Five Ways to Sustain Creativity at Home and in School

Lisa Rivero M.A. from Creative Synthesis published an insightful blog in the journal, Psychology Today, on our capacity for divergent and creative thinking.  Lisa is the author of The Smart Teens’ Guide to Living with Intensity and other education and parenting books.

Lisa’s blog shares some simple techniques to reclaim and sustain your own capacity for creativity through divergent thinking skills and at the same time nurture and facilitate these natural talents in your children.

These ideas from Lisa Rivero M. A. are food for thought in a culture that sometimes seems geared towards a convergent stifled thinking processes.  We need to remember that the gift of divergent creative and lateral thinking is a natural ability in all people, we are all born with this gift for problem solving and innovation.


Some excerpts from the article:

When tested as kindergarteners, 98 percent of the study’s subjects scored at the genius level in divergent thinking. When they were ten, 32 percent of the same group scored as high, and by age fifteen, only 10 percent made the cut. When 200,000 adults were given the same test, only two percent tested at the genius level.

“What’s the most prevalent, and perhaps the most important, prefix of our times? Multi. Our jobs require multitasking. Our communities are multicultural. Our entertainment is multimedia. While detailed knowledge of a single area once guaranteed success, today the top rewards go to those who can operate with equal aplomb in starkly different realms. I call these people ‘boundary crossers.’ They develop expertise in multiple spheres, they speak different languages, and they find joy in the rich variety of human experience. They live multilives-because that’s more interesting and, nowadays, more effective.” (p. 134)

Dan Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind



And from Lisa’s article, here are 5 brilliant and easy ideas to keep the creativity and innovation alive in your family.

  • 1. Aim for quantity over quality:  We can help children to practice skills of divergent thinking as they grow by helping them at least some of the time to aim for quantity over quality, without pre-emptive judgment. This can be done in ways that are more applicable to their daily lives than asking how many uses they can think of for a paper clip. What are all the meals we can make for dinner with the ingredients in the refrigerator, even (and especially) combinations that are new or strange? While they answer, we can be alert for the “yes, but” voices in our own heads that want to butt in and stop the divergent flow of ideas.


  • 2. Go lateral : one of de Bono’s lateral thinking techniques is the practice of “wishful thinking,” in which we allow ourselves to imagine what the ideal solution would be, regardless of financial, physical, or even ethical constraints. During this process, we do not censor our thoughts or in any way think of why the solution might not work. What is the point of this exercise? Very often, such “what if” thinking contains ideas that can lead to and inspire practical possibilities. However, we often censor our own thoughts before such ideas ever bubble to the surface, as we begin too early the process of convergent criticism.


  • 3. Refuse to pigeonhole Personality : Our temptation to label and pigeonhole others is often for reasons of our own comfort and efficiency. If we know Johnny is an extrovert, we know, or we think we know, what to expect from him and what his needs are. However, to encourage children to give themselves more options for how to feel, think, and act, we can refrain from typecasting them as either/or and, instead, give them permission to be both/and: Both extroverted and introverted, both playful and disciplined, both feminine and masculine.



  • 4. Encourage Boundary Crossing: Larry Livingston argues in his article “Teaching Creativity in Higher Education” that today’s generation of college students shows up in our classrooms already expert boundary crossers. They have grown up in a world where research is done not in limited, discipline-specific journals but through multi-disciplinary Google searches and collaborative social media. He writes, “Our students investigate all manner of diverse topics without being trapped by discipline-based limitations. They do so because no one has told them otherwise.”


  •  5. Prioritise Play: This kind of hands-on play, however, often requires that we give ourselves and our children permission to engage in activities that can look like a waste of time. For a sixteen year old who has a full schedule of AP classes, sports practice, and orchestra rehearsal, half an hour spent building a snowman in the backyard with younger siblings can seem a luxury, but parents can help to shape good life-time habits by encouraging their children and teenagers to build in time for just such free play, and by setting a good example by turning off their cell phones and joining in.


To read the full article: