If you’re from a certain generation you’ll have heard about Edward De Bono and the concept of lateral thinking.  Some people call it creative thinking, some people describe it as right brain activity – but whatever you call it, being able to think creatively is a life skill every child should be encouraged to develop.

What generates creativity?

Draw pictures: Even if your child is not the next David Hockney or Renoir, encouraging them to doodle, draw and use visual means of expressing themselves is a good start.

If they really can’t draw, get them colouring pictures – with the range of colouring books for both children and adults, there’s no shortage of material.

Word richness:  Encourage them to learn and use new words outside their day-to-day use of language.  Have a word of the day that the whole family have to use as often as possible.

Let them get their hands dirty!  Playing with plasticine, Playdoh or, for older children, modelling clay all encourage creativity.  Sandcastles on the beach or in the sandpit or building a snowman are also good for the creative brain to get busy.  This blog might give you some ideas too.

Have a cloud-gazing session.  Ask them what images they can see in the clouds.  This is a great idea for sunny days while out in the countryside or even in the local park.  Get everyone lying down on their backs and you’ll soon find everyone seeing both familiar and ridiculous shapes.

Take them to an art gallery or exhibition.  Ask them what they think of different paintings, what they like and what they don’t – and why.

Encourage them to come up with solutions to problems.  Whether the problem is how to get three children to different destinations several miles apart within a short time frame or what to get family members for Christmas, coming up with creative solutions to everyday problems will help them to think outside the box.  Take a look at this for more ideas.

Give them some interesting problems to solve that require creative thinking: e.g.

Q:  Two fathers and two sons went out to shoot ducks.  They each shot one duck, but only three ducks were shot – how is this possible?

A:  The men were three generations of one family so the eldest was a father, the youngest a son and the middle one both a father AND a son.

Have a family story-building session.  While it’s all too easy to let everyone ‘disappear’ into their mobile phones, it’s much more interesting to play at story building together.  It’s a bit like the old game of ‘Consequences’, someone starts the story and then each person in turn has to add one or more sentences to progress the story.  Once the kids get into the swing of it they enjoy it – start them young. 

The more you encourage them to exercise their ability to think creatively, the better they’ll get.