11 Strategies to Support Children’s Creative Thinking
We often think of creativity as being kind of magical – a touch
of inspiration, the voice of an inner muse – something you either
have or you don’t. Creativity isn’t something that can be taught.
Or can it?
Of course it can! Creativity is a process of generating ideas.
And in reality there are no truly “new” ideas – only old ideas
combined in new ways. Young children do this all the time –
much more than adults, in fact – since they’re not limited by
what’s “appropriate” or what “makes sense.”
Sadly, creativity actually declines with age in most people.
I believe a lot of this loss of creativity is due to the fact that
creative thinking isn’t a priority in our schools. But it doesn’t
have to be that way.
Here are eleven strategies you can use to encourage and support
your young students’ creative thinking skills:
Listen. Not as easy as it sounds.
Be patient – it may take them a minute to explain what
If other children are talking, ask them to be quiet so you
can hear the speaker.
If you’ve asked them for an idea, don’t jump
in with an idea of your own unless they seem really stuck.
Watch. They may not be able to express their idea verbally.
Describe their movements to help them express themselves.
Clarify gently. “Are the rhythm sticks jumping?” (They might mean
dancing, or something else.) Or they might say, “an animal” –
you could ask, “what kind of animal?” Again, if we just assume
we know what they mean, or jump in too soon with our own ideas,
they might be less likely to share ideas next time.
Enjoy. Smile and have fun, throw yourself into it.
Notice. Verbalize details of technique, sound and movement.
“That’s a very quiet way.” “Ooh, that’s really wiggly.”
Warmup. It can help to present a few different ideas first.
Suggest categories. What’s another animal, part of the body, food, etc.?
The Magic Phrase. “What’s another way we could do this?” or
“What’s a different way?” More magic words:
new, never done before, silly, surprising, funny,
“Try it.” Encourage kids to try out their ideas, even if they seem strange
or “off topic.” If your activity is about farm animals, and a child
wants to be a stomping dinosaur, you could say, “Well, dinosaurs
don’t usually live on farms, but let’s try it.and see what happens!”
Experiment. Challenge children with “what-if’s.” What if we only use one
hand? What if we express this thought without using our
hands at all? What if we draw while we close our eyes?
Model creativity. Consciously try out new ideas yourself. Challenge
yourself to teach in a way you’ve never done before.
Creative thinking doesn’t just happen, but it can be inspired, encouraged,
and supported. Make creative thinking a part of every school day.