityStudy.html
3Adobe (2012, Nov. 7) “Creativity and Education: Why It Matters”. Retrieved from http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/pressroom/pdfs/Adobe_Creativity_and_Education_Why_It_Matters_study.pdf