Developing creativity is important because creativity is the key to much adult success. The essence of creativity is divergent thinking, which according to Psychology Today, “opens (kids’) minds in all directions.” Such thinking allows for true problem solving since the thinker sees possibilities that are not obvious. Here are some ways to develop your child’s creativity today so that they will be successful adults tomorrow.
1. Provide toys that allow for creativity
Many of today’s toys are based on established characters and plots. Others are flashy electronic games that are fun but do not require a child to use original ideas. For example, a sword can be anything, but a light saber coupled with a Darth Vader costume limits a child’s creativity.
2. Create a creative space
A creative space is a place that can get messy. Is there a space in the basement or the garage that can be used for messy art projects? Do you have a little-used corner of the living room that can accommodate building toys? Could a spare closet to be the dress-up closet? If space is a premium, try designating a special tray for art projects. The edges will catch most of the mess and minimize clean-up.
3. Make time for creativity
Divergent thinking requires time because it takes time to look beyond the obvious. Therefore, do not schedule every moment of your child’s day. If you host a playgroup, do not fill the hours with organized activities. Provide creativity-inducing toys and plenty of free time.
4. Do not fear down time
Parents hate hearing the words, “I am bored,” and run to the rescue with structured activities, electronic toys, or a favorite television show. Try to avoid rescuing kids from boredom. Boredom is the first response to available time, and time is the friend of creativity. When your child says, “I am bored,” wait a while and see what their mind concocts to fill the space.
5. Do not fix creations
If your child makes an arrangement of train tracks that looks nothing like the suggestion on the box, do not swoop in and begin “helping.” Maybe the child made a track that goes to nowhere. That is okay. They will back the train up when they get to the end, or they will rearrange the track themself. When you “fix” creations, you stifle the creative process, kill flexible thinking, and introduce a concept that some creations are inherently incorrect.
6. Praise the effort
Oddly enough, rewarding a child for creativity subverts divergent thinking. We have all seen a child produce page after page of quickly scribbled “art” in order to receive praise from adults. Help your child push past this instant gratification by praising the effort instead of the product.
Ask your child to tell you about the artwork. Find out why he chose certain colors. Engage in the process, and your child will spend more time on her creation. This art will have much more meaning than a quick scribble.
7. Read a story
Stories, even those in picture books, encourage children to think creatively since the plot occurs primarily in their minds. Reading the same story over and over again helps children develop familiar characters that they can take with them into other creative play.
As kids grow, transition from reading stories to writing them. Even young children can tell you a story while you write it down. Of course, illustration is the next step.
8. Play some music
Not only is music good for developing brains, but music also brings out the dancer in all of us, especially children. Children are not inhibited like adults. They use music to express, in all their uncoordinated glory, the feelings that the music generates in their soul. Music also begets musicians. Let kids make music with their surroundings. Pots and pans coupled with wooden spoons make terrific steel drums.
9. Play outside
The ultimate creative expression is nature. Get outside and find all the cool things that the natural world offers. Keep an eye out for the tiny. You might not notice that acorn hiding under a leaf, but a child will and may even turn part of it into a teacup for a fairy.
10. Limit television and other electronic entertainment
Any toy that runs on imagination instead of batteries is superior to the flashier, more expensive option. Television, while helpful to busy parents, requires absolutely no creative thinking. Limit television to one hour per day or less and limit electronic toys as well.
Fostering creativity in children is perhaps the very best way to ensure that their brains develop properly. Unfortunately, adults often find that creativity is messy and time consuming. Be different: allow messes, ditch the schedule, and encourage creativity in your kids.