“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” -Pablo Picasso

Children are born creative. They have a natural curiosity to question, explore and invent, which is a key component of creativity. But recent studies show America’s youth are becoming less creative. A research report by psychology professor Kyung Hee Kim found that American creativity scores - measured by the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) - have fallen significantly since 1990. She also discovered the most significant decrease was among kindergartners through third graders. According to Kim, the data indicate that children are less imaginative, less expressive and less perceptive. They have fewer ideas, lack originality and resist open-mindedness.

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” -Pablo Picasso

Children are born creative. They have a natural curiosity to question, explore and invent, which is a key component of creativity.

But recent studies show America’s youth are becoming less creative. A research report by psychology professor Kyung Hee Kim found that American creativity scores - measured by the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) -  have fallen significantly since 1990. She also discovered the most significant decrease was among kindergartners through third graders.

According to Kim, the data indicate that children are less imaginative, less expressive and less perceptive. They have fewer ideas, lack originality and resist open-mindedness.

 

Why Creativity Matters

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills considers creativity an essential skill for future citizens. And education expert Sir Ken Robinson seems to agree. In his TED Talk titled, “Do schools kill creativity?” Robinson proposed that creativity is just as important as literacy and should be treated with the same status.

And it’s value extends beyond the classroom. In 2010, IBM polled 1,500 CEOs on leadership and 60% of them listed creativity as the most important leadership quality.

 

The Cause of America’s “Creativity Crisis”

What’s to blame for our decline in creativity? Some point to technology as the culprit. Writer and philosopher Robert M. Pirsig once said: “Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity.” But today’s youth are rarely bored. They’re constantly distracted by their phones, tablets or laptops. And while technology can enhance creativity, many believe it stifles innovation, originality and imaginative ideas.

Others argue that schools are causing students to “unlearn” creativity. Government standards place more emphasis on teaching the skills and knowledge needed to pass tests instead of developing creative skills. Additionally, schools are allocating fewer resources to the arts, which further help to cultivate creativity.

 

Keeping Kids Creative in Afterschool

Afterschool programs are natural incubators for creativity. Focused on providing rich, engaging learning experiences for students, most programs provide activities that require imagination, problem solving and creative thinking. Below are a few tips for sparking creativity in afterschool programs:

  • Foster a learning environment where it’s safe to make mistakes. Mistakes have led to some amazing discoveries, like chocolate chip cookies and X-rays. As Sir Ken Robinson said in his TED Talk, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with an original idea.”
  • Encourage creativity in every subject. Creativity isn’t limited to the arts; it can be applied in every area, including math, science, music and engineering. This ZOOB® Challenge Kit encourages creativity while teaching key STEM initiatives.
  • Promote creative thinking and problem solving. The path to discovery isn’t always linear. Provide freedom for students to brainstorm and explore different solutions to the same problem. This spaghetti tower activity challenges students to build a freestanding tower using only a few materials. Instructions are not included.
  • Use tech in a way that spurs, rather than inhibits, creativity. Apps like The DAILY MONSTER Monster Maker and Draw and Tell spark students’ imagination and encourage them to think outside the box. Play educational games, record and edit a movie or design the first flying car. Paired with their imagination, technology can be a great tool for fostering creativity.
  • Allow time for discussion. Use this time to investigate, challenge and test multiple viewpoints. Emphasize there is no single “right answer,” and encourage students to share their ideas and opinions - no matter how bizarre. Sometimes the seemingly crazy ideas work the best.

Although creativity is declining among America’s youth, afterschool programs are positioned to help reverse the trend. Use these tips to keep students creative and thinking outside the box.