At another work shop across the city, Sreeja Iyer of Sparkling Mindz made children cut strips of newspaper using blunt objects. “At first, the children were confused and amused at the results,” says Iyer.“Then they started rummaging for material in and around the room and came up with solutions to their problem. I’ve seen them use cardboard and even the newspaper itself in creative new ways to cut paper and start making something meaningful from the results.”
So do these workshops actually result in an increase in children’s resourcefulness? “Absolutely!” declares Iyer. “In one of our workshops we had this five year old boy, whose parents complained that he kept asking for new toys every week. He joined our “Creating Play Ideas” workshop and soon enough he stopped asking his parents for toys, for now he is able to use the same toy in multiple ways. On yet another occasion, parents came to us and said that they had discovered little post-its in their bags with messages. With both the parents working, they had little time to spend with their child, but their child was able to come up with a plan to communicate with her parents – she wrote little post-it messages and slipped it into her parents’ work bags, so that every time they opened their bags, they got another little snippet of information about their kid’s life!”
Creativity Demands Discipline
So we have now established that is it possible to teach your child to think creatively – at school, at home and even through workshops. But one thing that is easy to forget is that creative thinking is not easy to inculcate. It is common for parents to think that their children are very creative and budding geniuses. How often have we come across parents who say their children write poetry or draw outstandingly well? But it is important for parents to realise that not all output is original. Being free-thinking and doing as you wish is not creative thinking. Creativity demands discipline! This may sound counterintuitive but is, in fact, logical. To be able to be innovative in an area and come up with inspired solutions that work, you need to actually have complete mastery of that particular field. This mastery will help you transcend boundaries and think differently.
Professor Gardner points to an interesting example in this context – an after-school programme in China which trains children in art. He remarks that the students there need to adhere to the field they have chosen for six years. In the art class, while the children copy what the teacher draws on the board, they are also able to sketch perspectives of an object when asked to, without guidance from the teacher. He thus believes thatrigour and discipline are not necessarily out of the realm of art which is considered a highly creative exercise – these allow the child to achieve mastery, essential for the creative process.