The Ebbs & Flows of Children's Creativity

Children's development

I’m sure many of us would agree that children seem at their most creative throughout their elementary school years. However, this may not be the case as certain studies show creativity during this age period actually ebbs and flows.
Some researchers believe that children entering kindergarten have an abundance of creative thinking, but by the time they reach grade 2 their creativity decreases. It again increases in grade 3 and 4, but decreases again in grade 5. According to creativity researcher, E. Paul Torrance, this is a perfectly normal part of children’s development.


How can they tell if children’s creativity ebbs and flows?

In 1966, Torrance developed the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, which allowed him to measure and quantify creative thinking. Over the years the test has been administered to over 55,000 children in the US and Canada, and today remains as one of the most widely used tools for measuring creativity.


How do you define creativity?

One of the first questions that came to my mind, was to measure something you first need to define it…so how does one define creativity? There are a number of people who’ve attempted to define what it means to be creative, but to date we still don’t have a consensus. When Torrance developed his test, he centered his design around his own definition as “a process of sensing difficulties, problems, gaps in information, missing elements, making guesses and hypotheses about a solution of these deficiencies; evaluating and testing these hypotheses, and finally communicating the results.”


Are school systems responsible for a decline in creativity?

There are other researchers who believe that children’s creativity is at its strongest in the primary grades, but go on to lose their creative thinking, little by little, as they grow older. Could our current school system be responsible? There are many who think so. One of them, Sir Ken Robinson, author and researcher, believes this is the main culprit. He has an interesting video on You Tube describing how he feels schools are killing creative thinking. It’s a compelling talk, so if you’re interested in learning more I’ve attached the link here.


What do I think?

I’ve been teaching visual art for over twenty-five years and have had the pleasure of working with thousands of children. I’ve seen it time and time again where children fall in love with creating art, then they abandon it for something else, then they come back to it with great enthusiasm. As part of their development they’re
trying out new things, experimenting, making mistakes and finding solutions, then trying something else that appeals to them. I remain skeptical that one can define and quantify creative thinking through a test, although I have used Torrance’s test a few times when comparing creativity with self-compassion (another fascinating topic!). Nor do I believe that we are killing creative thinking in schools. For the most part, the schools that I’ve worked in within British Columbia have all embraced and encouraged creative thinking whenever possible.


What’s your opinion?

Let us know what you think or share some of your stories…we’d love to hear from our community. Simply use the comment form below to have your say.


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About the Author


Artist Philippa GlossopPhilippa Glossop, B.F.A, M.Ed, is an artist, art advocate and educator who has been teaching visual art to children for over twenty years. She teaches in a number of school districts, art galleries, community art centers, and from her own art studio. Philippa’s passion is creating innovative art kits to stimulate and encourage kids of all ages to explore and develop their creative thinking and expression. More about Philippa


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