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:
“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.
“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.
“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.