Picking up STEAM: Boosting creativity through art-based play

Picking up STEAM: Boosting creativity through art-based play

400 300 Leon Shafir

Perhaps Pablo Picasso said it best when he said, “Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” Creativity is one of the most important qualities we possess, yet many never allow themselves to fully express it.

Types of Creativity

Psychology Today writer Mark Batey (PHD) called it the essential skillset for the future. IBM named it as the number one leadership trait for the years ahead. So, what is creativity exactly? Webster calls it the ability to make new things or think of new ideas. Oxford adds in the word imagination. The truth is creativity is a matrix.

The first type, Thomas Edison, is developed when you are working on tasks that require deliberate focus and attention. These activities have to be connected to past learning and require the type of thinking that allowed Thomas Edison to create a functioning lightbulb after failing hundreds of times.

The second type of creativity, the Therapeutic A-ha moment is also a deliberately focused type of creativity. Activities that encourage this type of creativity, like journaling, help both children and adults have personal breakthroughs when it comes to their feelings.

Which brings us to the third type of creativity, Newton and the Apple. Like the falling apple, creativity here is gained when knowledge meets luck.

The final type of creativity is the type that we are most comfortable with. Like an epiphany, musicians and artists traditionally display this type of originality.

Getting Creative Juices Flowing

If creativity is so important, why does it seem like today’s generation is lacking it? In short, creativity is no longer encouraged.

Forgotten by many parents and no longer a focus in schools, children have very few creative outlets in today’s society. Art and music are rarely offered in elementary schools, reading and math outshine science, and test taking skills are taught in place of creative problem solving. Furthermore, few of the purchases made by millennial parents for their children are geared toward increasing creativity.

Thankfully, there are easy and fun ways to preserve and further develop creativity during and past childhood. It simply requires a mind that is willing to think outside of the box and a heart that is open to possibility. One such way is to buy STEAM based products and encourage STEAM based play/activities.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. All types of creativity can be encouraged through STEAM based toys and activities and a quick Google search will provide endless options.

One great product to help your child hone in on their “Edison” skills is the Coding Awbie which uses problem solving to introduce children to coding. Because its technology based, this game will peak the interest of both boys and girls. Also, its educational and teaches much needed tech skills for this ever evolving world.

Snap Circuits Pro by Mindware is another toy that helps build Edison thinking and creativity skills. In this small box, there are over 500 projects with 75 pieces. This includes an integrated circuit for a digital voice recorder, FM radio module, analog meter, relay, transformer and even a 7-segment LED display! Like Edison with the light bulb, kids can try the projects over and over again until they get them right.

Another great product is Lakeshore’s problem solving kit. This set helps grow Newton style creativity as it requires students to think outside of the box to help their favorite characters from traditional fairytales. With each problem-solving kit, children can work together on engineering projects such as how to build a troll bridge for the billy goats or at house for the little pigs.

A second toy that works on building Newton Style creative muscle is Brain Builders by Keva. With this STEM toy, children are expected to convert 2D diagrams into 3d structures. Once all of the structures have been mastered, children can use their thinking skills to come up with new architectural designs.

For older kids and teens, Laura Ginsberg’s I AM journal can help grow creativity types two and four. Listing, writing, drawing, and responding to emotion based prompts can help young journals make emotional connections in a unique way. The journal allows young people to list, doodle, write, color, and dream, all while working on self-discovery.

Imagination Patterns by Mindware are a great option for younger children who are just now getting their creative juices flowing. Like a puzzle, children can use these magnetic pieces to create a picture outlined on a card in the case. But the interesting part is that they don’t have to follow a pattern if they don’t want to! Instead, they can create their own objects. This toy mixes several types of creativity together, making it a great choice for parents and teachers. There are other perks to Imagination Patterns as well, like the fact that they promote fine motor skills, spatial relation, and concentration.

If you have a budding artist on your hands, Brain Flakes by Best Choice Products is a great option. Like the Keva Blocks, children working with Brain Flakes can build 3D structures. But these discs offer a different twist because of their unique shape and colors. Because it is budget friendly, this toy is a great one to use as a STEAM introduction.

There are endless toys and activities that encourage creativity and problem-solving skills in children, but we as parents and educators have to provide the opportunity. Regardless of what type you are trying to foster, the resources are out there. Check out this page to find more STEAM based toys and this one for creativity building activities. But most importantly, keep encouraging your Picasso to find his creative side!

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