Perhaps coding is not the most obvious association parents and educators make when they think of training creativity. But it should be. Here is how coding in early childhood trains a child’s brain to work and think creatively and how that plays itself out in other disciplines.
Before we get into how coding in early childhood fosters creativity, we first have to establish a fact most of us aren’t well-aware of. For the longest time, we used to think (because we were told to) of creativity as a given–-a set of abilities one is either born with or without, something they possess or don’t. People still tend to describe themselves as either creative or uncreative, as if creativity was a polar spectrum and where we fell on it was only determined by the stars or fate, not anything we did. As you might have already realized from what we’re getting at, this idea is false. Creativity is something you can absolutely learn.
But what is creativity?
In the 1970s a psychology professor from UC Berkeley, Donald Mackinnon, developed the theory of creativity being a multi-faceted phenomenon that consists of at least four dimensions: 1. The creative process, 2. The creative product, 3. The creative person, 4. The creative situation.
To start, Mackinnon describes the creative process as any other probing situation. One identifies a problem, creates a concentrated effort to try and solve it, but then withdraws from the problem to get a bit of mind rest. And after that, the magical eureka moment occurs. In other words, by putting our mind to rest and unburdening it of our problem, we can expect a solution to appear as if by magic. But it’s not magic, it’s your brain working subconsciously on things that cannot be worked out consciously with pressure and effort; linking together connections we wouldn’t be able to make under fervent concentration. After that, this idea or solution is tested to see whether it works well with the problem. (Already, we hope you can see a pattern here––one that starkly resembles the kind of probing when looking for a coding solution.)
But creativity is not just about the process, there are three more steps. What are those?
The creative product is the second dimension. This can be absolutely anything––a work of art, science, a theory, or a man-made idea. The only things that the product has to be are: novel (original), adaptive to reality, producable, aesthetically pleasing, and lastly, it has to change the paradigm in which it was created.
Creativity, therefore, isn’t just about being able to imagine things (despite the popular belief) but to be able to bring them alive. Mackinnon admits that people typically distinguish between artistic and scientific creativity. The criteria he describes are actually easier to be met with the second, scientific, type. Artistic products reflect the artist’s inner state, but a scientific product fulfills all of the above. This is your cue to once and for all forego the thought that scientific endeavors aren’t creative.
Then, there comes the creative person, the third dimension. This is where things might get tricky, you’d think. What if one simply isn’t a creative person at all? But to be creative, one doesn’t need a special talent. A creative person is usually reasonably intelligent, independent thinking (we’ve already described how coding fosters independent thinking), observing, curious, and open to new ideas. Simply put, they seek a deeper reality beneath what can be seen by the eye.
Hence, the last dimension (a creative situation) is simple – it might be anything that requires a new solution.
Now, let’s take a better look at creative thinking. How do we train it then, if it is not a talent? And what is it, then? We’ll let you in on the secret––it’s a way of operating. Specifically, of switching between the focused and the diffuse mode of our brains. You can be an amazingly intelligent analyst, but still, lack a creative spark. You can also be a talented artist whose work amazes masses, and yet, still lag behind in creative problem-solving. Creativity is when you are able to switch effectively between these two spheres of your brain, not when you are able to explore just one of them. Let’s take a closer look at the modes.
The focused mode is what you operate in when you get things done, work in highly productive targeted sessions, concentrating on the matter at hand, and highly attentive to accomplish a task. While in the focused mode, we zoom in and focus our attention purely on specific problems to solve or things to learn. It’s tense, and sometimes not creative.
The diffuse mode, on the other hand, is less purposeful and more contemplative, looking at the big picture. Because we’re not rushing while we’re in it, we can take the time to create without purpose, to probe, to explore. We need to experience the diffuse mode in order to look at things from a different, new perspective, and we need it to take that break that Mackinnon described by stepping away from the problem. It’s only once we’ve combined the two that we can really speak of creativity.
First, we work diligently on a given problem we’re trying to solve. Then, we step back, explore, probe, play around, even try out something else entirely just to give our mind new stimuli and rest. And then––hooray! An idea. A brand new idea. We then test that idea in close mode (clear purpose in mind, no distraction, driven) and if we’re lucky, it works. This is how a creative solution is born.
Coming back to learning how to code in early childhood – if you’re familiar with its philosophy and with our previous blog posts on educational methods, you might already know where we’re headed and how exactly coding corresponds to the process we’ve outlined above. Switching between an explorative and concentrated mode of working is the absolute bread and butter of creating functional code and then testing it repeatedly until it’s perfectly functional. Probing, exploring, experimenting with the unknown, failing, trying again, and again, it’s what STEM tools like Robo Wunderkind actively encourage, whether at home or in the classroom.
Not only that. Creativity, through coding, further encourages the following abilities.
1. Kids coding in early childhood develop their Design Thinking fast
The creative process described by Mackinnon is closely related to design thinking, a methodological problem-solving approach, which leads to creating functional and aesthetically pleasing solutions that people will love to use. Read more about it in one of our older blog posts. What’s more, after perfecting the ability to think and work creatively, design thinking can be applied to almost any problem-solving sphere of life, both practical and theoretical.
2. The desire to create
Coding is essentially finding solutions to problems, but by doing so, one also creates novel technology, thus gains a sense of empowerment as a bonus. Creative coding endeavors thus empower children to become producers and not just mere consumers of technology. With technology becoming more participative, interactive, and code becoming more open-source by the day, the yearning to participate on its creative side has huge positive implications for your children’s and pupils’ future career choices.
3. Avoiding boredom
Children get bored easily when performing repetitive tasks (who could blame them?). The magic of coding is that no task is exactly the same and every challenge is, in some way, new. Thus, the desire to look for original creative solutions never ceases. In fact, with continuous training, creative solution-finding becomes as natural as to children drawing with crayons. Coding in early childhood actively trains the switching between modes and makes it easier to apply in other domains. A STEM tool like Robo Wunderkind is therefore not something children will get bored of the same way they might get tired of a plush toy or simple one-dimensional toy.
As F.R. David once put it, words don’t come easy. At least, not to everyone. Some children are shy, others might have trouble expressing their thoughts succinctly when they’re still small, and learning to overcome these barriers takes time and practice. Thankfully, there are other ways to creatively express oneself than by speaking. Introducing your children to coding in their early childhood is one of such ways. As code progresses to be more complex, the results slowly become more awe-inspiring. A talking robot, a functional kitchen tool, an animal detective––just take a look at our Instagram feed to see what children are able to create with a few color-coded modular building blocks and interactive apps!
4. Coding in early childhood helps kids to develop their interests
In elementary school, children seldom have a good idea of what they want to be once they grow up. While we’re not suggesting that they will find this out during their very first play session with Robo Wunderkind, what coding in general does is allow them to use their creativity in unprecedented ways. They want to work more with code and art? Perfectly possible. They’d like to build complex constructions operated by code? No problem. How about an interactive robot that feeds their pets? Easily achieved. Coding is nothing else than a creative outlet. Through it, children can discover what creative aspect calls to them, and pursue it fearlessly.
So, to sum things up, the next time a child tells you they’re not a creative person, just tell them––get into coding! They might act a little surprised, but trust us, they will enjoy the process and will unleash their creative side in the process. Visit our Home Page to learn more about how Robo Wunderkind fosters kids’ creative abilities while playing and learning to code.