Innovation for the art & entertainment worlds
Who doesn’t want their children to be creative and happy? I love watching my kids play imaginary games with each other, draw and paint beautiful things, and be amazed at the world around them. Ultimately though, I want my kids to have the lifelong benefits of creative thinking. Creativity is about finding new ways of solving problems and fundamentally offers your child a world of new perspectives. If you can protect their natural curiosity and love of exploration shouldn’t you? But, better yet, if you can cultivate their attitudes so that it sets them apart and makes them more adaptive to this ever-changing world why wouldn’t you?
The single best way to increase your child’s creativity is to read to them and instill a love of reading. The problem is that most adults do not like to read. If that’s you… get busy. Reading is the most consistent thing that successful and creative leaders say makes them …successful and creative… um duh! And yet, by middle school, most kids stop reading books that aren’t assigned in school. Kids who love to read do better in school at all ages. You, my friends, need to lead by example.
Creativity comes in different ways. Everyone is creative. Some people are born with innate abilities. This is not manifested alone in paint, clay, and pencil. So do not pigeon-hole your kids into those mediums. Look at what they are interested in. Encourage creativity in those things. Some have obvious aptitudes or apparent talents, but we can train the eye and the ear and the mind, and we can help them gain access to a creative way of seeing. Early adoption, familiarity with the tools, and practice create talent too. Some will argue with me. I don’t care, I’ve witnessed it all my life.
In order to move from passive consumption to active innovation, we need to expand our definition of creativity beyond the arts and expose kids to imaginative processes and the joy of invention. As parents, educators, and leaders of the next generation, it is important to emphasize the joy of creativity. It is important to instill in our children the sense that there is something important they can personally share with the world in a multitude of ways. These ways are as distinct and unique as they are.
Encourage them to use new technologies. My kids are 8 and 7 and I am teaching my kids Zbrush. (That is an affiliate link.) They can’t get enough of it! I also encourage them to use tools like Alchemy http://al.chemy.org/. Alchemy is an amazing program. It helps kids explore sketching, drawing, and creating on computers in new ways. (I love it too….shhh). And it’s totally free!
Relish unstructured time. Unstructured time challenges kids to engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create. Kids need practice with unstructured time, or they’ll never learn to manage it, or themselves. Oh, they’ll complain… kids like routines. But, getting them to work outside their comfort zone benefits them and builds flexibility and imagination.
Get the family away from the boob tube. Research shows that the more TV kids watch, the less likely they are to read as they get older. And once kids develop the habit of TV, (yes it’s a habit) they are less likely to seek out books of their own. Books are more work, but kids have to develop different muscles to enjoy and get the most from them. Creativity is a muscle that we all have. Creativity needs to be pushed past a place of pain in order to grow.
Understand the system. Recent academic studies have shown that American kids are no longer as creative as they once were. I also think that all Americans are not as creative as they once were. This should not come as a shock to anyone, as we live in an era obsessed with numbers, statistics, and scores. Seeing the decline in creativity should make us concerned about our children’s capacities to innovate, problem-solve, and navigate new and unfamiliar situations.
American society has warped and lessened the definition of success. Consequently, our educational system has eagerly evolved to help our kids attain these stunted goals. Don’t get me wrong, money is important. I feel we have moved too far in the pursuit of seeking out wealth and fame and as a result, lost the ability to use our imagination. By reinforcing this warped view of success we’ve pushed it into our colleges and universities. The result is that we’ve cheapened non-linear and non-traditional ways of thinking. Innovation is discouraged unless it results in higher test scores and more money.
Enjoy the journey. The advantage of creativity is enjoying the process rather than the consequence. We are all born with the will and ability to create, to express our uniqueness in a way that allows us to connect with those around us. No wonder when creativity is repressed our children form emotional and behavioral problems such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and drug or alcohol abuse. Take your time, enjoy, observe, and digest.
Work with your kids to problem solve. When kids work through puzzles they employ their cognitive processes and broaden their thinking. Show how you solve problems. Encourage great feelings of joy that comes from imagining solutions to a problem. If it doesn’t come easy… That’s great! Those situations offer new opportunities. Honor your children for their effort not the result.
Observe the world around you. Dissect the things you use every day. Have your kids consider form and function. Encourage them to consider why things are the shape and size they are, or why zippers work. Problem solve with them. Ask questions and look toward early historic innovation, get your kids away from just using the things around them but wondering about the things around them. How would they produce things better, have different designs and unique answers?
Let me tell you of a project being undertaken in the Stavole house. We’ve asked the kids to come up with a business idea. Entrepreneurism is encouraged in our home. We’ve asked the kids to look at the things they like to do and come up with ways they can serve others with it. My son immediately came up serving others by being a ninja.. I told him that I was worried about his safety, especially around things like swords and throwing stars (he’s only 7).
So, together, they decided they would like to serve their friends by making better toys. They would like to make creatures and monsters but in a way that tells a positive story and encourages their friends. I asked them how they can use technology to do this. They suggested using zbrush and 3d printing the products on the empty spaces of our normal printing jobs. (Most kids do not have the luxury of having access to 3d printers. Mine do)
The result is Stavolemon; monsters and creatures that are made for kids by kids. We set up a little wordpress site. I have been showing them how to sculpt and to use Zbrush (I help of course) to put things together and how to prepare their models for printing. We’ve even started to make business cards. They love it.
Here is one of their creatures simply called sharkguy.
I will keep you posted with their business adventures but I’ve already seen them trying new things out and working past the things they thought they couldn’t do.
What kind of things can you think of that would encourage young people to be creative?