Heayes Design's Richard Heayes explains why we should be concerned that children are showing lower signs of creative problem solving and imagination.

The Creative Index

There is a lot of discussion amongst academics about the role of creativity in the digital age. How the culture of sharing and building on content, as well as the multitude of new digital tools has enabled many to promote and embrace their creativity.

From six second Vine clips to music mixing sites like Mixcloud, there are so many ways to unleash your creativity.

So why then is there some concern that children are showing lower signs of creative problem solving and imagination?

Creativity is part of who we are. It has enabled us to find solutions to complex problems and is one of the hardest aspects of the human brain to replicate in AI.

Creativity isn’t about just taking in information and reformatting it. It is about the ability to imagine something that has never before existed. That often comes about through multi sensory inputs and experiences we amass over time. That might be a work of art, a medical treatment, an engineering breakthrough, a flavour combination the list is endless.

Whatever you do, creativity is what sets you apart from machines and often separates success from failure.

So creativity is a big deal and encouraging our kids to be creative is probably the most important skill in a world that is changing as never before. 

The problem is, kids are mainly taught information that exists and are tested on their ability to process and retain information. I certainly found school very tedious as I was more interested in what could be, but that doesn’t tend to get you very good grades!

The pressure on exam results means more and more time is being spent on this at the detriment of of free play which will nurture creative thinking.

Sharing a YouTube clip is fun but it doesn’t really stretch your imagination.

Do you know the one per cent rule? It relates to the fact that on average, only one per cent of people who use a website create the content and 99 per cent such view it or share.

That is in stark contrast of course to physical play where if you don’t create it, well nothing much happens. 

If you think about most computer games, the kids feel as though they are in control. In most cases they are actually being taken through a carefully crafted experience. Their decisions are ones that most players are making it is just the illusion of creativity.

Now I should say there are many fantastic digital games that promote creative thinking but they are in my opinion a small minority.

It’s in contrast then to many physical games where the game’s designer can control the experience to a point, but has to allow for a huge amount of variability that players will introduce themselves, in-turn making for a much more rewarding creative experience. 

Having designed hundreds of toys and games, I know that the on shelf experience is so important. It is all too easy to end up creating a toy that ‘boxes in’ the experience for the sake of delivering a powerful visual.

Promoting the benefits of creative thinking can only be to the benefit of the play business which is a critical part of carving out the ‘free play time block’ our kids so desperately need to be successful in adult life.

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