In an age where technology reigns supreme and has made an advent into almost every aspect of our daily lives, parents are often at a loss on how to balance their children’s exposure to technology for better learning. However, while modern parenting evolves to accommodate virtual means of education and learning, it is also important to focus on encouraging creative and lateral thinking in children.
Lateral thinking is a theory introduced by Edward de Bono in his book New Think: The Use of Lateral Thinking which was published in 1967. In a nutshell, lateral thinking involves problem solving or reasoning through an indirect or creative approach outside of the traditional route of pure logic. In other words, it also implies the usage of one’s right brain (which is associated with creativity) in addition to the common emphasis on the usage of the left brain (which is associated with logic). Creativity as a concept is also oft-neglected by parents and teachers alike over the course of a child’s education, whereas it can be a tremendous asset to him or her in his or her later years, both in terms of problem solving and innovation.
Creativity and lateral thinking are often misconceived as being talents innately present in children which cannot be acquired or honed with practice or time. However, the reality is that these are skills which can be inculcated and developed in them over time given the right kind of training and opportunities by parents and teachers.
Some of the numerous benefits associated with creativity and lateral thinking are as follows:-
- Development of a better sense of self as well as social and emotional maturity;
- Greater confidence in tackling challenges in the classroom and outside of it;
- Increased focus and concentration;
- Better performance in academics;
- Excellence in areas of passion or aptitude.
Riddles, puzzles and games are commonly recommended as activities for encouraging lateral thinking in children, as well as every-day problem solving involving situations at home or outside. The following is a list of online resources for lateral thinking problems which can be solved jointly by children and their parents:-
- Lateral Thinking Puzzles
- Riddles, Brain Teasers
- Easy, Funny Riddles
- Tricky Puzzles
- Some More Puzzles
- Brain Boosters Across Genres
Additional materials for parents on lateral thinking and creativity include Teach Your Child How To Think by Edward de Bono, articles and talks by creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson (accessible at his website http://sirkenrobinson.com, Youtube and Tedx), and Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko.
Aside from the good old tradition of reading, many child education experts and consultants believe that creative thinking can also be honed through tools like story-telling, encouraging children to make something artistic or otherwise with their hands, playing engaging word-games or conducting impromptu activities requiring creative skills, and even letting a child observe creative behavior at home through his or her parents’ actions. Encouraging children to express themselves physically through dancing, music or other performance-based activities and exposing them to varied cultural and social experiences are also a means of boosting creativity.
Overall, children with a spirit of curiosity about the world are likely to question everything around them. Discovering or exploring the potential answers to those questions will provide a valuable learning curve at an academic and personal level to them, as well as greater confidence in their abilities. Freedom of thought and expression is therefore crucial to developing creative and lateral thinking skills.
Experts also caution parents against being over-zealous in engaging their child in the aforementioned exercises and activities lest they take away the “fun” element in learning, which can instead induce performance-anxiety in the child and prove to be counteractive to the learning process. Just as parenting involves a trial-and-error method, so do techniques for discovering methods to let a child’s creativity and thinking skills blossom. The key ultimately lies in patience and a sense of partnership between the parent and child in working towards building skills for a productive life together.