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Out of the Box

Here’s how to raise creative kids and make them more motivated to learn

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Being “constantly irritated” may not seem to be the kind of attitude you’d encourage your children to develop but according to Singapore-based educator Marcelo H. Ang, Jr., one of the esteemed speakers at the Philippine Center for Gifted Education’s Annual Conference on Giftedness held recently at The Heritage Hotel in Pasay City, it has its use—one that could help unleash and enhance creativity.

Ang, who works at the National University of Singapore as associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering department and acting director of the Advanced Robotics Center, clarified, however, that “being constantly irritated” in this case means:

Not accepting things so easily

Not being complacent and not having a defeatist attitude (“Why change it? We have been doing this for a long time.” “It has never been done before. If it was possible, someone would have done it.” “It’s too simple to be effective.”)

Constantly questioning things

Thinking of ways to improve

He said defining a problem is important and that he much prefers it “to arrive at the wrong solution to the right problem than finding the correct solution to the wrong problem” because it keeps the mind working and the person engaged in finding a better answer, option, or explanation. Citing American professor, author, and creative problem solving guru Edward Lumsdaine, Ang said “Creativity is playing with imagination and possibilities while interacting with ideas, people, and the environment, thus leading to new and meaningful connections and outcomes.”

Here are Ang’s tips to boost creativity, inspiration, and originality in children:

1. Be observant.  

Watch and learn how things are done.  What is obvious to some may not be obvious to others.

2. Do visualization and sensory thinking.  

Encourage children to dream, have goals, and form images in their mind. Let kids imagine smells, tastes, sounds, and textures. Such activities stimulate the brain and lead to more connections. Make them sketch their ideas. Teach them to picture quantities (roughly to scale).Example: An atom is to a person as a person is to the Earth’s orbit around the sun. According to Ang, visualization can be used to “mind solve” problems.

 3. Think positively.

For instance, look at problems as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than as burdens.

4. Let children experiment and figure things out.  

When your child is faced with a problem or a complicated situation, let him solve it and do not immediately give the answer. Allow him to try, think, or find a solution first. Offer new ideas and experiences but let him work on it on his own.

5. Change habits.  

Instead of reprimanding a child or forbidding him to touch a precious and breakable object, ask him to touch something else. “If you tell children “Do not touch the crystal,” they will imagine the crystal and would want to touch it,” points out Ang.  It is better to let a child handle a different but safe object. Give him something else that he could play with.

6. Keep an open mind and keep learning.  

Read as much as you can, do puzzles and other “brain games,” connect often with family and friends, explore your surroundings, and do enriching activities. “An informed, thinking mind is the best defense against unwanted subconscious influences such as advertisements, propaganda, and politicians.”