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The Neuroscience of Creativity: Why BORED Children Develop Better Brains

*Why Creative Children Succeed in Life?

Creativity is one of the most essential of traits ensuring future success. It is the ability to create unique and original work, ideas and useful products.

According to a 2010 IBM Global Survey of 1,500 CEOs, fostering creativity in our children will pay dividends into adulthood and beyond.

Thus, it becomes imperative to provide young children with the necessary tools for life success, especially during the most critical years of brain development (ages 0-8).

*What Should We Do about the Creativity Crisis?

Recent studies point to a creativity crisis in the United States, which has been declining steadily since the 1990s.1

It can be attributed to conformity within the school system, which discourages experimentation and risk taking, while encouraging standardization of students through rigorous curriculums and matching uniforms.

Increased structured play, focus on academics and passive use of technology are other major contributors.

Moreover, creative time in school allowing for self expression through art, music and dance continues to be cut from the daily schedule, resulting in reduced imagination, energy levels, verbal and problem-solving abilities.2    

* How Can We Restore Creativity in Our Children? 

Enriching environments filled with engaging toys, interesting books, fun play structures and new friends (even non-human companions) are well known to support proper brain development. For scientifically sound ideas about shaping the growing child’s brain, visit this blog:

Did you also know that the latest brain research studies reveal that letting your kids get bored is just as beneficial for the brain? 

Dr. Teresa Belton at the University of East Anglia focuses on the connection between boredom and imagination. She believes that boredom is crucial for developing “internal stimulus,” which then allows for true creativity to manifest (a BBC interview). 

Living in a world of constant stimulation can be detrimental to the growing brain of a young child. Continuous inputs from the environment (sights, sounds, smells) and constant engagement with the world causes neurons in our brain to fire. These newly formed pathways are the basis of the learning process.

However, in order to process these massive amounts of incoming information and consolidate the learning by revising old pathways to make room for new ones, the brain needs a break

Sleep is one way to do it. It is essential to rejuvenate both body and mind. A good sleeping hygiene for children begins with a set bedtime routine. The incredible benefits of rest to the child’s brain are detailed in this blog:

Another great way to maximize the benefits of rest is to have a designated downtime for the brain mid-day (a scheduled time-out) so that integration of what was learned earlier throughout the day can occur, along with focused thinking time, without any additional input and stimulation.3

*What Happens When a Child is Bored? A Practical Example

When my daughter was an infant, I used to change out the toys in her pack n’ play frequently so that a new toy can entertain her while I was finishing household chores. One day I took a little longer than usual to finish a household task and forgot to replace the old toys with new ones.

Coming around the corner I heard a loud laughter and baby babble…My 1 year old daughter was having a great time playing with the old toys in new ways! The board book was  propped sideways and transformed into a tiny house and the colorful plastic doughnut rings used for learning stacking by size were used to hold the plush animals upright as pack n’ play decor. 

I was speechless! From that day on, I stopped changing out her toys regularly – a habit kept to this day. As my baby grew and is now approaching the age of 6, she is more lively and creative than ever.

*How to Stimulate Creativity in Your Child?

Scientific evidence suggests that boredom enhances the imagination. Novel brain pathways emerge as the child finds new ways to play with familiar objects

One of the best established practices in our household is “quiet time.” Immediately following lunch, my daughter enters her room for the next hour or so for quiet play and reflection. This is when the brain magic happens! Downtime allows the brain to process and integrate information from early in the day. Plus, it is a much needed break for mommy – a win-win situation indeed!

So let your kids get bored! Did boredom stimulate creativity in your child?

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  1. Kyung Hee Kim. The creativity crisis: The decrease in creative thinking scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Creativity Research Journal, 2011; 23, 285-295.
  2. Kyung Hee Kim. The creativity crisis: The decrease in creative thinking scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Creativity Research Journal, 2017; 23, 285-295.
  3. Mary Helen et al. Rest is Not Idelness. Perspect Psychol Sci, 2012; 7(4): 352-64; 26168472.    

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