Last week we talked about the “why” of teaching creativity to our children. Creativity, we said, is not necessarily something we are born with; it is a character quality that we need to develop in ourselves and in our children. We are made in the image of God, the ultimate Creator. The more we exercise our creative muscles, the more creative we will be.
So how do we exercise our creative muscles? How do we teach creativity to our children?
We'll answer these questions in more detail in the coming weeks, but here are a few ideas to get things started:
1. Encourage imaginative play. Certain toys lend themselves to imaginative play more than others. Building sets of all kinds, dollhouses,baby dolls, play kitchens/workbenches/etc., cars/trucks, housekeeping or gardening sets, child-sized tools, musical instruments, playdoh, animal figurines – all of these encourage imaginative, creative play. Toys that tend to squelch creative/imaginative play include branded/licensed toys, single-action toys, electronic toys, and passive toys (those that are watched more than played with).
Of course, imaginative play doesn’t have to involve toys at all! How many times does a child play with the box more than the toy it contained? Boxes, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, and fabric scraps are just a few of the “non-toy” items that can stimulate creative play. Some of my children’s favorites are aluminum foil, string, various types of paper, any kind of tape, and rubber bands.
2. Provide easy access to art supplies. Each family will have different parameters as to what “easy access” involves. For our family, things like paint do require permission from mom. We don’t have a good place for a permanent painting station, and there are times mom just frankly isn’t up to the mess! The point is to have a variety of art supplies available: colored pencils, paper, tape, glue, paint/paintbrushes, markers, etc. Then encourage their use!
3. Encourage your child’s creative flair. I mentioned last week that I’ve been teaching scrapbooking and craft classes to adults and children for over ten years now. Although there are certain times when I may use a craft kit for a specific reason, I much prefer more open-ended projects. Even with craft kits, I try to encourage children to add their own touch to their creations.
Open-ended projects, however, are the best. My favorite thing to do, especially with children, is to provide a variety of supplies, give them some general parameters for the project, and then let them have at it. It’s amazing what they can come up with! We did this last year in Vacation Bible School. The lesson was on God creating birds, so we gathered up a huge amount of somewhat random supplies and instructed them to design their own bird. Oh, my!! What amazing creations they came up with! It was fantastic!
4. Limit unnecessary rules. This primarily applies to creative projects, but can extend to other areas as well. For instance, there are times when children need to do chores in a certain prescribed way. There are other times, however, that we can give some leeway for them to be innovative. Encouraging children to come up with more efficient, effective ways to do a job is a great way to cultivate creative thinking. (This is probably a good time for me to insert that I have not by any means “arrived” in this or any other area! his particular point is one I definitely need to work on!)
One of the saddest experiences I ever had in teaching involved, ironically enough, another crafting teacher. I was teaching scrapbooking classes at a local store, and one of the other teachers there shared with me one day that she really wanted to scrapbook, but a consultant for a large scrapbooking company had told her that before she started scrapbooking, she needed to organize all her photos, and then start with the oldest and move forward. “I just want to scrapbook the pictures of the vacation we took with our grand-daughter last summer,” she said sadly.
I explained that there are no “rules” in scrapbooking; the “scrapbook police” were not going to show up at her door to accuse her of non-chronological scrapbooking. I encouraged her to grab a stack of vacation photos, gather some supplies, and start scrapping her amazing trip while the memories were fresh, and she was motivated to begin.
5. Don’t expect perfection. One of the greatest enemies of creativity, in my experience, is the desire for perfection. We can strive for (and encourage our children to strive for) excellence without expecting perfection. Praise hard work, improvement, and creative thinking. There will always be someone who is better at things than we are. Our focus needs to be on doing our best, finishing what we start, and making progress.
6. Provide opportunities to use creativity to bless others. Making cards for far-away relatives, drawing a picture to take to a shut-in, singing or playing a musical instrument at a nursing home, helping plan and prepare a meal for a family with a new baby – all of these are ways that creativity can have meaning. Creativity isn’t just about doing something beautifully or in a new way. It is about making the lives of those around us richer and fuller.
What are some ways that you encourage creativity in your children? I'd love to hear ideas in the comments! I'd also love to hear any suggestions you have for future posts in this series.
Next week: Resources for Teaching Creativity
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