How do you make your home a place where your children’s creativity will thrive? Creativity is not an inborn talent. Creativity is more skill innate quality, and it is a skill parents can help their kids develop.
Because it is a key to success in nearly everything we do, creativity is a key component of health and happiness and a core skill to practice with kids. Creativity is not limited to artistic and musical expression—it is also essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, which makes them more able to adapt to technological advances and deal with change—as well as take advantage of new opportunities.
Many researchers believe we have fundamentally changed the experience of childhood in such a way that impairs creative development. Toy and entertainment companies feed kids an endless stream of prefab characters, images, props and plot-lines that allow children to put their imaginations to rest. Children no longer need to imagine a stick is a sword in a game or story they’ve imagined: they can play Star Wars with a specific light-saber in costumes designed for the specific role they are playing.
Fortunately, supporting the development of creativity in kids is a simple task, as the most conducive way to support creativity is to keep things simple so one’s mind is free to roam. Here are some ideas for fostering creativity in your kids:
1. Design a Creative Space
It’s important to give your kids a place to be messy. Certainly they can (and should) clean up afterwards, but allowing them to have an area that they can use for unstructured play, and where you can store the creative toys mentioned below, is an important resource to make available for them.
2. Provide Open Ended Toys
An example of an open ended project is one that doesn’t have a specified outcome, i.e. draw a bug versus draw a bug with 6 legs and 2 eyes. Open ended projects encourage kids to explore their ideas and be more flexible in their thinking, which is why it is an important consideration for each and every one of our Green Kid Crafts projects.
Encourage your kids to create things using generic or untraditional materials. Toys like blocks are great as they let kids create things using their imagination. Even common items from the kitchen, like Tupperware, empty cereal boxes or utensils can make great building materials. Pretend play is another great opportunity for expression and free thinking.
You also use canvas or an old frame to create a felt board. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, this is a great how-to for a travel board. My philosophy is the simpler the better but after coming across this miniaturized town version I had to share it for inspiration.
Another great way to encourage pretend play is by dressing up. Stock up on clothes at your local thrift shop, or by revisiting your wardrobe from the 80’s, the wackier the better!
3. Encourage Reading and the Arts
Read to your kids. Encourage their love of reading. Introduce them to music, listening to it and making it themselves. It’s easy (and eco) to make your own instruments using materials you find around the house. More ideas for homemade instruments can also be found here.
4. Celebrate Creativity
You’ll notice that a recurring theme in this post is that you are a model for your children. Show them you value creativity by hanging artwork (theirs and others), sharing your favorite music, discussing artists you like, learning about new breakthroughs in science. You get the idea. In addition, showing your kids that you embrace change, everything from new technologies to trying out a new pizza restaurant, demonstrates that new things are exciting, not overwhelming or intimidating.
One note to make that we’ve been told countless times by experts: there is a big difference between celebrating creativity and rewarding it. Resist the urge to reward as it shifts the focus of the effort to the reward versus the experience itself. Instead of praising, be objective by pointing out things like “you worked really hard on that picture,” or “you cut those shapes out all by yourself.”
5. Broaden Their Horizons
Giving your kids a wide range of experiences feeds their imagination. Take them with you on even the most mundane errands and also find new and exciting places to visit. Find books and music that provides a glimpse into different cultures and situations. When you do these things, pay attention. Try to look at things in different ways and point out details to your child. Soon, he may be doing that for you! (On the flip side, too much screen time detracts from their creative process so be sure to keep that in check.)
6. But Don’t Over Do It
All this said, one of the most important factors for raising a creative child is to provide them with unscheduled time — resist getting on the over-scheduling bandwagon. Yes, different experiences and hobbies are extremely enriching. But downtime can be just as important as it gives them a chance to explore in unstructured ways.
We hope you found these tips useful! Please share your ideas for making your home an incubator for creativity using the comment button below.
Penny Bauder, a mom of two and an environmental scientist with a passion for STEAM education, is the founder of Green Kid Crafts, a green company that provides kids with convenient and sustainable STEAM activities through the company’s subscription program. The company has shipped over 2 million packages around the world designed to help inspire the next generations of environmental leaders. Penny was a winner of Entrepreneur’s “Build it Like a Woman” Inspiring Woman in Business Award, the Startup Nation Leading Moms in Business Competition and a recipient of the Female Founder Fellowship at the Founder’s Institute. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Management and an M.S. in Environmental Science.