5. “Cultivating Creativity in your Child”
Many of us believe that children are born with natural artistic talents, creative skills or with a good imagination. The Washington Post states that research shows that creativity is actually more dependent upon learned skill than inborn talent. That means that creativity is a skill that parents can help their kids develop.
Aha! Parenting explains that:
We can’t give people talent, but we can train the eye and the ear and the mind, and we can help our children gain access to a creative way of seeing. We can also help them gain the concentration, competence, perseverance, and optimism necessary to succeed in creative pursuits.
Fortunately, research shows that there is a path to becoming creative and that creativity can, indeed, be cultivated. In other words, creativity is more skill than inborn talent, and it is a skill parents can help their kids develop. The Greater Good Science Center suggests that parents, teachers and friends all help children develop creativity:
The space and time for creative exploration, as well as the introduction of new ideas and novel experiences, need to be protected and cultivated through reinforcement by peers, parents and teachers.
Cultivating your child’s creativity doesn’t have to be another task to add to your to-do list. The good news is that encouraging creativity is simple. Transforming your home environment and family culture into a hotbed of creativity is as easy as a few steps.
- Make time for creative pursuits
Aha! Parenting suggests that the first step is to: “preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations.” Schedule down time if you need to do this.
Once healthy limits are placed on screen time and organized activities, parents then must offer their child an environment that makes creative play easy.
- Encourage Creative expression
Most kids have an easel or colored pencils, but creativity isn’t limited to fine art and it can happen anywhere in your home. Offer your child lots of crafts supplies and the permission to make good use of them. You can include clay or playdough, a sand tray, instruments, building systems, a music player and a child-safe camera. Start by providing activities that are based on the children’s interests and ideas, and then encourage your child to explore beyond. Encourage song, music, dance, role-playing and make believe. Encourage sofa forts (not farts) and flashlight family dance parties.
Give your child the gift of permission to use your home and yard as a springboard of creativity and let go of your fear of making a mess. It’s not only important developmentally for children to experiment with manageable messes, but a surefire way to block creativity is to distract children with a focus on not making a mess. Creating the right space with the right safeguards in place should allow your child to have the creative freedom they need to focus on the creative process without distraction.
One of the most important types of creative activity for young children is creative play. Creative play is expressed when children use familiar materials in a new or unusual way, and when children engage in role-playing and imaginative play.
Dr. Scott Kaufman states in Psychology today that projecting personalities and having make-believe interactions with dolls, stuffed animals, toys, or imaginary friends is a healthy way for kids to develop social and emotional skills.
Furthermore, the Greater Good states that “dramatic pretend play with two or more children stimulates social and intellectual growth in children, which in turn affects the child’s success in school”.
- Foster a Creative Mind
Creativity isn’t just what a child does; it’s how they think. Perhaps just as important is offering your child a creative “thought” environment. The key to fostering creativity and encouraging open, creative thought with your child is creating an open-minded environment for thought.
Try turning your dinner table conversation into a free speech and free-thought zone. There are endless sources online to help you start a conversation. They key is allowing the conversation to grow in any direction – no topic should be taboo. Allow kids to be silly, to talk about politics, to ask questions and to voice their opinions, ideas and plans to change the world. Great parenting is about helping children explore their minds and placing gentle guidance around complex topics, it’s not about telling a child how to think. Resist any urge to evaluate your child’s ideas and thoughts and practice active listening. Feel free to jump in and share your ideas and thoughts and some of your creative passions.
A few last tips on how to foster creativity in your child:
- Focus on praise, process, and effort – not outcomes. What’s most important is whether your child had fun, whether she learned anything interesting, what thoughts and ideas the activity inspired and creative ideas she wants to try next.
- Avoid pointing out or reprimanding failure. Failure goes hand in hand with creativity. Kids who are afraid to fail or afraid of being judged, will resist creative thought and acts. Furthermore, a parent who is secure enough to share his failures and to giggle at some of his thoughts and ideas encourages a child to try and to express himself fearlessly.
- Celebrate your child’s self-expression and creativity. Focus on the process as well as the outcome. What’s most important is that your child had fun and wants to create again. Ask what they liked about their experience, what they noticed, and what they’d like to try next.
- Avoid controlling play. Bruno Bettelheim of The Atlantic states:
Some parents […] are not satisfied with the way their child plays. So they start telling him how he ought to use a toy, and if he continues to suit his own fancy, they “correct” him, wanting him to use the toy in accordance with its intended purpose or the way they think it ought to be played with. If they insist on such guidance, the child’s interest in the toy—and to some extent also in play in general—is apt to wane, because the project has become his parents’ and is no longer his own.
- Don’t fear a bored child. Aha! Parenting reminds us of this:
Parents often respond to kids’ boredom by providing structured activities or technological entertainment. But unstructured time challenges kids to engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create. Kids need practice with unstructured time, or they will never learn to manage it.
Fostering creativity is easy and can be a lot of fun. A fantastic tool to help parents encourage creativity in their home is to introduce their family to the Kabooter Knomes. Introducing your child and family to the magic of Kabooter Knomes will ignite your child’s imagination and set a course for endless creative play as a family. Learn more at www.kabooterknomes.com.