Characteristics of creative children

Criteria for the selection of creatively able learners

There are a number of very good tests that might help in developing a rubric for distinguishing the characteristics of creative children. However, many of these types of tests are concerned with a narrow range of skills and attributes — like divergent thinking patterns; the potential for creative production; or with scoring aspects like: fluency, originality, frequency, complexity, and the like. Also, these tests may be expensive to administer and require highly trained psychometric interpreters to explain the findings.

Perhaps an easier way to determine predilection toward high creativity is to simply observe students in action, to talk with them, and to collect anecdotal data concerning certain key personality characteristics from teachers, parents and peers. By the way, parents and peers are pretty good at knowing who is creative.

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“When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: ‘Only stand out of my light.’ Perhaps someday we shall know how to heighten creativity in children and adults in exacting ways. Until then, one of the best things we can do for creative men and women is to “stand out of their light.”         John W. Gardner

Characteristics of creative children: What to look for — the short list

The following list is not meant to be all inclusive, but many of the listed indicators appear with some regularity in literature describing characteristics and differences in creative personalities.

Highly creative students may:

1. Have the ability to make unusual associations or connections between seemingly unrelated or remote ideas.

2. Have the ability to rearrange elements of thought to create new ideas or products.

3. Have a large number of ideas or solutions to problems.

4. Display intellectual playfulness, fantasize, imagine, and daydream. (see the poem Swirls on schools and daydreaming)

5. Are often concerned with adapting, improving, or modifying existing ideas, thoughts or products or the ideas or products of others.

6. Have a keen or unusual sense of humor and see humor others do not see.

7. Do not fear being different, but may still be emotionally hurt by non-acceptance. Often the importance of an idea outweighs that of peer acceptance.

8. Ask many questions at an early age – this trend generally continues past early childhood into adulthood. These are the kids that surprise others with their wonderings.

9. Frequently challenge teachers, textbook authors, and those in authority or “experts”.

10. Sometimes come up with unexpected, futuristic, bizarre, even “silly” answers or solutions.

11. Are sometimes resented by peers because of crazy or unusual ideas and their forcefulness and passion in presenting them or for pushing their ideas on others. In the context of cooperative efforts or groupings, highly creative students may get along or work better with younger or older students, or with adults.

12. When completing special or unusual projects or assignments, often show a rare capacity for originality, intense concentration, commitment to completion, and persistence. In essence may be perceived as working hard to achieve personal goals.

13. Become obsessed with completing varied projects, or exhibit unusual persistence in completing tasks. It is this obsessive need to complete a task that is so important in differentiating folks with good ideas from those who are truly creative.

Summarized and expanded by Leslie Owen Wilson 10/95 from the works of Klausmier, Renzulli, Torrance, Khetana, and Clark.

More creative behaviors:

Also check the profiles of creative adults as these tendencies often show themselves early. And remember, like creative adults, creative children may not be the easiest kids to live with.

Learn More About Creativity and Children


Also see Dabrowski’s Theories on overexcitablity and giftedness  (Kazimierz Dabrowski, 1902-1980) Dabrowski offers a very comprehensive way to look at giftedness as overexcitabilty in one or more areas —  psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, or emotional. Each aspect of overexcitabilty has its own indicators. His theories offer unique perspectives in looking at high achieving and highly creative children in new and different ways. It is one of my favorite theories of giftedness. I am also quite taken with his Theory of Positive Disintegration.

Good web resources on overexcitability:


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