Characteristics of creative children

Charateristics 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. Many of these types of tests are concerned with a narrow range of skills and attributes — divergent thinking patterns; the potential for creative production; or with scoring aspects of thinking like: fluency, originality, frequency, complexity, and the like. But these tests may be expensive to administer and require highly trained psychometric interpreters to explain the findings.

Most researchers studying this topic agree that perceptions of creativity revolve around the frequency and easy display of many of the above thinking and processing traits. However, they also emphasize that highly creative people also possess the ability to problem solve — that is to easily generate viable solutions by applying knowledge and imagination in a given situation. As well, creative people are producers of something that is valued or has worth to others. Both products and problem solutions are not only novel and useful, but often surprising or non-obvious to others.

While taking all of these things into consideration, with children perhaps an easier way to determine predilection toward high creativity is to simply observe students/children in action, to talk with them about how they think. imagine, and solve problems. Collecting and examining anecdotal data concerning certain key personality characteristics from teachers, parents and peers can also be very helpful in recognizing highly creative children. (By the way, parents and peers are pretty good at knowing which kids are creative!)

kids orange

“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 authors Klausmier, Renzulli, Torrance, Khetana, and Clark.

More creative behaviors:

Be sure to 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:

Web Resources:


*****Five Star Winners! Some extraordinary kids’ picture books on exploring and finding creativity, and on creative ways to solve problems.  Check out some of these sample titles:
Andrea Beaty and David Roberts –

Karen Beaumont – Shoe-la-la

Ben Clanton – Something extraordinary

Drew Daywalt – The day the crayons quit

Paul Fleischman –Westlandia

Jim La Marche – The Raft

Patrick McDonnell – Art

Alice McLerran – Roxaboxen

Paul and Peter Reynolds – Going places


Peter Reynolds –

Barnie Saltzberg – Beautiful Oops!

Ashley Spires – The most magnificent thing

David Wiesner –

Kobe Yamada – What Do You Do With
an Idea?

David Santat – The Adventures of Beekle – The Unimaginary Friend  – Caldecott Winner



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