In our last post on this subject, we talked about some of the ways you can encourage creativity during an everyday conversation. Today we’re going to address some ideas for making your home a place where creativity will thrive. Fortunately this is a simple task, as the most conducive way to support creativity is to keep things simple so one’s mind can roam.
Designate 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.
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. Provide (or
make) puppets or a doll house for your child and let their imaginations roam. Another very simple but wonderful tool for this is a felt story board on which your child can arrange various scraps/shapes of felt to create a picture that tells a story. There are many tutorials for creating a felt board online ranging from the extremely quick and easy to much more complex. Here is a quick and easy version:
- You’ll need:
- a piece of cardboard (whatever size you prefer – decide if this is something you’ll want to travel with or keep at home)
- a variety of felt in different colors, with at least one piece at least 1” larger on all sides than your cardboard
- glue or spray adhesive
- optional: permanent marker, yarn, other decorative accessories
- Center the largest piece of felt on your cardboard and affix it using your glue or spray adhesive. Fold the edges over to the back of your board and glue them down – this gives the front of your board a nice finished edge.
- Cut out a variety of shapes using the remaining felt pieces. These can be abstract (squares, circles, etc.) or specific things such as clouds, a patch of grass, people, etc. Many people create themes based on their child’s favorite book. Both styles are great for creativity so you may want to try creating a set of each. Use your marker and decorative accessories to create details like eyes, the string of a kite, etc.
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!
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. The Educator’s Spin On It has a great tutorial on how to make instruments using snack containers, and also includes some helpful activity ideas too. More ideas for homemade instruments can also be found here.
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.”
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.)
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 overscheduling 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.