Boosting creativity helps kids overcome life’s challenges, according to study.

Boosting creativity helps kids overcome life's challenges, according to study.

Teaching Kids Creative Thinking to Manage Daily Stressors: A Pathway to Resilience

Kids Managing Stress

Just like adults, kids face daily stressors. Luckily, a new study suggests that teaching them creative thinking can help them manage it all. In a recent study conducted at Ohio State University, researchers found that when school-age children learned some “narrative creativity” techniques, such as shifting perspectives and imagining “what if” scenarios, they quickly became better problem-solvers. This newfound creativity not only enhanced their ability to tackle daily problems but also boosted their confidence levels.

The Importance of Creative Thinking for Kids

The study highlights the significance of creative thinking in children. According to Professor Angus Fletcher, the author of the study, when kids can think flexibly, they are less likely to panic in the face of challenges. Instead of giving up, they are more likely to seek alternative solutions, demonstrating resilience – a crucial life skill. Fletcher emphasizes that children’s biggest challenges are often related to social interactions rather than academic subjects like math. Unfortunately, schools typically prioritize test scores over life skills.

The Role of Parents in Nurturing Creative Thinking

Parents also play a crucial role in fostering creative thinking in their children. While well-intentioned, rushing to fix their child’s problems or providing them with “correct” solutions can hinder their ability to develop problem-solving skills. Fletcher suggests creating an environment where children are allowed to tackle challenges in their own way. As he puts it, “You need to teach them to be problem-solvers, rather than program them with the ‘correct’ answers.”

Study Methodology and Results

The study consisted of two small studies conducted at a summer camp in Ohio and involved a total of 60 children in third through fifth grade. In the first study, researchers divided 32 kids into two groups: one received a crash course in narrative creativity, while the other served as a comparison group. The creative thinking group was asked to consider someone in their lives with a special skill and imagine that person as their “creative friend” who could provide advice in challenging situations. This exercise, known as perspective switching, encourages looking at problems through someone else’s eyes.

Both groups were then tasked with thinking of a problem in their own lives and considering hypothetical problems. The children in the creative thinking group were specifically instructed to imagine the advice their “creative friend” would give them. The results were striking – nearly all children in the creativity group conjured up potential solutions to the problems presented, while fewer than half of the children in the comparison group did so.

In the second study, involving 28 kids, the researchers implemented a 10-hour creativity training program spread out over five days. This training not only included perspective switching but also encouraged thinking of “what if” scenarios and taking a step back to review broader goals when faced with frustration. Similar to the first study, after the training, every child was able to generate multiple plans to tackle real-life and hypothetical problems.

The Wider Impact of Creative Thinking

Child psychologist Anand Patel from Montefiore Medical Center in New York City commends the study, as it focuses on healthy children facing everyday challenges, rather than those with mental health disorders. Similar tactics are used to help children with anxiety or depression “unstick” their way of thinking, often by encouraging them to take on a different perspective. Patel explains that asking children to imagine themselves as a friend in need can help them develop empathy, allowing them to approach their own problems more effectively.

The Modern Challenges of Creative Thinking Development

While old-fashioned free play used to provide space for creative thinking, the advent of technology has changed the dynamics. Fletcher and Patel note that kids today are heavily focused on devices rather than face-to-face interactions. While kids may excel at digital tasks, these skills often fall short when applied to real-life situations. Therefore, it is now more critical than ever to help children develop creative thinking skills to navigate life successfully.

Creativity Training for All Ages

Interestingly, the creativity training program utilized in the study is not just beneficial for children. Fletcher highlights that a similar training program has been used to build resilience among U.S. Army Special Forces units. This underscores the universal importance of creative thinking, proving it to be a valuable skill that can benefit individuals of all ages and backgrounds.

Childhood Diseases


Teaching children creative thinking is crucial for their development, enabling them to effectively manage daily stressors and become more resilient problem-solvers. By fostering flexible thinking, parents and educators can equip children with skills that extend beyond academic achievement. The study conducted at Ohio State University demonstrates the positive impact of creativity training and highlights the need to prioritize creativity and problem-solving skills alongside traditional academic pursuits. As children face an increasingly complex world, nurturing their creative thinking is essential to ensure their future success and well-being.