Posted on May 15th 2019
If you’ve ever been told that creativity is a hit and miss trait that some children simply aren’t born with, it’s time to rethink your approach to encouraging your own child’s creative thinking. All children have an instinctive creative and innovative spark in them! It can help them establish necessary social and emotional skills, perform better in their education, and, eventually, grow into more confident, resourceful adults. But the deciding factor on whether or not they will carry that spark with them into their adult lives largely depends upon you. Creativity can be nurtured or stifled at a young age as they develop fundamental skills and explore imaginative thinking for the first time, and this growth or suppression begins in your home and parenting style. Though this sounds like a daunting task, promoting a love of imagination is easier than you may think. Here are some ways to inspire creativity in your children, brought to you by your friends at Romp n' Roll.
Give Them the Space and the Supplies
Children can’t be creative if they don’t have the space for it in your home. This doesn’t mean you have to make room for a big deluxe playroom; it could be as simple as a corner of your living room or a spot in their bedroom. All they need is a space dedicated especially for them to flex their creative muscles. Stock it with plenty of supplies they can use to build, design, experiment, and play. Paint, paper, glue, markers, crayons, cotton balls, chalk, sponges, fabric scraps, glitter, old clothes, toys, card stock, pom poms, feathers, and Play-Doh are just a few examples of tools that can inspire a wealth of imagination in your child.
Allow for Free Time
Just like they need space for creativity, children also need unstructured time to explore creative activities in the first place. Let your child have a few hours all to themselves without scheduled plans and/or your direction. They can let loose, have fun, and immerse themselves in imaginative play driven by themselves.
Children have an innate ability and affinity for creativity, but in order to fully explore their creativity they must be given a sense of freedom. Micromanaging, or “helicopter-parenting”, your child is severely damaging to their creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Though young children unmistakably need the close guidance and protection of parents, there’s still the possibility for too much of a good thing. Making mistakes and embracing unique ideas is essential for positive growth in children. Instead of trying to solve it for them, give your child the chance to work through deeper-thinking situations themselves and learn through trial and error. As they grow older, they’ll face more serious challenges armed with the tools to find ingenuitive solutions instead of deferring to you. You should also avoid putting constraints on their imagination and interests. It can be easy to believe you know what’s best for your child, but forcing them to “color inside the lines” or participate in activities they’re not enthusiastic about will quickly drain that innate quality of creativity. It’s beautiful that so many parents today are invested in their children’s lives, but there comes a point where you have to acknowledge that you’re doing more harm than good. Help them to make their own choices and use their imagination the way they want!
Don't Reward Creativity
Yes, this seems contradictory, but it’s surprisingly important to know the distinction between celebrating and encouraging creativity and rewarding it. Positively supporting your children for their originality and supporting them in their interests are incredibly valuable facets of raising them to be imaginative and innovative individuals. Rewarding them for their creativity, however, is actually detrimental to this growing creative process. Giving unnecessary incentives (such as toys, treats, or over-the-top praise) in order to induce or force them into creative thoughts, actions, or interests will only interfere with your child’s genuine interest and motivation. Of course, an occasional present to show your support of their passions is ok. The problem comes in the repeated use of rewards. Your child should be allowed to explore their creativity and develop an interest in activities they truly enjoy on their own without swaying influence.
Help Them Pursue Passions
Whether it’s art, writing, math, science, or cooking, pay attention to the activities and subjects your child approaches with enthusiasm. If they’re passionate about pursuing it further, give them the support to do so! Provide them with the materials they may need to succeed or participate, encourage them to continue to develop their talents, and celebrate their accomplishments and milestones with them. If they love to draw, make sure they have the materials to practice and access to teaching resources; if they love to dance, enroll them in a dancing class that they can progress in; if they love science, introduce them early to books, movies, videos, or mentors that will help them learn more about the subject. Though, as we said above, unnecessarily rewarding your child has many pitfalls, supporting them with resources and emotional support is a simple yet essential way to encourage their evolving creativity and exposure to creative outlets.
Play with Them
Taking the time to play with your child is the perfect way to help cultivate their imagination while simultaneously giving you the opportunity to have fun together. Just make sure to let them take the lead! Follow alongside them in pretending to be superheroes, fight dragons, explore an enchanted forest (aka your backyard), or whatever else they come up with. Teach them to create stories and explore their imagination. As they do, they’ll find opportunities to solve problems using imaginative strategies and thinking skills that can be applied later on in their lives.
Give Feedback, Not Criticism
Not everything a child creates is necessarily a masterpiece. it’s still a project that they’ve invested time and effort into, and harsh criticism of it likely won’t be well-received. Criticism is something that your child will need to learn to deal with eventually, but the lesson shouldn’t come from their parents regarding something they’ve lovingly created. You are your child’s biggest advocate in their eyes. They likely want to hear what you think of their work, but they’ll take into serious consideration anything you tell them, so don’t leave them feeling ashamed of what they were so proud to show you. Instead, give them positive feedback. Always find something good to say about their creation without critiquing the content. Celebrate their hard work, draw attention to your favorite part of it is, and tell them how proud you are of them. Give your child room to make mistakes and allow them to grow in that unrestricted space without the pressure of perfection.