As loving parents, we want our children to develop their creative potential. But sometimes we may get stuck in worrying about what our role should be in that process.
Sometimes the most helpful thing we can do is offer a starting point with many possible outcomes and allow the situation to evolve on its own.
Here are ten starting points for encouraging creativity:
- Let your children get bored. Do not rescue them from their boredom by giving them something to do; instead, let them rescue themselves. This is one of the best opportunities for a child to be creative! “Know that this means that your child has an opportunity to discover something about what and who they are, what they like to do and can do, and how to manifest ideas into reality,” says Oak Meadow teacher Amy Fredland.
- Get outside! Go for a walk or just sit outside and observe. Sometimes the best creative play opportunities arise when there is nothing around but nature. Changing the environment can give us a new perspective on ourselves and all sorts of other things.
- Invite your child to tell a story, compose a poem, make up a song, create a play, or invent a dance. Give them your attention when they are ready for an audience. If they ask you for a topic, invite them to come up with one on their own. Make it a family tradition to tell stories, sing songs together, and entertain with funny, made-up jokes.
- Consider that freedom follows form. Help your children learn established techniques which they can later experiment with. Help them gain confidence with craft tools and methods. “If we give a child some structure, but not too much, it opens more doors for creative expression,” says Oak Meadow teacher and former homeschooling parent Julia West.
- Keep appropriate supplies handy. Got crayons? Cardboard? Paper? Tape? Clay? Paint? String? Scissors? With safety and age-appropriateness in mind, make it easy for children to access materials when the creative urge strikes.
- Provide natural and recycled materials on an ongoing basis. The more varied, the better. A jumble of odds and ends can spark a series of creative ideas. What can you make? What can you build? What does this remind you of? What could someone do with this? The stories our children tell and even their most impossible ideas can be as important to their creative development as the things they actually make.
- Start creating something and invite your children to join in. Make a card, decorate something, or create art just for the joy of it. Make up a silly song, tell a funny joke, try out a new craft idea. Do you have creative hobbies that you can share with your children? Leading by example is one of the best ways to encourage our children to be courageously creative people.
- Allow things to get messy, disorganized, and cluttered. Creativity can be messy. “Don’t allow your need for cleanliness to take over your life! Many of us parents develop a feeling that it’s our job to keep things clean and ‘fight the mess’ continually. You could inadvertently be sending a message that kids are being inconvenient to you by playing or creating art,” says Oak Meadow teacher Sarah Boggia. But at the same time…
- …set the stage for clean-up success. Keep a plastic tablecloth, aprons or smocks, and old newspapers in a handy place, and help your children learn to prep and protect the area where they are working. Keep a trash can, a recycling bin, and some rags or paper towels in the area where arts and crafts most often take place. If extra-messy projects make you nervous, consider setting them up outside. It’s okay to encourage a balance between expanding creativity and keeping the cleanup job manageable.
- Offer possibilities and let things happen organically. Once your child’s creative juices are flowing, step out of the way. Be quietly available for support if it’s needed, but let them do the rest. If the end result is nothing like you thought it would be, congratulations! You did a great job encouraging your child to own his or her creative process and allow it to be separate from your own.
What are some other ways to foster creativity in yourself and your children?