Why Creative thinking is necessary for 21st century competency

Why Creative thinking is necessary for 21st century competency

In today's highly competitive world, thinking creatively gives young people a marketable edge, as well as helping them to better manage themselves and their relationships with others. Find out more about how creative thinking enables your kids to perform better academically and socially.

Creative Thinking is the ability to come up with ideas that are unique, useful and worthy of further exploration and elaboration.

It is the skill of looking at problems imaginatively and from new perspectives, to come up with solutions and ideas that may not have been previously considered.

Why is creative thinking important?

Creative Thinking helps us in every aspect of our lives. A society that only produces individuals who can follow and copy the processes and procedures set out by others, will never truly evolve as a society.

Equally, individuals who simply follow what others ask them to do without questioning or without exploring possibilities and options, will rarely go far in life. The ability to think creatively gives young people a marketable edge, as well as helping them to better manage themselves and their relationships with others.


What does a creative thinker look like?

Children are naturally creative. They ask hundreds of questions, and are naturally very open to new ideas. Moreover, young children are mostly quite uninhibited about ‘getting it wrong’ – they are open to experimentation and have a high degree

of perseverance. They enjoy coming up with creative solutions, and pushing the boundaries beyond the usual. It is only as they progress through education systems that penalize them for errors, and that focus on analysis, on finding logical answers, and on figuring out the ‘right’ answer, that often that creativity is lost.

To find out what you can do as a parent to promote Creative Thinking in your child in his or her early years.

How can we promote creative thinking in the early years?

Very often these days, we focus on developing the more academic skills of getting children ready for primary one – learning to read and write, and developing an understanding of the basics of numeracy, for instance.

Critical Thinking is:

  • analytic
  • convergent
  • vertical
  • hinges on probability
  • relies on judgment
  • focused
  • objective
  • provides the answer
  • left brain
  • verbal
  • linear
  • based on reasoning

While these are very important skills, developing the skill of creativity is equally important. This can be done in many different ways, and involves providing children with the opportunity to be imaginative and to express themselves freely.


Creative Thinking is:

  • generative
  • divergent
  • lateral
  • hinges on possibility
  • relies on suspended judgment
  • diffuse
  • subjective
  • provides an answer
  • right brain
  • visual
  • associative
  • based on richness, novelty

Art, drama and music and movement can be particularly effective mediums through which to develop creative thinking. Art activities such as easel painting, finger painting, clay work and model making are great, however it is important that parents do not ‘over-guide’ their children in such activities.

For instance, if your child wants a picture of mummy to have purple and green hair, that is fine, and you should simply observe and praise the effort. Telling a child that mummy’s hair must be black is the kind of response that will stifle creativity.


Similarly, role-play and dramatic play are great ways to encourage your young ones to be more creative: watch them pretending to be cooks in the kitchen, or playing at doctors and nurses, and observe just how creative they can be.

Music and movement are also great catalysts for creativity: let them try moving to different types of music, or representing different objects with their bodies. Inspire their creativity through exposure to stories, songs and rhymes, and get them making up their own stories, songs and rhymes, too.

Allow them to enjoy elements of ambiguity and pose interesting questions to spark their imaginations, such as ‘What if it snowed every day in Singapore?’ or ‘If you could be any kind of animal you like, what would you be, and why?’

How can we keep encouraging Creative Thinking in our child beyond the early years, into Primary and Secondary School? Click on the next page to find out how creative thinking improves academic performance.

How can we promote Creative Thinking throughout Primary and Secondary school?

As attention turns towards passing exams in primary and secondary school, creative thinking often starts to take a back seat in terms of mainstream teachers’ priorities, which is a real shame, because in fact a creative approach to teaching and learning has been shown to actually help children perform better in their exams.

As with the Early Years, Creative Thinking can be taught through every curriculum subject: it is imbued more through an approach to teaching and learning than taught as a ‘subject’ in itself.


To encourage creative thinking among 6-16 year olds, we need to encourage them to look at problems from multiple perspectives and to use a trial and error approach to problem-solving. For instance, looking at some of the environmental problems facing the planet, and asking students to work in groups to come up with creative solutions, is both a critical and useful creative thinking activity.

We also need to help them to have the confidence to take risks, to try out new ideas, and to experience failure, as it is only through such an enquiry-based process of trial and error that they will truly learn to think creatively.

In this way, encouraging young people to discover things for themselves, rather than spoon-feeding them with knowledge, is a much more effective way to develop creative thinking.

In addition to the above, it is important to encourage young people to develop an interest in as broad a range of interests as possible, as creative people often use their knowledge of one field in unique ways to inform totally different fields.

Perhaps one of the most effective and motivational tools for creative thinking is the brainstorm, or mind-map. This can be used to great effect for generating, adapting or reviewing ideas, and because of its non- linear, divergent nature, is the perfect way tool for exploring limitless, associative ideas.

This article has been authored by Helen Marjan
, Joint Managaing Director and Director of Studies at Lorna Whiston.

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