When our children enter the job market, creativity is going to be a key consideration. So how do we ensure children become (and remain) creative?
Society often views creativity as art and craft type activities; the paintings we love our children bringing home from school or nursery (but secretly dread being asked to do at home – so much mess!), the beautifully felt tipped pictures of the family, and those glue and stick pasta and glitter masterpieces. However, there is so much more to creativity than just art; think drama, music, fashion and architecture, to name but a few creative outlets.
So why is it so important for our children to be creative?
Being able to ‘think outside the box’ in a creative way is predicted to be one of the most valued elements in the jobs of the future, after all, creativity is needed to inspire innovation and original thinking. But creativity isn’t just important for your child’s future; it helps your child to think of creative solutions to everyday problems they may face now such as homework and friendship problems, as well as providing them with a relaxing and fulfilling outlet. Creative activities also allow children the opportunity to express themselves more effectively; such as expressing love in poetry or anger in a painting. Sadly, it is often the case that creative pursuits are not given as much priority as they could be in schools, as the pressures of a jam packed curriculum and not enough time to fit it all in places teachers in an impossible position.
For this reason, I believe we owe it to our children to encourage and nurture their creativity at home, as best as we can. To help you do this, here are some ideas of ways you could do this at home:
1: Provide your child with resources which support and develop their creativity. And I’m not even talking about the things you might expect, such as paper, pens, paint and scissors (although those things are certainly really important). I mean resources that make your child really think creatively: the ones that aren’t obvious or fixed on what they should be. For example, take a toy gun: it can be a toy gun. But take the good ol’ stick; it could be a stick, OR it could be a gun, a pen, a wand… you get the picture. The same can be said for dressing up clothes – a pre-made police outfit can be a police outfit, whilst a few neutral, mixed and interesting fabrics can be a police officer, a doctor or a vet. Some of my personal favourite open ended resources are: Lego WITHOUT instructions, glass beads, cardboard boxes, and wooden pegs shaped loosely like people.
2: Limit the amount of technology your child uses. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic games, apps and TV programmes out there – my favourites being Minecraft and the various drawing apps available. But I strongly believe that using too much technology dulls children’s creativity as, for the most part, there is very little creative thinking needed to watch TV or play games. Technology is often a ‘quick fix’ for children – it means they do not need to put much effort into thinking about what to do to keep themselves occupied, as in a couple of clicks that can be totally entertained. When children do this frequently, they forget how to think of anything else, and technology use becomes the go to choice, meaning the cycle continues.
3: Encourage problem solving skills. When children frequently practice solving problems and thinking of solutions, it encourages and develops their creative thought process. By problems, I don’t mean sums or behaviour problems, but situations or activities that are not necessarily straight forward, and require some thought; that is, the answer isn’t obvious, or maybe there isn’t just one answer and many options needs to be considered. This can be done at home by involving your child in figuring out real life problems, such as how to move the furniture in their bedroom around to fit the available space.
4: Allow your child to get bored. In my mind, this point goes hand in hand with point number 2. When children get bored, they have to think of something else to do, which in turn encourages them to think creatively about their available environment and resources. Think about all the random fun you made as a child when you were bored! (Read more here on supporting childhood boredom).
5: Let them get messy. If children are not exposed to a bit of mess every now and again, they will miss out on a range of experiences which promote creative development. For example, if children dig in the dirt and get muddy, this will stimulate their senses; they will smell the dirt, feel the texture of it on their hands, and notice the marks you can make in it with a stick, all of which make great inspiration for creative thinking (here’s my ever growing creative ideas Pinterest board if you want some inspiration).
6: Get them to explore just how colourful and inspiring the world is. Think of all the beautiful colours out in the world, from the beautifully orange sunset, to a colourful rainbow. The wider range of experiences a child has (especially in the outdoor environment) the broader their memories and vocabulary will be, and the more inspiration they will have to express themselves in whatever creative form they choose.
7: Provide specific praise on the creativity they have shown. When children have done something creative or impressive, it can be tempting to say phrases such as ‘well done’ or ‘great job’, with great intentions of positive reinforcement. However, these words don’t offer your child any feedback on what it is that they have done well. Instead, you could try saying things like ‘wow, I love that you used such a wide range of colours’ or ‘I really liked the vibrant words you used in your story’. This lets them know exactly what they have done well, and helps them learn to reflect on their skills.
8: Give them time and space to be creative. With the best will in the world, if you do not allow your child to have uninterrupted moments to just play and be creative, they will never have the chance to practice these skills and they will eventually fade. Sometimes, I feel that society makes you feel as if you are failing as a parent if you don’t have a jam-packed schedule for your child, including football practice, gymnastics, swimming, French lessons… but I truly believe down time is so important for your child’s development and should also be highly valued.
9: Encourage their imagination by using creative talk. Pondering out loud has lots of benefits for your child, such as encouraging their sense of curiosity and exploration. Asking questions such as ‘I wonder why…’ or ‘what do you think would happen if…’ (even if you already know the answer) encourages your child to thoughtfully reflect and reason about the ways of the world, which supports creative development.
10: Give them choices. Children who are given choices, such as how to carry out tasks or the way they complete something, develop a stronger creative and problem solving skills. This is because children learn they are capable of making choices, and the confidence to believe that they can think of a way to solve their problems creatively. Asking children questions like ‘how do you want to tackle this?’ or ‘what do you think will work best?’ empowers them to think of creative solutions to challenges they face in everyday life.
I hope this gave you some helpful ideas on how to nurture your child’s creativity. Let me know how you get on with raising your creative little ones 🙂
Love, Heather x
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