You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." Maya Angelou
Robots. A global workforce. Looming post-pandemic recession(s)? There are many reasons to question the prospects for your child’s future employment. As parents, we all hope to see our children grow into fulfilled and happy adults, but we also want to ensure that they will be safe and secure, and not struggling to find a job or establish a career of their choice. Academic achievement is, of course important, but beyond that, the area many employers appear to currently agree on is that many of today’s young people are hindered by a lack of life skills and creativity when they leave school. These are the kind of attributes young people are often just assumed to have rather than encouraged to learn and develop as children. So what can we do to help them acquire the life skills that will serve them well in their later life?
By life skills, we mean things like problem-solving, teamwork, communication, empathy, resilience and creative thinking. At Simply Theatre we value the development of life skills in our students very highly. We aim for Simply Theatre students to be good problem solvers, decision-makers, creative thinkers, communicators, being self-aware, empathetic, coping with emotions and dealing with stress. All of which are skills that as adults, are likely to determine our potential far more than academic prowess.
In school, an emphasis is placed on subjects in which a linear approach leads us to an answer that is either right or wrong. It is no wonder then, that as adults we tend to see problems as an obstacle standing between us and the solution. But small children see problem-solving as part of their play, and often the most fun part!
When a child engages in a creative activity such as drama, dance, art or music, they first learn to embrace constraints; they are given a particular subject to paint, a rhythm to play to in a band, a certain emotion to convey through movement or a single prop, with which to improvise a scene. In fact, it would be rather boring to be asked to “draw anything” or “improvise whatever comes into your head”! In this way, children learn to see problems as a frame around potential responses, rather than as a wall that stops them from moving forward.
Through creative activities such as drama and music, children also quickly learn that being part of a group means listening as much as talking; a play won’t work if everyone says their lines over the top of the others, and an orchestra in which musicians don’t play in time would be a cacophony. At Simply Theatre, in drama games particularly, there is no failure: improvisation means building on whatever the previous person’s suggestion was, however outlandish or seemingly disconnected, and never negating it. Children have to trust that their suggestion will be adopted and used constructively, and through this trust, they quickly gain the confidence to put forward their contributions. When children are encouraged to contribute to a group performing arts project, they can see that their bit has helped make the whole more than the sum of its parts.
By not having a right or wrong, and by giving children the confidence to express themselves freely and to incorporate willingly the expression of others, creative activities allow a child to see that there is no need to be afraid of making mistakes and that the differences between us can be a bonus and serve to create a more nuanced whole.
Children who have confidence, who are creative thinkers, able to listen and communicate, who see the benefit of working together, who are willing to “give it a go” and view problems as fun are the ones who will have the skills employers of the future will be seeking, and they will be best equipped to face the modern workplace and to take their place on the world’s political and economic stage.