For donkey’s years, many scientists have believed the right brain is the seat of creative thinking and the left brain is the home of logical thinking. When I first found this out aged about nine I always made sure that I slept on my left side when my head pressed the pillow at night.
My thinking was that the right side of my brain would be sat above it and so gravity would pull some of my creativity into the logic department of my brain to mix things up a bit.
You see I didn’t want creativity to be confined to just one area of my brain and didn’t agree with the apartheid of locking imagination up. I thought the brain was a giant playground and everyone should play together. I even started to walk round with my head tilted to the side thinking it would help.
Creativity can be elusive and although we now know that it lives in the brain recent research has found that it requires a widespread neural network and so you will find it whizzing about all over the place and not just to the right.
The brain has four hemispheres (yes four) and they don’t act alone: creativity likes to get about, it likes to work the room make contacts and connections. Creativity covers the walls and ceiling of the brain. It’s in all the corridors and in every room. It’s the air conditioning that feeds our learning jelly.
But creativity isn’t just a brain thing.
You’ll find it in the pit of your stomach as a gut feeling and you will find it in your heart as passion. You might find it in your fingertips or your dancing in your toes and it quite possibly has a place in your kidneys, nobody really knows.
Creativity is a whole body experience and manifests itself as energy, bright eyes and I some cases an urgency.
The good news is that everyone possesses creativity. This isn’t something only a chosen few possess.
We are all creators and so all have creative intelligence: we are wired to be creative. The bad news is that creativity can be hard to come by and can’t be forced out like toothpaste from the bottom of a tube.
Creativity might seem like it appears out of thin air but it can’t just be ‘magiced’ up. Creativity has to flow.
Thinking without the box
By its very nature creativity is hard to pin down because it is kaleidoscopic and smells of freshly painted rainbows and doodles. It laughs confetti , burps in cosmic chemistry and bathes in bath bombs of Euerka. It’s DNA is a mixture of runny Lego, Slava’s snow show and electrically charged Venn diagrams made from the dreams of dolphins and spaghetti.
It involves ‘being’ imaginative, purposeful and original. It is highly prized because it has power and it is transformative. Creativity is not thinking inside the box, it is thinking without a box.
Definitions of creativity are plentiful but some seem to resonate more than others. Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as ‘the process of having original ideas that have value’.
The Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood defines creativity ‘ the ability to challenge, question and explore. It involves taking risks, playing with ideas, keeping an open mind and making connections where none are obvious.’
One thing is for sure: creativity isn’t a talent but intelligence. As Einstein once said, ‘creativity is intelligence having fun’.
Children, like everyone else, are inherently creative but children’s creativity seems to sparkle and glisten in different ways.
Their evolving brains are littered with jam jars of gold-dust. Some of the lids are easy to open and some need a bit of persuasion. Most children sit on these jars without even realising they are perched on great ideas just waiting to get out. How do we get children’s imaginations to work so that creativity can flow?
Creative learning is the lifeblood of schools and teachers are always looking for ways to encourage creativity amongst their pupils. But what can we do to release it? How can we help children to express themselves?
Encouraging creative thinking
1. Be a creative role model
It is important for children to see you thinking out loud, experimenting with ideas and being spontaneous. Model divergent thinking by providing an example of the Alternative Uses game (see activity)
2. Focus on fun
When we are relaxed we can sometimes have our ‘best’ ideas. Set up opportunities that allow children to enjoy an activity rather than focusing on results. A painting doesn’t have to be perfect!
3. Be enthusiastic
Showing children that you have a passion for an idea can release subject endorphins. If you are mad about maths or loopy for literacy, let it out and let it show.
4. Set the bar high
Always have high expectations of what children can do. Children are capable of learning and understanding more than the system or teachers may give them credit for. Children need to know that you have faith in them and that they aren’t ‘just kids’.
5. Loosen the shackles
Creativity hates being tied down or locked up so unleash the timetable and allow children to have free time off the lead so their minds can run, sniff and explore. Jump into mind puddles can make big splashes in learning and discovery.
6. Encourage risk-taking
Allow children to follow their interests and pursue lines of enquiry reinforcing the view that there are no wrong ideas. Encourage children out of their comfort zones, value new ideas and don’t laugh them off as this will send out the wrong message.
Encourage children to try and have a go whilst emphasising that failure is inevitable. Celebrate failure to learn from it, see it as part of the learning process. Making a mistake makes for new thinking.
8. Ask Big questions
Encourage children to question everything in order to feed curiosity. Explain that questions nourish the mind and that some questions have no answers.
9. Go surreal
So much of our thinking is grounded, two-dimensional and reality-based. Encourage children to take flight by allowing their fantasies space to develop. Roald Dahl and JK Rowling let their imaginations flip, float and fizz. Invent silly sentences and explore the power of words (see activity).
10. Go open-ended , ‘off the wall’ and ‘off piste’
Encourage children to think of unusual answers to questions and praise different ways of doing things that aren’t the same or conventional way of working.
Keep an open mind and allow children to find their own way of doing things. Open-ended questions like odd one out activities are perfectly suited to cultivating divergent thinking because they have no right answer and so anything with several solutions is a boost.
12. Have some SOLE
Give children the opportunity to focus on a question they want to know the answer to and then look into this in more depth. Set up a Self-Organised Learning Environment where children organise themselves into groups, do internet searches, collaborate, share information and present their research and ideas.
13. Welcome challenge
Emphasise that a teacher doesn’t and can’t possibly know everything and that you welcome challenging questions as it encourages your own creativity.
Encourage a regular meeting of minds to allow children to think creatively without fear of criticism so they can collaborate and build on each other’s ideas. Use mind-maps, concept cartoons, graphic organisers etc to bring ideas into the open to park new thinking. Force the brain to ditch old patterns and look for new ones.
Actually discuss creativity as a concept and make it a conversational topic so that children recognise it as an intelligence that they and everyone else possesses.
Talk about different types of creativity e.g. music, dance, writing, photography, graffiti, architecture, science, maths etc and make each child a creative champion. Celebrate innovation and creative expression looking at examples of different figures and artists who have made an impact.
16. Let them be
Support children to pursue their passions. Pay close attention to what interests individual children and groups of children and where possible make materials and resources available to them so they can explore further.
Creative thinking activities
Try the following creative activities to kick-start your thinking.
Follow the pattern: definite article, adjective, noun, verb, preposition, indefinite article, noun
- The devastated plant pot cried inside a shadow
- The curious bottle-top trotted over a microwave
- The red thesaurus choked before an astronaut
- The disorganised printer screamed into a star
- The mindless dinosaur argued beneath a nightmare
- The jealous saxophone kicked against a rainbow
- The obsessive tea towel accelerated in front of a noun
- The blind skeleton transformed beside a stomach
- The lonely reflector married under a volcano
- The insane piggybank stretched between a memory
- The legless lion collapsed underneath a theatre
- The hungry homophone disappeared below a helicopter
- The crestfallen washing line performed outside an igloo
- The moody oven twirled through a letterbox
- The angry ruler flinched behind a calculator
- The clever eyeball hunted beyond a circus
- The irritating story bounced along a railway line
- The cheeky fez charged upon an ice-cube
- The sapphire balloon zoomed across an investigation
- The squashy laptop drove down a space corridor
Would you rather…..?
- Would you rather be a fly or a wasp?
- Would you rather be an adjective or an adverb?
- Would you rather be able to speak every language or play every instrument?
- Would you rather have hands for feet or feet for hands?
- Would you rather sneeze ideas or cough happiness?
- Would you rather be covered in hair or have no hair at all?
- Would you rather be a prime number or a composite number?
- Would you rather visit Mars or the moon?
- Would you rather have two noses and four hearts or three ears and two brains?
- Would you rather wake up tomorrow 500 years younger or 500 years older?
- Would you rather have a school without chairs or a school without windows?
- Would you rather live under the sea or in deep space?
- Would you rather lose your sense of smell or your sense of taste?
- Would you rather be a parrot or a carrot?
- Would you rather have bright red hair or bright red arms?
- Would you rather be a shoe or a slipper?
- Would you rather be a goosebump or a shiver?
- Would you rather be a hiccup or a burp?
- Would you rather be an ear plug or a sink plug?
- Would you rather shoot fire from your fingers or ice?
- Would you rather be a toenail or a fingernail?
- Would you rather be a picnic or a panic?
- Would you rather be awesome or be in awe?
Odd one out and what’s in common?
Which is the odd one out and why? You must explain your answers!
- melon disease ocean seaside lemon canoe
- seaside because it’s the only compound word, disease because all the others contain water, etc
- What do they all have in common and why?
- e.g. they are pairs of anagrams melon + lemon, disease + seaside, ocean + canoe
- monkey turkey donkey hockey jockey
- kayak level noon racecar comb
- Ten X 10 100/10
- 1.5 12 21 33 104
- pentagon pilot calendar doorbell
- blue green red purple orange
- banana garage scissors scarf
- unicorn fairy dodo seahorse
- coathanger battery dust bread ear
- What is an infinity elephant?
- If you found a box of apostrophes what would you do with them?
- What advice would a hashtag give to an exclamation mark?
- What would the floor say to the ceiling if they could speak?
- How would you wash an angry emotion?
- Is tiger a good name for a tiger?
- What would a hawk say to a drone?
- Can a starfish dissect its own thoughts?
- Can a dream dream?
- What are the similarities between attitude and mustard?
- Do ideas evaporate?
- Why do we call Earth ‘Earth’ when it is actually mostly water?
- Can birds fly upside down?
- Can a fish drown?
- Do shadows feel pain?
- How does a leaf decide what shape to make itself?
- How do we know that blue is blue?
- Would a vacuum cleaner work in space?
- Can humans be allergic to water?
- Does a butterfly have a brain and if so what does it look like?
- How much water does it take to make a T-shirt?
- Can a volcano ever spurt ice?
- Could a 3D printer make a live butterfly?
- Does playing music help a plant to grow?
- Does the Earth spin forwards, backwards or both?
- Does a wasp make honey?
- Will a robot ever be able to eat?
Alternative Uses game.
- How many uses can you think of for a paperclip?
- How many uses can you think of for a spoon?
- How many uses can you think of for a car tyre?
- How many uses can you think of for a brick?
- How many uses can you think of for a shoe?
- How many uses can you think of for a button?
- How many uses can you think of for a matchbox?
- How many uses can you think of for a chair?
- How many uses can you think of for a peg?
- How many uses can you think of for a fork?
- How many uses can you think of for a ping pong ball?
- How many uses can you think of for a saucepan?
- How many uses can you think of for an elastic band?
- How many uses can you think of for a paper towel?
- How many uses can you think of for a key?
- How many uses can you think of for a ladder?
- How many uses can you think of for a plank of wood?