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Creativity: Nature or nurture?

Creativity: Nature or nurture?

Is creativity an innate talent that children are born with or a skill set honed and developed over time?

That was the topic two young mothers were debating over at the next table at a quaint café at Katong 112. One mother, the tiger mom, was adamant that a child is born with innate creativity and there was no need to “waste time letting children be children”. The other mother, trying to get a word in, was struggling with justifications that children need to be given the freedom to explore. I don’t think the second mother made much headway in the discussion.

It was tempting to budge in on the conversation but I decided that discretion is the better part of valor. So, here I go, like the brave keyboard warrior that I am, writing my views in an article and posting it on the internet.

I believe that, like IQ, children are born with different levels of creativity. However, it is a skill that must be developed early in a child’s life. Creativity is a key component for happiness and a core skill in problem solving. It is also essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence. A creative child has an edge in understanding new experiences and picking up concepts on their own. To assume that a child will develop creativity innately without any stimulus would be, in my opinion, quite disastrous, and probably one of the reasons why we have the least creative people in the world. To be fair, the dearth of creativity isn’t just a Singaporean issue. Studies show that creativity is a on a downward trend in America since the 1990s. 

Many of my friends in the early childhood field believe that the current home environment impairs creative development. Children stare blankly at digital content played over iPad that doesn’t encourage interactivity. Kids are fed an endless stream of prefabricated characters, images, props and storylines that allow children to put their imaginations to rest.

I’m going out on a limp here to venture a guess that the main culprit behind the murder of our youth’s creativity is the unrealistic education system. A standardized test that forces every child to learn by preparing specifically for examinations creates a kiasu culture where grades are the only acceptable benchmark for a child’s standing in society. This happens in Primary School, but the effect trickles downwards to the children in pre-school. Some parents, in an attempt to prepare their children for life ahead, are replacing creative time for academic time.

Two preschoolers in my class have their days packed with Chinese tuition, speech and drama programmes, phonics lessons and creative writing classes. They are also expected to read extensively and present their stories to grandma every Sunday. Reading, which is supposed to be an enjoyable activity, is positioned as a mandatory activity governed by the strictest regimental discipline - “Read 10 pages and then you get to rest.” Is it any wonder that we are raising a nation of children who hates reading?

Has modern society really extinguished the creative spark amongst our youths?

The good news is that the Tiger Mom is right on a least one count – Creativity is innate. You can’t just “lose” your creativity but it gets tougher to nurture it as you get older.

In my next article, I’ll share 5 ideas you can create a conducive creative environment for your child.

Written by Eugene Tay, founder of Brain & Butter and Monsters Under the Bed.

When Eugene was a young boy, he wanted to be an astronaut. When that didn't take off, he decided that he was going to be like Indiana Jones and explore the world as an archaeologist. Eventually, he figured out how he can do both. That's when he became a writer.

Co-Written by Grace Chai, mother of a newborn baby boy. 

Grace is a new mom and currently undergoing intensive On-The-Job Training for her new role. Between pumping milk, changing diapers and taking selfies with her baby, Grace manages stress by writing about her motherhood experience for ParentTown.

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