A few days ago, the LA Times released an article on a similar topic. It described how an education system that encourages rote learning for test taking in turn smothers creativity and critical thinking skills. Imagine schools churning out children into a workforce who can’t think and create independently because they’ve been trained to memorize and go “by the book.”
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand. – Albert Einstein
The thing about it is, children – and the way in which they grow and develop – are naturally creative. That’s why I’m a strong advocate of play. So why not continue to foster that?
Here are a few things you can do to ensure the thinking caps of the children and teens around you are on, and stay on:
- Be positive in responding to their ideas and foster their self-worth. Would you tell me a great idea that you have if you knew I’d immediately bash it/you, whether with my body language or words?
- Ask open ended questions, i.e. questions that do not have yes/no answers. You can do this anywhere and at anytime. For instance, if you have a young child and you’re out and see another young child smiling, ask your young one why they think the other child is smiling. This will encourage them to think about what is going on for that child. You can also ask off-the-wall questions like, “What do you think would happen if birds couldn’t fly?” to get them to consider why things work the way they do.
- Similarly, for teenagers, have them appropriately question assumptions they or others have by considering and evaluating alternatives. For example, I’ve had long conversations with teenagers about their perceptions of events by asking them questions that get them to think about what has happened from all possible angles. Questions like “What do you think everyone else may have been thinking?” and “If things could have gone differently, what would have happened?”
- Use humor and puns to keep their minds sharp. This can be done even with little ones. For instance, when I meet a young child, I always ask how old they are (because at that age, they’re proud of how old they are). I typically follow with “You’re not [age]! You must be at least [something ridiculous like 20]!” This typically gets them to laugh and figure out how to convince me that they’re really that age (“No! I’m 4! I don’t go to work, I go to school!” as one boy sassily shared).
- Encourage creative expression through dance, acting, poetry, etc., whether you enroll your child in a class or find simple activities online.
I found a few websites that I encourage you to check out. They are listed below and contain great ideas and suggestions on this topic.
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