Every parent wants to raise a genius, and for some parents, that can be a big pressure. The truth is, though, that even though you think of yourself as your kid’s teacher, in some ways, your child is already smarter than you.
If you’re not sure about that, try taking a creativity test (here are some examples of how to do that: https://99u.adobe.com/articles/7160/test-your-creativity-5-classic-creative-challenges) and see who scores better: you or your child.
In the late 60’s, George Land did a similar–but more extensive–study, where he tested the creativity of a group of over a thousand five year olds using a test he’d composed to help NASA select the most ingenuitive scientists and engineers. 98% of the five year olds tested at a genius level.
Five years later, Land tested the same group of children and found that this time, only 30% of the now-ten-year-olds tested at a genius level. He performed the test again five years later, and again when the study subjects had reached age 30. 25 years later, the group of children that had tested so brilliantly at age 5 now only had 2% of its 1,600 subjects test at a genius level.
So what killed their creativity?
Two Types of Thinking
The most popular kind of intelligence, the kind that gets the limelight, is called convergent thinking. This is the ability to take data and ideas from a lot of different sources and melt them down into one ideal solution. It’s the kind of intelligence the ACT and SAT test for; the kind math and science and history classes train you to have. It’s exactly the kind of smarts you want when you’re solving problems that have one right answer.
But it’s not the kind of smarts you want when you’re trying to write a book, compose music, or come up with out-of-the box ideas for a company hiring strategy. That requires divergent thinking. Divergent thinking occurs when we allow ourselves to experiment with new ideas without immediately judging them. Divergent thinkers keep looking for solutions even after they find one that works. They’re willing to change their minds, carry a paradox, and push beyond regular conventions. They’re curious about the world around them, are able to recognize connections that are difficult to see, and don’t worry about what other people think about them.
Children are naturally divergent thinkers. So what can we do to keep that creativity alive?
Here are 5 suggestions for keeping the creative spark burning bright in your kids–and yourself:
- Stop editing. When kids are brainstorming, there are no wrong answers or bad ideas. Let them get all of their ideas out first. When they’re done, let them go through and evaluate which options are the best.
- Answer the “why” questions. Kids love to ask why things are the way they are, and it can be easy to say, “That’s just the way it is.” Resist that urge. Give them reasons, and help them come up with their own. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
- Help them find unlikely connections. Why is a raven like a writing desk? Your five year old can probably give you lots of reasons. This can be a fun game to play when you’re traveling or on walks: bring up a subject or ideas, point to objects you see as you’re traveling, and have the kids find a way to tie that object into the subject you chose.
- Teach them to keep looking after they find an answer. It’s easy for us, when we find an answer that works, to settle for that answer. But the first solution isn’t always the best solution. Help your kids recognize that not all problems can be answered in 15 seconds, and that most of the time, problems have more than one right answer.
- Let them play. Children don’t need to be taught to be creative; they need to be taught how not to suppress their creativity. Play with them. Let them keep their dolls until they’re teenagers. Let them make mud castles in the backyard. Let them be kids. Because, as Carl Jung said, “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct.”
So let’s worry a little less about about raising kids to be geniuses and spend a little more time nurturing the genius that’s already there.
About Coconut Cove
Coconut Cove is Utah’s best indoor playground, family amusement center, or family recreation center for young families with children under age 12. The playground has dozens of “play events” for young children, including trampolines, ball cannons, a ball fountain, spiral slides, giant racing wavy slides, crawl tunnels, mirrors, bridges, stepping stones, a toddler area, and birthday party rooms made out of large Lego blocks. At Coconut Cove we believe in getting kids off of screens or arcades and participating in Active Play. Coconut Cove prides itself on being safe, clean, sanitary, and affordable! It has plenty of seating for adults and fun entertainment for children. It is a great place for kids birthday parties, mommy play dates, or for families to just come and have fun! If you are looking for fun activities for kids in Utah, come to Coconut Cove!