More than ever before an enormous amount of unmitigated information is at our fingertips. As a result, the measure of our competence to filter and process this attention-grabbing material, is not how easily we retain information, but how effectively we use it.
Within an emerging creative economy, a core of highly prized skills are recognised as essential for generating solutions to some of society’s most critical problems. These skills include curiosity, imagination, open-mindedness and out-of-the-box thinking. In the realm of childhood, this is where such skills are born, developed and thrive well beyond our formative years.
Renowned educationalist, Ken Robinson suggests the uniformity of UK Secondary school curricula serves to suppress the creativity of youngsters rather than liberating them. He argues that although mastering knowledge is important, children need to be cultivated by schools and parents to do what they do best and build the skills industry leaders identify as crucial for their future success – to be creative and imaginative.
Here are a few top tips to take a child’s natural ability to be inquisitive and wiliness to take a path less travelled and help them to fully develop.
There is significant evidence to show that play is the best way to support learning. Through physical activity and play, such as made-up games, make-believe roles and scenarios, children naturally use what they discover to adapt the structure and function of their brains; becoming socially engaged, resilient learners for their whole lives. Outdoor play combines the revitalising, uplifting value of nature with the adventurous uncertainty of interacting with others in non-uniform playful settings without rules and restrictions. Here, children can enjoy exploring their emerging physical capabilities, take turns, cooperate and socialise; doing new things in novel ways rather than just sticking to the tried and tested.
There is not always one right answer for everything and adults are not all-knowing wizards. The magic comes from parents providing room for imagination and open interpretation of situations by creating a culture that better embraces creativity. Distinguish asking questions which require direct answers. Instead set children’s imagination free by asking them to express their understanding. Help them to question a host of possibilities of the way the world is and how it could be.
In its guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for young children, the World Health Organisation recommends no screens for kids under 2, and less than an hour a day for kids 2 to 5. Many electronic toys and digital technologies are quite prescriptive and don’t really rely on creative thinking. Although longitudinal research into screen time and children’s learning is in its infancy, we know that their interactions with technology is different than traditional playful, activities. Youngsters vocalise and share less, limit their questioning and fail to recognise the real-life implications of decision-making.
There are a multitude of stimuli competing for the attention of youngsters. Instead of delivering constant back to back entertainment or defined activities, allowing children free time enables them to explore what they have learned and engage in reflection of what works and what doesn’t. Interspersing organised chunks of learning with interruptions for explanation, or quiet time, allows new material to be absorbed as new brain cells are created and neural pathways strengthened.
References and resources
• Ken Robinson, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” February 2006, TED video
• The Toddler Brain, Laura Jana, De Capo Press
• What do we really know about kids and screens? Research by psychologists and others is giving us a better understanding of the risks and potential benefits of children’s and teens’ use of digital devices https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/cover-kids-screens
That feeling of connection with the environment and immersion in nature gave us a unique chance to relax and feel refreshed. For children, just five minutes of exercise undertaken in an urban green space such as a park or a nature trail may be sufficient enough to boost their physical and mental well-being.
Thank you so much for having our daughter at your summer camp. She was very excited when she returned and enthusiastically showed and told us everything she did at camp. Many thanks to the whole team for looking after her, the varied and lovely programme and the nice and warm atmosphere at camp.