Creativity & kids / by Karen Staniland-Platt

It took me a while to understand the role creativity had to play in my life and now I know the sheer life-changing power it has I'm never letting go. Creativity could unlock a whole new career for you, create an interesting side hustle or simply be a way of escaping from the day to day, but either way I think it's vital in everybody's life...even those of you who say you're not creative (which I will happily challenge!) 

I'm particularly passionate about the role it plays in the life of children and the fact that it's value isn't always recognised within the UK education system. If you're interested in this at all I'd urge you to watch Sir Ken Robinson's YouTube 'Do Schools Kill Creativity?'in which he makes a strong case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it. Not only does this man have a lot of facts, research and evidence to back up his theories but he's also incredibly funny too. 


Since my daughter started school, and we therefore started attending parent's evenings, I've become even more passionate about the incredibly important role creativity plays. Feedback on our daughter will always cover Maths, English and the wonderful SPAG (spellings, punctuation & grammar for the uninitiated), and will also cover her relationships with other children, all of which is undeniably important but why does her creativity never feature? Outside of school she dances, does athletics, attends Brownies and up until very recently also attended a performing arts class and never is she more at home than when being arty be it painting, sketching or crafting. She is undeniably a creative child and it is fabulous that so many out-of-school clubs exist in which she can indulge this side of her personality but until it is recognised inside school I fear she'd grow up underestimating it's value and therefore her own very real strengths. 

I should add that I do not think schools or teachers are to blame. Such is the immense pressure put on them to achieve certain figures and judge success by certain measures that it's hardly surprising that creativity is pushed down the list. Some schools, my daughters included, are creative in their approach...finding new ways in which to teach and innovative methods to win engagement from children should be applauded but until the powers that be decide that creativity is a talent to be developed and enthused about, I fear nothing will change.


Of course there are other ways to embrace creativity in children and us as parents have a very real responsibility to do that, whether it be supporting children in all of their future ambitions...'when I grow up I want to be a ballet dancing, artist with a HUGE You-tube following'...or encouraging them to indulge their creative pursuits as much as we encourage the completion of homework. This is something I have very recent experience of.

Frustrated by all of the above I decided to host a 'creative kids' workshop, where my daughter and her friends created self-portraits, invented mythical creatures and challenged each other to draw as many things as possible beginning with the letter P. We've done it twice now and I am pleased (and somewhat relieved) to say they love it. We talk about different artists, chat about how different all their approaches to the same project are and generally enjoy creating colourful, wonderful works of individual art. It's something I'm keen to continue and build upon, broadening the scope on creativity from just art to encapsulate other areas such as photography, and who knows where it may lead.


However I am sure of one thing and that is the link between creativity, mindfulness and mental health. When 'in the act' of being creative you can establish a type of 'flow', unaffected by what's happening around you and of most note, what's going on in your mind and this definitely brings very real benefit for kids too. My daughter is only 8 but in less than two years time she will be in the middle of her Year 6 Stats, a series of tests that both the child and the school are assessed upon. Speaking to parents of children in that year now I'm increasingly hearing talk about their children being stressed out, unable to sleep and being anxious. These kids are 10 and 11 years old and should most definitely NOT be feeling that way. Just an hour of being creative, with no end goal in mind, could seriously help these could meditation, exercise, yoga and several other things. With all this in mind creativity could be viewed as an essential rather than an indulgence or a way to make other subjects interesting, yet the children who took part in our creative workshop could only remember completing 2 art projects that entire school year. 

There's a Brené Brown quote that goes 'The only unique contribution we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity' and I think she's absolutely right. I am a very big believer that creativity could very well save the world but if we don't show children how important it is, how do we expect them to embrace it in their futures? Of that I have no idea but I know one thing for sure rants on creativity in children are not yet over!