Frequently Asked Questions About Creativity

    Q: Creativity is great, but not every kid can be an artist or musician, right?

    A: Creativity is important for all of us. Not every kid grows up to be Frank Gehry or Pablo Picasso, but every kid profits by being creative. We want creative teachers, lawyers, plumbers, and entrepreneurs; creative doctors, mechanics and government officials.

    Q: Isn’t creativity an innate talent? You either have it or you don’t.

    A: Not true—virtually all children are born with creative capabilities. If those capabilities are not nurtured they shrivel up. This is happening with too many children, as schools abandon open-ended, child-centered play in favor of (too) early literacy development and higher test scores.

    Q: What is open-ended play?

    A: This is play in which there is not an outcome or set of rules. Hopscotch, soccer and video games may be fun, but there are “right” and “wrong” ways to play them. In open-ended play, children create their own rules and their own storylines; it’s not about winning or losing. Kids do this naturally, which explains why they’ll often spend less time with a new toy than they do with the box it came in. The box can be a thousand things, the toy only one.

    Q: What is child-directed play?

    A: When play is child-directed, as opposed to adult-directed, it is the children who are in charge. Little league baseball and soccer, girl and boy scouts, drama club, ballet dancing—all are great fun for kids and teach them much, but in each case adults are in charge, making the rules and providing structure for the play. But creativity-development for young children requires that they explore and experiment, discover things for themselves, immerse themselves in their play, imagine and fantasize, and connect different ideas and recognize patterns. That happens best when they are driving the play, not parents, teachers and coaches.

    Q: Sounds abstract; what does creative play actually look like? What should I see my kids doing?

    A: Here at the Museum there are five specific actions that encompass our approach to creativity. If creative play is happening, you should see your kids

    1. Being challenged and taking risks;
    2. Staying with an experience and repeating behaviors;
    3. Acting independently;
    4. Being delighted with their play-experience;
    5. Collaborating with others.

    At the Bay Area Discovery Museum we stand for children’s creativity. For us, it’s never about doing it “right” or winning the game. It must be open-ended and child-directed. And, it must always be fun; we want our children to be delighted, and their parents as well.

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