Stages of Creativity: Why Some Kids are “Blocked” from the 4 Stages of Creativity
This article provides helpful information about the stages of creativity and how it can support or hinder a child’s learning ability. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.
When thinking about creativity, most people tend to think about it as a fluid thing with no structure, but that is the joy of creativity. It can just flow out of your brain and it isn’t systematic or confined by any process or rules.
What I love about children is that they are usually free to explore their creativity through art, music, crafts and sensory activities. As we get older, those creative opportunities tend to dwindle unless we follow specific career paths that allow us to explore and engage our creative sides of the brain. What many people don’t know is that simple activities children do while they are young like role playing and daydreaming are an important catalyst for learning.
Children who enjoy role playing as superheroes, athletes, princesses and other fun characters develop better emotional control and expressive language as they get older. In addition, daydreaming, when done productively, allows the right brain to make connections with unrelated topics, which in turn opens the mind for new bubbling thoughts and ideas.
Many scientists and psychologists, starting with Graham Wallas, have discovered that in fact, creativity can be very methodical; we just might not realize the benefits of doing it this way.
Four Stages of Creativity
There are four stages that the brain goes through in order to achieve maximum creativity. The amazing thing about each stage is that they are built on several components that stem from childhood development (for example, sensory responses, executive functioning, visual processing and emotional grounding).
This process can help children solve any problem and it can help them learn any new concept, not just creative ones. It’s especially important for students who struggle with various learning disabilities that sometimes don’t know how to tackle learning a new concept. Helping them through this creative process can give them defined steps and encourages them to be more successful in and out of the classroom. If any one of these components of the creative process are broken or disconnected within the child, the four stages of creativity cannot support the child’s foundation for learning.
Here’s what each stage looks like as learning takes place.
This is the stage where the child decides what project they are going to tackle, whether it is a science project, a short story or a piece of music they want to compose. First, the child must do all the research, gather supplies, create a plan or outline and determine what the hoped outcome is for the project.
No matter what the project is, this process can be particularly daunting for a child if they have executive functioning gaps. Because executive functioning skills are mental processes for managing our time, organizing our thoughts, problem-solving and developing critical thinking skills, the child may not know how to begin a project or may even get so discouraged that they give up. What should become automatic for children as their learning development progresses, for some, they can’t shine academically because the first step in the creative process is already “broken” when there is a disconnection in executive function.
This is where you let the project go completely. You do something different entirely, maybe because of a mental block, and let the idea simmer (this is where daydreaming comes into play). You may take a break from the idea for a few hours, days or even years. The logic behind this is that you will be able to step back and see what changes need to be made or things that you really like about this creative project. It forces you to not be so involved in a project so that you can take a critical look at things and improve upon them.
In this stage of creativity, your child depends on developed sensory systems for better attention and focus on their goals and projects. Part of pushing out mental blocks or stumps in creativity are seeing ideas through our senses (touch, taste, smell, hearing). If any one of these sensory systems is damaged (vestibular, proprioception, visual, auditory), your child’s ability to follow through with projects, complete tasks and focus and attend on assignments the teacher gives them may not happen or the child may act out because their bodies can’t physically and mentally complete what was assigned.
The child’s limbic system also plays a role in this level of creativity. If their limbic system is underdeveloped (control of emotions), the child could easily display behavior issues, emotional outbursts, anxiety or attention and focus issues that could prevent the child from making it past this stage.
This is where all that incubating should have paid off. It’s when your child finally realizes what could make this creative endeavor reach its ultimate potential. The “ah-ha!” moment, if you will. It’s when your child can take the pieces of an idea or what is in their environment and puts them together effectively without the help of a teacher or parent. When this stage of creativity begins to “click” within your child, it typically causes a ripple effect. A rush of new ideas, objects and surroundings start coming to the child rapidly.
For children with developmental delays or learning challenges, information is processed less quickly and they are often not aware of their surroundings or of information in the classroom. As children begin using different movement activities to better develop the lower levels of their brain (balance, coordination, core muscle, attention and rhythm), they often become more aware of what is happening in their environment. Their “ah-ha” moment is when they start discovering new things within their surroundings and when they can focus on information they never stored before, but was always there (notes on the chalkboard, rules in the classroom, objects on the desk).
This is where all of the work your child has done will result in the final product and they have to decide if they like it. If it is a piece of music, the child can perform it in front of others and decide if it sounds the way they want it to. If the child is an artist, encourage them to enter their artwork into a contest at school or in the community to gather feedback from those who see it.
This stage is very important for children with learning challenges. As parents and teachers help children get to this level of creativity, the child will begin to develop greater self-confidence, self-regulation, follow-through and achievement. These types of creative successes, great or small, can propel or hinder a child’s future risk taking in all areas of learning. In our experience, small successes lead to greater ones.
Rewiring Our Brains
It is important to understand that children have a gift because they think in this wonderful creative pattern. When was the last time you made a huge decision without thinking about it? Chances are, that is not something you ordinarily practice. Yet students are required to take high stakes tests or make decisions that educators feel are important, but don’t always show the child’s academic potential.
In Mind, Music and Imagery, written by Stephanie Merritt, she says, “These thinking patterns show a process very different from that which we, as parents and educators, impose upon our children. We expect them to think actively at all times to express themselves verbally from the very beginning, and to take one-and-only exams that leave no delay time for the kind of associative play that Einstein and da Vinci thrived on. Inadvertently we tend to cut our children off, by our expectations, from the natural imaging process that is part of their development. Associative thinking and imagery play are skills that are necessary for innovative and high level thinking.”
Children are given so many new concepts per day that they need time to absorb them. They desperately need this processing time, and when they don’t get it, it can affect their retention, creativity and overall learning ability.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs