You don’t need to be the next Picasso to be creative, or the next Albert Einstein to think critically. The idea of being creative and thinking critically may seem daunting to many. As much as these traits come innately to some, they can also be trained from young. Once taught, good learning habits stay relevant and applicable through the course of one’s life. Exercising creativity and critical thinking improves the ability to think nimbly and quickly. With practice, your child can be trained to start thinking independently and grow confident of airing their own thought processes.
Creativity and critical thinking may be two separate skill sets but they come hand in hand. Creativity is a form of divergent thinking, where the imagination is tapped on to generate new ideas and allow for new forms of expression. A flexible and open mind is required to exercise creativity. Critical thinking consolidates and converges ideas to explore a particular subject or topic more in depth. This helps with one’s analytical skills. Here are some ways to encourage creativity and critical thinking at home.
Ways to Encourage Creativity and Critical Thinking at Home:
- Providing Resources that Inspire and Educate
Creativity: At a young age, children are able to learn things quickly and they absorb like a sponge. It is important to expose them to different forms of educational content that can inspire them to think creatively. From storybooks, to music, to speech and drama lessons, to art museums, children learn to understand how ideas are created, conceptualised and executed resulting in the final product, be it a play or a painting. Go a step further by explaining to them the origins of a piece of work, the motivations behind creating them, the deeper symbolisms and social commentaries that can only be understood through further research. Inculcating a curious mentality not only paves the way for children to initiate finding out things on their own, it also keeps them constantly inspired to emulate the thought processes of creators that they were exposed to, while integrating their own ideas into their own works.
Critical Thinking: Likewise, resources need to be provided for your child to be exposed to subjects that they can analyse critically. Inculcate in them a habit of reading the news so that there are constant topics and themes that can be explored in depth. Meaningful conversations can be held over meals to discuss and debate on such topics. By listening to different thoughts, opinions, and ways of reasoning from others, your child can have a deeper understanding of the topic as a whole and learn to piece information together.
- Steering Thought Processes through Probing
Creativity: Exercising creativity to find a solution can be applicable to everything in life. It is important that children develop their own thought processes whenever they meet with problems. This helps them become independent solvers without feeling the need to rely on others for answers. When discussing a problem with your child, good probing questions can be, “Is there another way of doing this?” or “Does it have to be done this way?” Presenting other points of view without telling them the solution directly encourages them to think more flexibly and figure things out themselves. Such skills are useful as they set the foundation for solving bigger problems in future.
Critical Thinking: Similarly, critical thinking can also be trained with constant questioning and probing, in bid to instil an independent sense of thinking in children. When it comes to analysing problems, questions like “Why did this happen” or “Why is it the way it is?” can be posed to your child, giving them a reason to find out more. Additionally, asking for evidence trains them to substantiate their answers more concretely. For example, in response to a claim that a child made about her sister being lazy, a parent can ask for supporting evidence for it. The reply might be, “Because she doesn’t do her homework until the night before submission.”
- Gamification for Fun and Learning
Creativity: Children love playing games. Find or devise a game that helps them to exercise their creativity and think on the spot. Games like Pictionary, Code Game or Broken Telephone helps to stimulate one’s imagination and trains children to find the best way to express an idea to people under a limited time. This not only entertains and creates excitement, it also challenges children to think on their feet.
Critical Thinking: Games for critical thinking mainly revolve around strategy and rationalising. Board games like Cluedo require analytical skills in investigating a make believe crime scene. By finding out more about the scene and the characters involved, players can deduce a concrete answer and win the game. This is a fun and engaging way to get your child to exercise their critical thinking skills.
- Writing Exercises to Build Momentum
Creativity and Critical Thinking: Penning down one’s thoughts is an effective way to consolidate and ideate. Writing challenges are fun because they require exercising creativity and critical thinking at the same time. Cross referencing between content is a good place to start with writing challenges. In literature, cross referencing is often carried out to create associations between bodies of texts and highlight common themes and topics. This requires understanding the text in depth before ideating links between the different references. Regular writing challenges like these can be posed to children to encourage consistent practice in exercising both forms of thinking. Overtime, these challenges will build a good habit of writing and may intuitively help children develop an interest in journaling, scriptwriting, blogging etc. Creativity and critical thinking will become deeply ingrained in their hobbies and way of life.
Though these are some ways that parents can encourage creativity and critical thinking for their children, they might not resonate with every child. Each child has their own way of thinking, their own interests and personality traits. Some prefer writing while others prefer drawing. Drawing exercises can be used instead to achieve similar objectives. With this in mind, methods stated above can be modified and tailored to suit the learning styles of your child.
Learning does not have to take place in the classroom. With a habit of exploring and discovering, and a growth mindset inculcated since young, your child will be equipped to draw lessons from experiences wherever they are at. With practice, they will grow confident in their thought processes and in themselves in the long run.