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Can Creativity Be Nurtured?

If you read the headline of this column again, you'll notice that I used "creativity" rather than "giftedness" or "genius." I emphasize that because I believe the three words are not interchangeable ("How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off," The New York Times, Jan. 31).  

Despite years of research, we still do not know why some children are gifted or genius.  Yes, we can identify them after the fact.  But can anyone explain why Mozart was able to compose his original scores so early in life?  So rather than speculate about these few individuals, I think it's far more productive to focus on creative children.  They may not make original contributions in the same way, but they certainly distinguish themselves from their peers.

Engaged parents can often spot interests that their children manifest by questions or by play. Rather than write these off, parents should attempt to provide opportunities for further exploration by guiding them toward areas that they believe are worthwhile.  For example, children who display an early interest in animals could become tomorrow's veterinarians.  Parental values unavoidably are involved in guiding their offspring, but the key is to pay attention to what children are saying or doing.

When I was quite young, my father thought I should become a doctor because I had a "deep feeling for people."  But I never could stand the sight of blood, becoming instead a high-school teacher.  He was on the right track, but with the wrong profession.  I'm sure that other children display a proclivity for something equally worthwhile pursuing.  If parents recognize whatever it is, their children will be likely to become creative to the best of their abilities.   

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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