Sparking Creativity: How to Promote Imaginative Thinking in Children

Facilitating or Inhibiting the Development of Creativity

(adapted from Growing Up Gifted: Developing the Potential of Children at Home and at School, B. Clark)

Conditions that Facilitate

  • Provide an environment that is rich and varied in stimulation, safe, and accepting.
  • Teach with materials and methods harmonious with each other and with the teacher.
  • Delineate clearly and repeatedly the aims of this type of program.
  • Allow free interplay of differences.
  • Make environment and materials friendly and nonthreatening, thereby allowing disagreement and controversy without hostility (this allows children to engage freely in behavior underlying creativity).
  • Reduce anxiety in classroom, especially that created by teacher
  • Find integrative elements in differences and positive ways to handle conflict.
  • Allow unifying concepts to emerge.
  • Allow individuation and differentiation within the unity.
  • Foster positive change in directions congruent with student’s predilections in cognitive and affective areas.
  • Provide situations that present incompleteness and openness.
  • Allow and encourage lots of questions.
  • Produce something, then do something with it.
  • Grant responsibility and independence.
  • Emphasize self-initiated exploring, observing, recording, translating, inferring, testing inferences, and communicating.
  • Provide bilingual experiences resulting in development of greater potential creativity due to the more varied view of the world, a more flexible approach to problems, and the ability to express self in different ways that arise from these experiences.
  • Allow rather than control.
  • Be receptive.
  • Value and model intuitive behavior.
  • Give opportunities to investigate ideas of successful, eminent people who used intuitive processes.
  • Give opportunities to try out intuitive behavior (e.g., in problem-solving).
  • Treat the child with respect and allow freedom to explore the universe.
  • Create an atmosphere with really good music, books, and pictures as a natural part of the child’s world.
  • Treat ideas and questions respectfully.
  • Respect the child’s privacy.
  • Value the unusual, the divergent.
  • Help the child learn by mistakes.
  • Avoid sex-role stereotyping.
  • Encourage self-expression.
  • Teach the child to look and really see.
  • Help the child learn to trust the senses.
  • Permit the child’s own creativity to emerge.

Conditions that Inhibit

  • Need for success, limiting risk-taking or pursuit of unknown.
  • Conformity to peer group and social pressure.
  • Discouragement of exploration, using imagination, inquiry.
  • Sex-role stereotyping.
  • Differentiation between work and play (e.g., learning is hard work).
  • Adherence to “readiness” viewpoint for learning.
  • Authoritarianism.
  • Disrespect for fantasy, daydreams.
  • Reward systems.
  • External locus of control.
  • Need for closure and rigid timelines.
  • Need for security and acceptance of product.
  • Perfectionism.
  • Low self-concept.
  • Trying to be creative.
  • Anxiety.
  • Competition.