9 Patterns of a Creative Upbringing

I am still on a Creativity Kick here on AOE and still sharing some more ideas and thoughts from sessions I attended at the Art Educators of Iowa Conference last week.  You know how it is when you attend inspiring professional development, the ideas and passion that exudes from your experience lasts for weeks after! I think I’ve re-read through my notes a dozen times (ok, I am a nerd, I’ll admit it).

So, onto the topic of today- I attended a session by Dr. Gary Gute of the University of Northern Iowa titled “The Early Lives of Highly Creative People: Are Their Patterns?”  The study he was involved in looked at the things that successfully and highly creative people had in common in their childhood. I found this session fascinating and to sum it all up for you, I’ve created a quick list.

9 Patterns found in the Early Lives of Creative People

  • Families where either lower-income or affluent. Think about this. The first group had obstacles to overcome and had to be creative in order to achieve. The latter perhaps had more opportunities or exposures to enrich their upbringing
  • Parents supported children’s aptitudes and interests and helped them explore these avenues
  • Children experienced FLOW (being absorbed in activity that consumes them) on a regular basis
  • Families spend quality time together doing activities
  • Families taught core values and set behavioral boundaries
  • Children were taught that failure was ok, and were supported. They learned to tolerate failure and pick themselves up along the way
  • Many creative people coped with difficult circumstances in their lives (related to the first bullet point)
  • Families engaged in conversation and students had good models of creative behavior from their elders
  • Creative families were either demographically or psychologically diverse.  Students were exposed to more than one framework of thinking or living, such as two cultures or languages.
Do you notice any of these trends in creative students you know or perhaps yourself? 
What idea do you find most fascinating. Let’s have a conversation!

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Nancy Foxen

    I’ve come across your blog when I was reading an article in Arts and Activities magazine. YOU are truly INSPIRATIONAL. I’m an art teacher from Iowa also. I love your blog! Thanks for sharing! You are amazing! Keep up the great work.
    Nancy Foxen

    • http://theartofeducation.wordpress.com Jessica Balsley

      Great to hear from you- and thank you! Maybe we will connect sometime, you just never know. I am always happy to meet another Iowa Teacher. Keep in touch!

  • jennyg

    I think many of these patterns are family driven. What is the role of the art teacher in providing or encouraging these areas of creativity? I’m interested and strive for the idea of flow. What have you found to be successful areas in your teaching that allow for this to happen? Many times for my younger students it is the times we have for free choice, creating whatever we come up with using paper, glue, hole punchers, stamps, tape, playing with blocks.

    • http://theartofeducation.wordpress.com Jessica Balsley

      Great questions to ponder, Jenny! Thank you for commenting. I find a am mostly a FLOW killer in my classroom because our classes are so short. I think your question may inspire a future post, but for now: I agree with you that free choice seems to make for the most quiet and engaged art classroom I have even seen. Also projects that are highly motivating are projects students have a vested interest in. Perhaps an interesting art history story that motivated them, or a really cool technique they can’t wait to try. A lot of times once students get into a project my Classroom Management gets easier and easier because students are so engaged they really don’t have time to behave poorly. I always get groans when I say it’s time to clean up. They just don’t’ get enough time to truly engage in my classroom with only 45 minutes a week! It makes me so sad.

  • Naomi

    I really like your blog and find all the information useful. I am currently in school working to get a degree as an art teacher. Thanks for all the great content!

    • http://theartofeducation.wordpress.com Jessica Balsley

      Good luck with everything, Naomi!

  • Anonymous

    I was wanting to sit in on Dr. Gute’s Workshop at the Conference. I had to choose another that I needed more. I was interested in this because myself, mother and daughter are artists. My mother’s family is a very resourceful group. A farm family of 11 children, they are all seamstresses, wood workers, iron workers and the like. Almost all of them are good with construction or creating. I am a PK-12 Art teacher and my daughter is currently attending an art school.

    It is amazing how resourceful you can be when you have limited means. I agree that you must provide multiple and open-ended experiences with kids. Putting a lower priority on keep your house perfectly clean and allowing kids to play, experiment and experience making things.

    thank you for sharing those points. I was interested in his findings.

    • http://twitter.com/AngelaDDavidson Angela D Davidson (@AngelaDDavidson)

      Oops. I intended on identifying myself on this post. I am an art teacher in the outside of the des moines area. thanks again!

  • http://www.dominicanu.com/ Masters Education Online

    Jessica! Great post! I am a new teacher and I love your blog! I find many helpful hints and find the content to be very interesting. Keep it up!