Creative Child

Why Kids are Naturally Creative and How to Preserve It in Today’s World

by Deborah Song

Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Children are naturally creative. One of the greatest creative assets for kids is their inexperience. Since kids have the benefit of not knowing what is not possible, they ask “Why not?” Kids ask questions about things that, for everyone else, have become unquestioned assumptions.

But it’s not just that their creativity results from their naïveté; the way kids think can also works to foster and preserve their creativity. Science is now showing us that a child’s brain looks physiologically different. The main difference can be spotted in the prefrontal cortex, where the neural pathways in a child’s brain are much more connected than that of adult brains. This makes their young brains more flexible, albeit less efficient. Adults, over time, strengthen and reinforce certain neural pathways in order to focus on complex tasks, and weaken those that don’t get used. But keeping those neural pathways open is what experts believe is the key to unlocking and keeping those creative juices flowing.

In fact, some studies show that high IQ is correlated with a prefrontal cortex that is slow to mature. Keeping your mind open, and the prefrontal cortex “immature” for longer, may be part of what makes you smarter.

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So how do we keep the prefrontal cortex more agile and open? In other words, how do we preserve creativity in our kids? Through play. Lots and lots of unstructured play, science says.

That play fosters creativity is not a novel idea. But the science behind it is. Recent studies show that animals with bigger and more developed brains are linked with having a longer childhood period. Further research done on rats shows us that those who freely played had a much more different pattern of neurons in the prefrontal cortex than those rats who were not allowed to play.

Through play, kids learn to entertain each other and themselves. Their minds wander. They daydream and create fantasy-like ideas. It’s when they role-play and pretend that you’re the damsel in distress, and she’s the fairy godmother who turned you into a spider and webbed her way out of a tall, dark tower.

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