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Kathryn P Haydon, MSc, is an award-winning educator and the founder of Sparkitivity and Ignite Creative Learning Studio. She works with teachers to integrate rigorous creative thinking and problem-solving skills throughout academic curriculum—to personalize learning, improve collaboration, and deepen engagement. Kathryn has written and spoken widely on academic creativity and the secret strengths of outlier learners. She is the author of The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative, No Matter Where You Work, and co-author of Creativity for Everybody (2015) and Discovering and Developing Talents in Spanish-Speaking Students (2012). She has written several chapters in edited volumes and hundreds of articles that have appeared in The Washington Post, Psychology Today, and Penguin’s Brightly. She earned her BA in Spanish literature and economics at Northwestern University, and her MSc in creativity and change leadership at the State University of New York. Please visit Kathryn at

How can we help children be more creative and innovative?

All of us as children start as the equivalent of creative geniuses. This has been proven by research as early as the 1960s and 1970s. Then they are taught to conform, especially in school, and their creative genius in many cases is suppressed. However, many people resist this and carry on with their creative thinking.

In school, this can often be noticed in daydreamers, rebels, or class clowns. We can avoid this outcome if we as adults truly look for and nurture creative strengths. I’ve developed a free tool: the Sparkitivity Creative Strengths Spotter that helps people do this very easily.

I teach teachers and parents to spot creative strengths and I believe this is one of the most important things that I do professionally. The more we understand creative strengths, the more we can support them in kids and help kids grow to understand themselves and to make their highest and best contributions to the world. When kids know about their creative strengths, they have a lot less anxiety and self-doubt.

How did you come up with the idea of the book ‘Creativity for Everybody’?

I came up with this idea when I was in graduate school getting my Master of Science in Creativity and Change Leadership. My experience in grad school was so enlightening and I wanted to convey to others the absolutely life-changing ideas.

Creativity for Everybody is a book designed to very simply layout this science so a curious person could read it in an hour or two, rather than laboring over dull but fascinating academic articles. My partnership with fellow student and graphic designer Jane Harvey was paramount to meeting this goal. Jane was able to translate concepts into visuals.

You say in your book that not only everyone is creative, but we can improve our creativity by practicing it. Can you talk more about this?

We all start on the creative genius level. Those who refuse to let their creative thinking be dulled simply practice creative thinking more than the rest of us. In school, they often do this in the form of daydreaming, being a rebel, or class clown. All of these activities, while not useful in school and often punished, actually keep creative thinking in tip-top shape. The best is when teachers are able to find ways to channel student creativity into “sanctioned” activities. This article shares a story about a teacher doing that.

The key to practicing creativity is to DOING creative thinking. I send lots of tips in a weekly Spark Report email on how to do this, and also my follow-up book, The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative No Matter Where You Work, is more of a how-to manual for practicing and applying creativity.

“New and different things can cause discomfort to others.” What are the challenges this discomfort brings and how can we overcome them?

We all want to feel like we belong, but when we are different or propose a different idea that people aren’t used to, it can cause us to feel like we are outside of the group. I believe it is important to practice being ok with standing alone with an idea, or alone with one’s own beliefs or standards. Those who have developed the courage to stand alone, even in the face of criticism, are those who change the world. The Wright Brothers were called crazy imbeciles for making “their flying machines.” But they stood alone, carried on, and successfully built and flew planes!

Can you talk about the importance of allowing time for thinking and dreaming in the creative process?

Especially now when we have access to entertainment and connection 24/7/365, we MUST make time to be alone, to be quiet with nature, to go for walks, to think without being connected. In the science of creativity, this is often called “incubation time.” It’s when you are passively perhaps thinking about a challenge or an idea while you’re doing something else--taking a walk and taking a shower are common ones. You aren’t being distracted by focused inputs and you are allowing your mind to wander. Often we have our best ideas in this state of mind.

What is the connection between innovation and failure and making mistakes?

This is connected to the willingness to stand alone with a new idea. Not everybody is willing to risk being on the outside, not to mention time or money, to pursue an “unproven” idea. But that’s where every new invention, theory, or discovery began—as something unproven.

People we take for granted today, like Einstein, were reviled in their day. They were called stupid or misguided or idiotic. So, in order to get past the obvious or “what’s always been done” we have to be willing to make a mistake and that includes a mistake in judgment. “Oh, I wanted to build a rocket and I tried, but you were right, critics, it just couldn’t be done by a private company.” This is a statement that Elon Musk will never have to say, but he had to be willing to say it by taking on his huge and seemingly impossible projects.

For kids, my absolute favorite book that helps overcome perfectionism, in general, is Mistakes that Worked by Charlotte Foltz Jones. Here’s an article I wrote about helping kids overcome perfectionism (a big blocker to a willingness to making mistakes).

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