Skip to main content
December 19, 2018

How to look at art: Creativity for young children Pt 1

Creative boy child
Creative boy child

Creativity is key to children’s development, and to a wider systemic cultural, social and economic transformation. There is, therefore, a significant need to understand the nature of creativity and how it can be effectively engendered in children, our future workforce.

Too many children do not reach their full potential because their creativity is neglected or creativity learning is ineffective. They struggle to adapt, cope with basic challenges, understand concepts and apply them in different situations, and achieve goals. They grow disempowered with low productivity and self-esteem. However, children whose creativity is fostered during the first five years of their lives — when imagination and curiosity are naturally rife — will hang on to creativity throughout life, and grow into successful professional, entrepreneurs and leaders.


Early childhood educators and importantly, parents, must develop the knowledge, skills and practices that help them to engender creativity in young children.

In this and next week’s article, I will attempt to summarise how we can foster children’s creativity to maximise their potential and prepare them for 21st-century challenges.

Effective creativity-learning starts with parents and educators developing positive beliefs about creativity and the understanding of what creativity is. The notion that creativity is ‘the arts’ and ‘for artists’ and it cannot be learned is a long-outlived misconception. It is a powerful transferable skill that applies across all spheres of human endeavour.

Creativity is the ability to generate and implement new ideas and solutions. It is a way we think and solve problems, rooted in the capacity to connect knowledge across domains. It can be referred to as innovation, inventiveness, resourcefulness ingenuity, imagination, outside-box thinking, value-creation, vision, individuality, risk-taking, personal effectiveness and optimisation.

Creative people think visually. The brain neurones specialise against images. To have an advanced ‘visual processing’ skill - ability to observe and form mental images - is instrumental to selecting and connecting information. More than 85 per cent of our thinking is mediated through vision. Nobel Prize scientists describe their thinking being accompanied by mental images, not words or mathematical thoughts, contrary to common belief.

In terms of young children, to be creative means to be personally effective, resourceful, resilient and confident to overcome obstacles and navigate changes. Highly creative children usually have a high self-efficacy (‘can-do’ attitude) and self-esteem. Creativity ensures their real learning: if children are creative, they try new things and are more motivated to learn.

Creativity is the essential tool for children to adapt and survive. Children who get born today will have jobs that do not yet exist but that demand high creativity from workers. If we fail children’s creativity now, we will cause their unemployment in future.

So, learning to be creative catalyses positive changes in all aspects of children’s lives. It also impacts the long-lasting outcomes. A creative workforce is a source of a nation’s success. When global companies look to invest, they do not seek low-cost consistencies anymore. They seek economies with creative people.

In the next article, I will outline the learning activities and explain how to interact with children to strengthen their creativity.


Alla Tkachuk, the founder of MASK, an innovative creativity-learning programme for young Kenyans. If this article gave your food for thought, share your thoughts with Alla on [email protected]

Poll of the day