My daughter just turned two and is a whirl of constant motion -- all day long she's a hurricane of dives, tumbles, and wild arm flaps. It's adorable (if sometimes exhausting), but according to new research all that movement might not just be burning off endless toddler energy.

It could also be boosting the creativity of her little brain. And by encouraging it, I could help her become even more creative.

More movement = more creativity

That's the useful insight of a series of small but intriguing studies carried out in the UK that recently published in the journal Psychological Science. To come to their findings the research team asked 78 kids aged nine to eleven to list as many uses as they could think of for common household items like a tin can or newspaper (a standard test of creativity in psychological research).

They found that the more the children gestured, the more creative ideas they came up with. Why? "Gesturing may allow us to explore the properties of the items -- for example, how the item could be held, its size, its shape, etc. -- and doing so can trigger ideas for creative uses," York University psychologist and study co-author Elizabeth Kirk explained

How parents can put these findings to use

That's fascinating (and might also comfort parents worn out just by watching their kids' endless activity), but do these findings suggest anything parents can practically do to increase their kids' creativity? Yup, says the research team.

For a follow-up experiment the researchers had children perform the same task, but also asked some of them to use their hands to show how they could use the object. Encouraging the kids to gesture increased both how much they moved and how many novel ideas they came up with. More movement equaled more creative ideas.

That means you shouldn't just allow your kids to behave like whirling dervishes. Instead, consider actively prompting them to move around more when they're trying to solve puzzles or some up with ideas to boost their already impressive natural creativity.

It's a takeaway that's dead simple for parents (and even perhaps teachers) to put into practice. "Asking children to move their hands while they think can help them tap into novel ideas. Children should be encouraged to think with their hands," the researchers conclude.

Are your kids a whirl of constant activity like mine? Have you noticed a link between their movement and creativity?

Published on: Jan 4, 2017