Kids’ creativity is under threat, here’s what business and brands need to do about it

Hannah March says we must not let the cost of living crisis push the need for a creative education down the agenda

Hannah March

Chief Growth Officer Fold7


As a mum, someone working in a creative industry and an unashamed ‘child at heart’, I strive to encourage my two young boys to be creative, as much as possible. But sometimes it feels tough. With a demanding job, often I don’t have the time or the headspace to keep them away from their screens (cue mum guilt).

The fact is that creative kids turn into creative adults, and boy do we need more of those. A recent report by The Advertising Association showed that since 2018 we have lost 14% of our workforce. That is huge. And it’s not just a problem for us but across the creative industries as a whole. We are slowly losing our nation's second biggest export, and at Fold7, we felt a responsibility to take a holistic look at the problem before our talent pipeline dries up for good.

The fact is that creative kids turn into creative adults, and boy do we need more of those.

Hannah March, Chief Growth Officer, Fold7

We believe the UK’s creativity crisis will continue for generations to come unless radical action is taken. But while we knew the Tory party’s defunding of arts subjects over the past decade was stymying the creative development of young children in this country at school, we didn’t have a picture of what the cost of living crisis was doing to creativity at home.

So we surveyed 1000 parents around the country to gauge how inflationary pressures and tightening household budgets are impacting children’s creativity. The results make for depressing reading and serve as a stark warning to the creative sector.

Almost 50% of parents say the cost of living has had a negative impact on their children’s creativity at home.

Hannah March, Chief Growth Officer, Fold7

We found that almost 50% of parents say the cost of living has had a negative impact on their children’s creativity at home. Most parents (57%) have taken their children to fewer attractions or activities that encourage creativity since the CoL crisis hit, and 47% have bought fewer materials for their children to use to be creative at home.

Parents want their kids to engage in creative activities but they simply don’t have the means. One parent we surveyed said: “I haven't got any money to buy [my children] supplies to make things or to pay for extracurricular activities so they end up watching TV or playing video games.” Another said: “My child really wants to attend an after-school art club and sewing but we just cannot afford it. School also struggles to pay for art materials and is forever raising funds.”

We’re 96% more creative as kids than we are as adults, according to a NASA study. If kids aren’t supported when their imaginations are at the peak of their powers then, as they grow up, their creative and problem-solving abilities will diminish even further.

One encouraging finding from our research was that, despite the government's attack on the arts in favour of STEM subjects, 60% of the parents we surveyed believe a career in the creative industries is a good aspiration.

However, the huge discrepancies we saw in the situation for those on average and lower incomes vs those on higher incomes, means only the very privileged few will be able to opt for a creative career. Businesses in the creative sphere need to help parents support and encourage their children’s creative development from an early age, not just at secondary school, when paths have often already been forged away from creative endeavours.

That’s what we’re trying to do at Fold7 by launching a children’s book as part of a campaign to empower school kids across the UK to see creativity as a valuable force. Proceeds from the sale of our book, ‘Foxes Don’t Paint’, will go to the Create, the UK’s leading charity enhancing wellbeing for children in disadvantaged communities through access to creativity. We have also donated free copies to inner-city primary schools, taking our fox on a road show, doing readings at local schools as well as talking to children about the importance of creativity.

In a bid to tackle the industry’s talent crisis, Adland has been boosting outreach to secondary schools through important charities like Speakers For Schools and programmes like the IPA’s Advertising Unlocked. But we need to reach children much earlier, and do much more to support primary-age kids to develop their creative powers.

The time to act is now. If we let creativity die, not only will this have a devastating impact on our sector, society, business and the economy, but the world will be a much duller place.

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