12 Most Loving Ways to Spark Creativity in your Child

12 Most Loving Ways to Spark Creativity in your Child

It is said that kids are naturally creative. That may be true, but there are many ways to stimulate and encourage creativity in our children.

The key is to pay attention and take advantage of every chance to give your kids the opportunities they need to fulfill their creative impulses. This can be as simple as singing songs together, surrounding them with creative toys and activities, or just telling stories at bedtime.

Three of us: Bruce Sallan, Peg Fitzpatrick, and Paul Biedermann, put our heads as well as years of parenting experience together to bring you the 12 Most loving ways we have each sparked creativity in our kids:

Thoughts from Bruce Sallanreading to children, children's books, storybooks

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
Maya Angelou

1. Read to your kids

Yes, that seems simple and yes, we all have good intentions. But, do this for them and for you. Among so many books, I read literally ALL of the first three Harry Potter books to my boys. This was when these books first came out. It was a journey of joy. Both my boys began spontaneously reading in Kindergarten. No one knows for sure if my reading helped that or not, but I know without a doubt that it instilled in them a love of the written word. And, that love can only inspire creativity.

2. Go on family field trips

The schools have their field trips, your family should have yours. And not just to amusement parks. Go to interesting places like an Army base, a wind farm, non-traditional/interesting museums, anything “nature”, and be creative in your choices. When and if you can, take regular family trips to places like the Grand Canyon and other national wonders. Expose them to other cultures. Go to food festivals, farmer’s markets, and concerts of any kind.

3. Build something together

Okay, I will admit I can barely screw in a light bulb, but one of my most precious memories was helping my younger son complete a difficult Lego project. He stayed up for hours and came into my room, bawling his eyes out over his inability to figure it out and complete it. I was very involved in a work project at the time. It was a pivotal moment as I chose to stop my work and spend QUANTITY time with my son when he needed me, which was then. We finished the Lego. He and I were exhausted. It was awesome.

4. Plant something and watch it grow

Again, it is the simple things that can often stir the emotions and bring out the creative. Plant a garden of herbs and vegetables. Plant some fruit trees. Take care of them together with your kid(s). Watch something natural grow. Learn from it, grow from it, create life.

child visiting art museum, children’s artThoughts from Peggy Fitzpatrick

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”
Albert Einstein

5. Go to art galleries and museums

A cultural feast of visual inspiration at the art galleries will generate conversations and stimulate braincell growth. It is amazing to discuss art with children as their open and inquiring minds think of things that adults might miss or not share. Pureness of thought regarding color, shape and topic expand everyone’s horizons. Museums are chock-full of tactile experiences and adventures. Science is best learned hands-on and the child-sized activities grow as they do, making it an activity that can be enjoyed for years.

6. Play games together

Dinner time is the perfect place to not only talk but LEARN! My family has played such games as The Around the World Speaking Game, Multiplication and States and Capitals, as well as alphabet games and more. They are all older now and still enjoy them when we have down time. The Around the World Speaking game consisted of taking turns saying words & their meanings from other languages. We have used Latin, German, Spanish, Japanese, French, Chinese and Russian that I can remember; never big phrases or sentences but we all learned a lot and had fun!

7. Take advantage of extracurricular school activities

My most reluctant math child greatly enjoyed an extra math program throughout Middle School taught by an incredible teacher. He chose the math club and loved it! Have your children take advantage of reading programs through the library, foreign language clubs and my favorite… theater! Most schools produce plays and musicals starting in Middle School. If you have a shy child, encourage them to help with set design or be a techie backstage. Working with a group on a production is a wonderful bonding experience.

8. Do creative things yourself

Your children learn their best and most lasting lessons from you by watching and observing what you do, and not always from what you talk to them about. Let your own creativity inspire your children. Include them in paint projects, make cookies and let them have a corner all their own in your craft room. Children model behaviors from their families and digest the daily family activities. Give them the pleasure of not only seeing you engage in creative things but include them for an extra bonus to you and to them.

Thoughts from Paul Biedermanndoodling, drawing, kids pictures, creative kids

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Pablo Picasso

9. Draw together

Watching your child draw and praising the result is one thing, but actually getting down on the floor and drawing with them is what really gets the creative fun juices flowing! We also like to turn drawing into a game — we play one that was invented by the surrealists back in the day, where you fold a piece of paper accordion-style so it is segmented into different sections. One person draws on the top section, letting just a tiny hint of the drawing carry over to the next section below. Once the first section is completed, it is folded over out of view so the next person can draw on their section. This continues until the page is completed and then the final drawing is revealed — we are always amazed at how different each section is, yet how it all kind of oddly hangs together. Very creative and very surreal!

10. Expose your kids to great music

Purchase a keyboard when your kids are very young and it might just become a natural extension of themselves someday. My younger son can’t help but tickle the ivories in his own unique way every time he passes our piano, even though he never had much interest in taking formal lessons. Another great thing to do is make custom playlists of your favorite songs. I made several CDs of the best pop music I heard in my life and it was great to play this music on long family drives. I did this back when Napster was in its infancy — not only did it teach them about the music that came before all the more current stuff, it took me back to my own childhood when those songs played on Top 40 AM radio. This helped me relate better to my kids as they lived through the same age. But as they got older, the situation reversed: now they make play lists for their parents to stay current!

11. One word: Lego

And just the blocks, not the fancy kits with all the directions and robotics and stuff. Buy lots of Lego, have it around, then fiddle with it your entire life. I think it’s incredibly, creatively challenging to make something from nothing which is why I prefer the plain blocks. It makes you think and evolve an idea into something bigger and better than you ever imagined at the start. To me, that’s a lot more interesting than following directions to realize a certain predetermined object as pictured on the outside of a box. I started playing with it as a five year old when my family lived in Europe for a year, then drifted away from it for a few years when I was older. Once I had kids of my own, Lego came back with a vengeance and it hasn’t left since. It’s amazing stuff to spark creativity in just about anyone!

12. Teach your kids to “see”

Look at things together — expose your children to well designed images and products, tactile papers, fun die cuts, etc. Study the best storybooks — wonderful illustrators such as Maurice Sendak, Chris Van Allsburg, and Richard Maguire to name a few. Ask them to think critically while watching movies, looking at how certain scenes establish a certain mood or lead you to think a particular thought. While driving through the countryside, point out interesting cloud formations and imagine other fantastical scenes, or simply take note of how the light strikes a building in an interesting way. All of these things are teaching opportunities to notice things, appreciate them and imagine possibilities. See!

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t “try” to do things. You simply ‘must’ do things.”
Ray Bradbury

There are many ways to stoke the creative spark in our kids, and these offer just a few ideas. Children are different, and what stimulates one child won’t work for another.

Sometimes the hardest part is letting go of our parental instincts — rather than telling our kids what we think is best for them based on where we think their talents lie, we should instead go with their individual interests and expose them to the broadest variety of experiences possible. If they aren’t interested in what they are doing, they won’t devote the time to becoming better. The more excited they are about something, the more likely it will fuel a passion and allow creativity into their lives, whatever it may be.

How have you helped your child grow into a more creative person? Do you have any special family activities that you’d like to share? We’d like to know.

Featured image courtesy of Repoort licensed via Creative Commons. Other images courtesy of Thiru Murugan, dospaz, and plindberg also licensed via Creative Commons.

Bruce Sallan

http://BruceSallan.com

Bruce gave up a quarter century career in showbiz to become a stay-at-home-dad. Those experiences fueled his desire to advocate on behalf of dads, the last remaining group it seemed everyone could disparage with impunity. He began writing a column, “A Dad’s Point-of-View” which is now carried in over 100 newspapers and web sites. Bruce’s first book, A Dad’s Point-of-View: We ARE Half the Equation is available at Amazon, iTunes, BN.com, and the store at BruceSallan.com. “The Bruce Sallan Show - A Dad’s Point-of-View,” Bruce’s one-hour radio show, is available anytime, via live stream, or to download for free on the Radio Show Page at BruceSallan.com. Find Bruce on Facebook by joining his A Dad’s Point-of-View Page. You can also follow Bruce at Twitter. Bruce hosts a TweetChat called #DadChat each Thursday from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m., PST.

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33 comments
sidblahblah
sidblahblah

What can really help children explore their creativity are toys that allow creative choices. Open-ended play and pretend play present children with options that let them use their imaginations. Our site focuses on child creativity and provides lots of articles on the subject. We feature only open-ended toys like building blocks, puppets, musical toys and art supplies. We carry very few games and puzzles, because they generally have only one outcome, winning.

Sid Berger

The Creativity Institute. http://www.creativityinstitute.com

CommprofWeberd
CommprofWeberd

Did you actually do all this stuff with your kids?  Bravo!

AliRichards15
AliRichards15

Great post. I guess my top three are reading to my kids (we read Harry Potter on holiday every year, so on a beach in Corfu, a villa in Spain and by a pool in Italy), art galleries with kids are very special too and lastly music. I have been twice to Glastonbury with mine and I can recommend live music in every way. Fabulous stuff! :)

dbvickery
dbvickery

Bruce - we did #1 so long that I still read to my high school senior last year (and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - and Scarlet Letter - are tough reads ;))

Peggy - We loved the museum, and they have become so interactive nowadays.

Paul - We exposed our kids to all genres of music, and they love it. They also played piano for several years, and one is still a vocalist. Now they have a love of music from just about every genre/decade, and they are introducing US to music.

Mimzy Wimzy
Mimzy Wimzy

We have an 8 week old granddaughter. My 18 yr old son loves to sit & read to his niece. I plan to start taking her to museums & such. She may be to young to understand it now but it will become a part of her life as she grows.

As for the legos... those things are deadly on bare feet in the middle of the night! LOL

#commenthour

JodiOkun
JodiOkun

As an empty nester now...I miss all the 12 Most items I did do with my kids..they were fun and memories we talk and laugh about all the time. My kids at 26 and 21 remember logo living room days..where that is all we did. Reading every day together and each night before they went to be. Daughter knew if we skipped a word...son was always a sleep in first sentence..and so was dad...I miss those time...I highly recommend if you have young kids..do all 12 they do remember.

morgan_dragonwillow
morgan_dragonwillow

I love creativity in all its forms and I make sure that my granddaughter has many creative avenues such as music, drawing, books, and educational toys that we play with together. She is only two and a half and it always amazes me at how much she absorbs everyday and how smart she is. All in fun of course, learning is so much better when it is fun. Thank you for this wonderful post. It is nice to see a good dad example out there doing wonderful things for his kids and sharing the journey.

Peace,

Morgan

atwtv
atwtv

I always enjoyed going to the movies or watching movies with my parents, it brings a whole new world alive visually.

Mark Borden
Mark Borden

Can't wait to participate in the #DadChat on this important topic. We use many of these things to get our kids going creatively, but sometimes NOTHING competes with TV!

Yury Prokashev
Yury Prokashev

It is just a WOW article! Thanks a lot very much!

BalancingGoddess
BalancingGoddess

And don't play on the computer while your kid watches telly ;-) Lovely list, Bruce, makes me want to make sure I do all of those things.

sharongreenthal
sharongreenthal

The great thing about creative children is they are much less likely to get bored easily. Give them a few tools - art, music, building, etc - and they can find a way to be entertained. And they can be so entertaining for parents to be around, too!

DonnaGalan
DonnaGalan

These are all wonderful suggestions. I have practiced many myself. Watch your children through these activities and you will see what excites and interests them most. All of this will pay off when it comes time to decide what college or career interests your child should explore. I find this to be the most challenging area for kids...its pretty scary for them if they have no idea what they are passionate about. If I could add one more creative thought....writing and making home videos...haven't met a kid yet that didn't have a comment for the video subject.

Rhianna
Rhianna

This is fantastic thanks for sharing

mentalmosaic
mentalmosaic

I love all these ideas. You sound like a wonderful dad, and I don't say that lightly. Glad to see you are out there inspiring others to be more involved with their kids. :)

Nice quote from Ray Bradbury, too. I hadn't seen that before.

~Tui

p.s. I popped over from #commenthour on Twitter! :)

susansilver
susansilver

I also want to mention the importance of creative problem solving. Think of Sherlock Holmes and how he was able to deduce amazing details about the people he met. It takes creativity to put the links together even if all the facts are there.

janetcallaway
janetcallaway

Fabulous! Fabulous! Fabulous! What a chat this will be.

CraigEYaris
CraigEYaris

What great suggestions! My wife and I have done just about all of these. We still read to our 9 and 11 year old every night. We have more Lego than we can fit in our home, and my kids are constantly putting models of their own creations together.

It's great to see that our ideas of creativity are shared by others!

Thanks!

PaulBiedermann
PaulBiedermann moderator

@atwtv Thanks for your comment! Movies bring so many of the arts together at once: acting, writing and story, all of the visual aspects including cinematography and art direction, music, the nuances of time and pacing, etc. Or, of course… you can just laugh at Adam Sandler :-)

CraigEYaris
CraigEYaris

@PaulBiedermann Lawyers are very creative people. It's just no-one would know it. I have always loved Lego, and still do!

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