Is there a Creativity Crisis for Our Kids?

How to Nurture a Child’s Creativity

“Every child is born an artist. The problems begin once we start to grow up.”

Pablo Picasso

What requires creativity? Art? Music? How about science and math? Does career satisfaction and success require creativity? The research indicates all the above.

But I argue that we should be nurturing our child’s creativity at home because it’s not being taught in school. No, it’s not the budget cut backs in the arts either. That hurts, to be sure, but the issue is that we simply don’t teach “the opportunity to find and bring to life that which motivates [kids] intrinsically.”

Creativity Threatened Specifically in 3rd through 5th Grade

from Mind/Shift: How We Will Learn 

Actually, Lehrer noted, the problems begin in a very specific time frame: the years covering third, fourth, and fifth grade. It’s during this period, he says, that many kids “conclude that they are not creative, and this is in large part because they start to realize that that their drawing is not quite as pretty as they would like, that they can put the brush in the wrong place, that their short stories don’t live up to their expectations—so they become self-conscious and self-aware, and then they shut themselves down.”

Parents’ and teachers’ task, he said, is to help kids learn how to “productively daydream.”

Lehrer’s second proposal: Teach children how to have “grit,” the perseverance and determination that’s required to create something new. He referenced the research on grit conducted by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth, who professes the maxim “Choose easy, work hard.”

Lehrer elaborated: “What she means by that is that’s important to give kids a menu of possibilities pretty early on, a menu of things they might fall in love with—maybe it’s painting, maybe it’s drawing, maybe it’s writing, maybe it’s computer science—just a bunch of passions that they could discover. [You want them to] find these things that don’t feel like work, activities that just feel like fun. And then you have to remind them—‘OK, so you’ve found something you love, the goal you want to strive for. Now you have to work hard. Now you have to put in your thousands of hours of practice. Now you have to be willing to persevere through failure and frustrations.’”

With these key interventions, Lehrer suggested, children’s vital spirit of creativity can be kept alive.

Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivation

from Why We Reason

Is creative output the product of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation? Do we need a reason to work? Or is passion enough?

The ultimate goal of any education system (or parent) should be to give [kids] the opportunity to find and bring to life that which motivates them intrinsically.



Creativity Crisis for Our Kids

from TechnApex

The Torrance test has been suggested as a better predictor of lifetime achievement than high school letter grades or even an IQ test. Psychologists place plenty of stock in this kind of evaluation, and so to observe findings that indicate that 85 percent of kids who took the test are significant less creative than kids almost thirty years ago is cause for alarm. Last July, Kim used the term “creativity crisis” to draw attention to this disturbing trend.


Creativity Requires Time, A Sense of Play and Having Fun

Top 10 Skills Children Learn from the Arts from the Washington Post

1. Creativity

2. Confidence

3. Problem Solving

4. Perseverance

5. Focus

6. Non-Verbal Communication

7. Receiving Constructive Feedback

8. Collaboration

9. Dedication

10. Accountability

image from The LocoMotif. locomotif is a creative communications boutique focused on integrated contemporary advertising. They clearly understand the value of creativity! 


p.s. Thank you to Mother Reader for the heads up on this AMAZING TED Talk on Changing Education Paradigms.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. People send their kids to school thinking that it’s the schools job to teach their children. What they don’t realize is that the most important learning happens at home. It’s what their kids watch and see their parents doing, being, talking, etc. It’s time to take some responsibility on ourselves and be a positive example. If they see you being creative – using your mind to do good- then they will tend that way as well. If the parents are watching TV, smoking and drinking – what do you think kids will tend to do (in general)?

    It’s the example that is set that’s important. Schools simply teach kids to read and write – and in many ways – not that well.

    I don’t agree that taking tests will show a kids whether he/she has the ability to be creative. Every kids has the ability to do anything they want to do. The talent must be fostered by the parents early. Taking a test tells nothing and is so biased racially, socioeconomically, etc.

    It’s our responsibility as parents to seek out and foster the talents of our children – plain and simple.

  2. Eyal Dessou Tzafrir

    Couldn’t agree more.
    The problem is that telling/teaching/reminding parents to :”Parents’ and teachers’ task, he said, is to help kids learn how to “productively daydream.” – this is the challenge.

    Have u ever heard a parent that says – May u become an artist ? I wish you many years of creativity ?

    Can creativity be measured ? Can it be tested ? Should it ?

    I agree with Lisa that everyone is creative, and no tests can tell if one is or isn’t.

    My girls go to a democratic school in Israel and the most important job that we have as parents is to just listen. Listen to our kids and not tell them what they are or not. Give the opportunity to choose and be recognized for their abilities and YES, being artistic and creative is not less important then knowing math.

    Take a look at our Faces iMake app for the iPad – EVERYONE is creative. Kids and adults create amazing things

    Thank you for this important post

    iMagine Machine™

  3. I think creativity is incredibly important. One way in which kids struggle to be creative, I think, is that they don’t have a lot of free time. Creativity requires unstructured time, and modern society doesn’t allow for much of that.
    maryanne recently posted…RSV and Keeping Kids HealthyMy Profile

  4. Hi Mia,
    I love this blog post. Thank you for your exploration–it’s an important one as folks hope to engage their children in a love of art and a comfortability in being “creative beings” beyond the developmental milestone of 11 years (for most girls), when they become more “literal” thinkers. One place to look further into this subject is, of course, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education’s Arts In Education curriculum, where this subject is deeply explored by its graduate students, professors like Steve Seidel (department head; see, his predeccessor, Jessica Hoffman Davis, and the incredible researchers who delve deeply into this question at Project Zero (

    • Hi Ariel,
      Thank you so much for the Harvard School of Education resource! I think creativity and how it is taught and encouraged is such an important topic as parents and for educators. I think our U.S. public education system does not understand the importance of fostering creativity into the curriculum so I’m glad Harvard School of Ed is doing such important work. Thanks again for the link!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Ninjago on YouTube Lego Channel!My Profile

  5. Great thought piece! Have you read Nurture Shock?
    Marnie recently posted…The Art of Observation: A Study of GREENMy Profile

  6. What an interesting piece. It makes me so sad that the modern understanding of education seems to rely solely on achieving certain levels. My daughter is wonderfully creative and I love that she wants to experiment with her thoughts and ideas, but this is not recognised in the school environment at all. Consequently, she feels that she’s not as clever as her friends. Why can’t we place more value on creativity in our education system-I have a fairly good idea it’s because it isn’t easily quantifiable or measurable. Such a shame.
    Redpeffer recently posted…An act of kindnessMy Profile

    • Hi Redpeffer,
      I think creativity gets ultimately recognized in the workplace … think Apple Computer. But I think we, as parents, have to do the heavy lifting to encourage our children’s creativity because it’s such a very tiny part of the public school education system but it’s worse in other countries like Japan. Their school curriculum focuses on rote memorization.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Ninjago on YouTube Lego Channel!My Profile

  7. What a great thought provoking piece! Such an important topic to be considered. Sadly, I think we are ‘stamping out’ the creativity in our students. Not only are arts programs in schools being cut, but regular classroom work is requiring less and less creativity and independent thinking. With the focus on proficiency in math and reading, there’s so much ‘drill and skill’ that the work we ask of our students is often boring and lacks any challenge. I think it’s true that 3rd through 5th grades are essential years. I’ve gotten 3rd graders in my classes who can’t do simple cutting for an art project–because they’ve had such little practice doing activities that don’t require a workbook or worksheet. I think we’ve forgotten that if we give them challenging work that requires them to apply the math, reading or writing skills we’re looking for, they’ll be much more likely to excel and succeed at the same time that we’re nurturing and encouraging their creativity and independent thinking.
    Katrina recently posted…En la Clase: Teaching about QuinceañerasMy Profile

    • Hi Katrina,
      You totally nail the issue! It’s sad but creativity has taken a back seat to Standardized Testing and Common Core. Ultimately, creativity is what will drive success both for individuals, corporations and countries. And the ability to work collaboratively. It’s something that, as it gets squeezed out of the curriculum, needs to be fostered at home.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Ninjago on YouTube Lego Channel!My Profile

  8. Renee C.

    I think this is a very important question and I agree that the nurturing of creativity really does begin at home. My hubby and I have been discussing something recently which I think is related to this. Our generation (as parents) tend to do a lot of praising and what happens is that we end of praising mediocre performances (i.e., art, musical performances, spelling tests, etc…) It doesn’t really encourage kids to think outside the box when no matter what they do, it’s so great! I’m not saying we need to be critical all the time, but we do need to guide our children and provide accurate feedback, not just praise for everything.

    It makes sense that creativity takes a nosedive in 3rd to 5th grade where the shift toward academics really begins in those years. My daughter is so wrapped up in math homework, and spelling tests, and book reports – opportunities to create really take a backseat. It is up to us as parents to create those opportunities at home and it’s so easy if you make the time. For example, we’ve recently been playing with story cubes – where you have to come up with a story based on the images you roll on dice. Another great game is Cadoo (Cranium Junior). We do these things as a family and it’s so much fun to see how creative we can all get.

    Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop once again Mia! 🙂
    Renee C. recently posted…Book Review and Giveaway: Off We Go For 80 Days by Rina and Jimin JungMy Profile

  9. I am worried about the creativity deficit, and like you say, not just in the “creative” fields or interests like art, music, drama, etc, but in the way of approaching the world. I don’t know how much schools taught creativity before, but they certainly allowed it more. There wasn’t such a rush to get to the next lesson, fit in the next required element that there is now. Our education was standardized in format, but with a decent amount of freedom for the teaching experience. But the more we focus on standardized, the more we lose in everything else. It reminds me of that great TED talk on education:
    MotherReader recently posted…Caldecott and Newbery Awards 2013My Profile

  10. Mia,
    Great piece. So true. Good point about 3-5th grades. Lots of mind numbing repetitive work at this stage. Parents play a key role in providing extra-cirricular options that interest kids. Not beyond talking to teacher about reducing. ‘Drill & Kill’ repetition work if student has mastered skill.
    Painting, reading, art, science, music, photography all can be creative.

  11. Jeanette Nyberg

    Creativity crisis indeed! This is a wonderful post, and you already know how I feel about this topic. I especially like the idea of giving your kids a big menu of opportunities early on and then encouraging them to work really hard and stick with things.
    Jeanette Nyberg recently posted…Felt Board Easel DIYMy Profile

    • Hi Jeanette,
      I love that we both value creativity and do our best to foster it at home with our kids. I LOVE your Artchoo! blog for that and my kids read your posts religiously! It is also fun to do your projects at home. I still need to do the Sharpie/Converse one. This spring!!! When the weather allows for sneakers again!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Ninjago on YouTube Lego Channel!My Profile

  12. Elle Carter Neal

    It’s such a fine balance, isn’t it? I’ve tried to give my now four-year-old access to toys and items that might suggest his interests and aptitudes, and it seems he’s leaning towards drawing and painting, and he has a definite interest in learning to read. His spacial awareness is great, too – someone gave him a jigsaw puzzle this week and he nailed it, even though I was thinking it was too advanced for him.

    Have you come across any of Alfie Kohn’s books or videos? His point of view is that children can become discouraged in something they previously enjoyed if they start performing more to gain praise or rewards from parents/teachers, etc., rather than assessing their own progress (and gaining satisfaction from that) or having someone assess them purely on technique and showing them how to improve.

    Here’s one of his articles:
    Elle Carter Neal recently posted…Taking Steps (Flash Fiction)My Profile

    • Hi Ella,
      Thanks so much for the link to Alfie Kohn’s article. I think he brings up a great point. I’ve heard over and over that you are not supposed to prise performance, only effort.

      I pulled out a key paragraph for anyone reading these comments:
      4. Losing interest. “Good painting!” may get children to keep painting for as long as we keep watching and praising. But, warns Lilian Katz, one of the country’s leading authorities on early childhood education, “once attention is withdrawn, many kids won’t touch the activity again.” Indeed, an impressive body of scientific research has shown that the more we reward people for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. Now the point isn’t to draw, to read, to think, to create – the point is to get the goody, whether it’s an ice cream, a sticker, or a “Good job!”

      In a troubling study conducted by Joan Grusec at the University of Toronto, young children who were frequently praised for displays of generosity tended to be slightly less generous on an everyday basis than other children were. Every time they had heard “Good sharing!” or “I’m so proud of you for helping,” they became a little less interested in sharing or helping. Those actions came to be seen not as something valuable in their own right but as something they had to do to get that reaction again from an adult. Generosity became a means to an end.

      Does praise motivate kids? Sure. It motivates kids to get praise. Alas, that’s often at the expense of commitment to whatever they were doing that prompted the praise.

      I also wanted to share a link of free drawing apps that your four-year-old might like if you allow iPad time. My kids liked these.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Ninjago on YouTube Lego Channel!My Profile

  13. So true, so true. By the way I couldn’t comment on your Lego post but I really liked your Ninjago toys display idea on your post. My son also LOVES Ninjago, currently his latest obsession.
    mari recently posted…Online Lego Adventure: Confessions of a Non-Techy MomMy Profile

    • Hi Mari,
      Sorry, the Ninjago Toy post is part of my BlogFrog community and there’s a box at the bottom to leave a comment there. Sorry for the confusion.

      My son would get along with your son! They both love Ninjago! Is he also playing with the toys, watching the show, and reading the books? It’s a 360 degree sort of obsession!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Ninjago on YouTube Lego Channel!My Profile

  14. Ann

    This is so interesting! I was one of those kids who didn’t give up on art. At the time I would have preferred to be one the the kids who was excelling at more academic pursuits but now I am glad I became who I am : ) My son has difficulty with fine motor and I think this is why he hasn’t liked “art” per say (until recently). We read a book about different types of artists and he loved hearing about the sculptor and has since cleaned me out of air dry clay and now want to be a sculptor when he grows up! I am over the moon that he has found his artistic outlet!
    Ann recently posted…Cold Coastal ImpressionsMy Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      I’m so glad that your son found his artistic calling! I think it’s like sports … just keep trying new ones and there will one that will be perfect. And, like sports, not everyone has to be in the Olympics to enjoy it and get a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction out of it.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Dating My Husband All Over AgainMy Profile

  15. Nadine

    At home we do a lot of “squiggles.” Just a Doodle on paper for kids to complete. Sometimes when the kids finish a book I will give them a squiggle and ask them to complete a part of the setting etc… sometimes I give them a squiggle with a writing prompt in their journal. Somedays I will bring out the wooden blocks and say…use your noodle kids….we have a wooden marble run that is just lovely for play. (All 3 kids ages 12 9 and 6 use it).

    • Hi Nadine,
      I love that squiggle game! I do that to coax my kids to do math problems. We do that doodle game for every correct problem. There’s a picture book called The Shape Game by Anthony Browne where I got the idea. Sounds like you are super creative and came up with it on your own! You have great fun and educational ideas Nadine! Thanks for sharing!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Dating My Husband All Over AgainMy Profile

  16. Thank you for linking up to The Children’s Bookshelf! I hope that books like this and TED talks really get people motivated to open the doors of creativity for kids instead of just testing testing testing.

  17. Rebecca from Here Come the Girls

    This is so interesting. I think creativity is so important. It’s a shame it’s not encouraged in school anymore. The problem at home is that people are so afraid of mess they don’t children be creative. But a bit of mess is a small price to pay I think.

    Thanks for linking to The Sunday Showcase. I’ve pinned to our board.
    Rebecca from Here Come the Girls recently posted…Create An Inside Winter WonderlandMy Profile

    • Hi Rebecca,
      You are right about making more messes at home. I think it helps to have a zone where messes are allowed. For us, our dining room table is indestructible so I don’t mind if we get acrylic paint on it (which seems to be permanent). Part of the patina!

      I think Common Core and teaching to the test also contributes to less creativity on the school curriculums. It’s a shame. On the other hand, it’s fun for parents AND kids to get messy at home.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Chinese New Year Crafts for KidsMy Profile

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