More and more, creativity is making a difference in the way we work, live, and approach challenges in our lives. Here are five ways to inspire, encourage and nurture creativity in your child.
The Empty Box
Don’t rush to fill in the blanks for your child. Remember the promise of an empty box? With a few scribbles and openings, it could be a house, a store, a school, a magic cube. The next time your child is faced with an empty box or a blank sheet of paper, give them time to dream and think.
It’s important to have unstructured time in which to dream, and do nothing. Some creativity experts actually recommend scheduling half an hour of “nothing” every day. This is especially true for older kids, who may be overscheduled at school and after school with scarcely any room to breathe.
I once interviewed Cleo Banks, a veteran kindergarten teacher, who observed that when it comes to developing a disciplined work ethic, “it’s all about the goodies.” She would watch two little girls in her class play in the same park at recess every afternoon. Each day, the girls would venture out to look for “goodies”—a colorful candy wrapper, an acorn, a leaf changing color, a piece of torn ribbon—and exclaim over their treasures and gather them up. Goodies can stand for the positives in your life, the things that bring you joy and pleasure, and they are a powerful motivator to learn and move outside your comfort zone.
Along with the thrill of discovery, there is little in life that does not come without joys or benefits. These occupations all count as goodies: looking for egg-shaped rocks on the beach, earning points on an online arcade or attaining the next level in a video game, eating cupcakes after baking them, and figuring out how to solve a challenging puzzle.
Make Unlikely Connections
Juxtapose unlikely objects and subjects together. Mix up materials. Try a different format. I remember learning in Sunday school how to soften crayons with a candle and then dripping or stamping the wax from the crayons onto the page. We were entranced. When we got home, my brother, Ted, used a bare light bulb to melt the crayons instead—and it was just as much fun but a much safer alternative to an open flame.
Look for activities that impart lessons that go beyond the page, and opportunities that extend the lesson. What kind of Easter egg basket would appeal to a prehistoric dinosaur? What would happen if a giraffe took the bus to school? These are the questions that keep children happily entertained for hours.
Throw perfect out the window.
Don’t obsess about the results. Whether they’re using their hands to mold clay or figuring out the solution to a complicated math problem, kids are looking for challenges, processing and learning all the time. Instead of checking to see if your child has colored inside the lines, or used the correct shade for skin color, realize the effort it took to take an idea that was inside their mind and then express it or create it in the physical world.
Encourage your child’s problem-solving skills by giving them plenty of opportunities to appraise and attempt. Often there’s more than one remedy to a problem. Stand back a bit and let your child gain confidence in their own capabilities before stepping in to show them how it’s done. Don’t hover or rush to examine and evaluate what they do. Nothing kills creativity like too much criticism. Give older kids some space and privacy. Show confidence in their capabilities. Expect to be surprised.
Notice the details.
Instead of giving general comments, offer specific feedback, such as “I like the way you first painted orange streaks in watercolor and then used the broad side of the blue crayon to show the ocean and how the water looks when the sun is setting.”
You are teaching your child to look at themselves—and what they can do—in a whole new way, one that is full of wonder and possibilities.
Remember that creativity is not just restricted to art. People are creative in business, in the sciences, in math, in teaching, in a hundred myriad ways every day, all the time. All that matters is having a goal, or problem, asking the right questions, and having the opportunity or imagination to try out different solutions.
Think your child is ready to take on the creative world? Take a look at our article on Getting Kids Started With Audio and Video Production!