Back in May, we celebrated the inspirational story of Caine Monroy, a 9-year-old boy whose cute cardboard box arcade at his dad’s auto parts store became an Internet sensation.
Comedian Jack Black made special pilgrimages to East Los Angeles with his kids. The boy’s cardboard gadgets even received praise from NASA engineers. And this past weekend, filmmaker Nirvan Mullick, who made Caine’s story famous, launched the Global Cardboard Challenge, a call-to-action for parents everywhere to cultivate creativity in their kids.
Mullick’s video says it all:
This cardboard craft Renaissance comes at a time when experts say there is a “creativity crisis” in America.
Psychology Today magazine just reported on an alarming study by College of William and Mary professor Kyung Hee Kim, who analyzed three decades of standardized Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) given to samples of children in grades K-12. Part of the Torrance tests give participants incomplete line drawings and ask them to make them into pictures. The tests are meant to measure storytelling ability, humor, emotions and overall creativity.
Here’s the take home message from Psychology Today:
“According to Kim’s research, all aspects of creativity have declined, but the biggest decline is in the measure called Creative Elaboration, which assesses the ability to take a particular idea and expand on it in an interesting and novel way. Between 1984 and 2008, the average Elaboration score on the TTCT, for every age group from kindergarten through 12th grade, fell by more than 1 standard deviation. Stated differently, this means that more than 85% of children in 2008 scored lower on this measure than did the average child in 1984. Yikes.”
In The Washington Post, child development expert and Lesley College professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige wonders aloud if our culture’s ongoing increase in screen time (TV/computers/electronic toys, etc.) is to blame for the widely acknowledged dip in creativity. “Is technology sapping children’s creativity?” she asks.
Carlsson-Paige has street cred on inspiring creativity. She’s also the mom of actor-screenwriter Matt Damon.
Academic studies aside, the grass roots excitement and participation in last weekend’s Global Cardboard Challenge (if you haven’t watched the video above yet, you MUST) is an encouraging sign of hope for parents and nannies alike.
It doesn’t matter what the social trends are when we’re talking about informally educating our kids. Especially in the preschool years, they are mostly under our control.
We can devote more time and attention to collaborative art projects, board games and imaginative play, rather than burrowing ourselves in the other room with the television.
The creativity battle is far from lost!
What do you do to inspire creativity in kids? Tell us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.