It’s only natural to want to give our kids, grandkids, or young students the greatest possible start in life, whether you’re a parent, grandparent, or educator. One way to do this is by nurturing creativity and self-expression in our children. But how exactly do we do this? Here are a few key ideas to get you started:
Encourage exploration and experimentation
Kids are born curious and love to explore the world around them. Foster this curiosity by giving them a range of materials and tools they can use to create, build, and experiment. This might include things like art supplies, building blocks, and musical instruments.
Create chances for self-expression
Children need to express themselves and share their ideas and feelings. You’ve got to give them as many opportunities to do this as they can handle. This might be through activities like drawing, painting, writing, or acting. Inspire your child to share their creations with you and take a genuine interest in what they make – even Picasso and Van Gogh probably started out with some mucky stick figure pictures pinned to the kitchen wall!
“Children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” ~ Pablo Picasso
Make time for creative play
Scheduling blocks of time for creative play allows your kids the space to totally engage in their ‘creative process’ without distractions.
But don’t stress about it, this can be as simple as setting aside a dedicated space for art and craft activities, or making time for imaginative play-acting and ‘make believe’, complete with dressing-up clothes and props.
Foster independence and self-direction
Letting children make their own choices and decisions (and mistakes!) builds in them a sense of independence and encourages their self-expression. Richard Branson’s mum, Eve, famously dumped a mischief-making 6-year-old Richard at the side of the road to let him make his own way the last mile to his grandmother’s house. That kind of tough love might have been okay in the 1950s, but is not recommended in today’s climate! Better to stick with letting them pick their own art materials or encourage them to come up with their own games and activities!
“The creative adult is the child who survived.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin
Kids are bursting with wild and wacky ideas, and it’s important to embrace this ‘creativity’ rather than shutting it down. When you are busy, preoccupied, stressed, or your nerves are fried, this can be…<ahem> challenging!
So, it helps to have it in mind as a principle – something that you believe in – ahead of time. Understanding that creativity involves the wacky, the playful, the foolish, and even the apparently dumbest and silliest of ideas, as stepping stones to the more profound and profitable – will give you the mental and emotional space to remain open.
Encourage your child to think both ‘inside the box’ (because constraints focus creativity on solving specific problems) and ‘outside the box’ (because divergent thinking helps us make novel connections between seemingly unrelated things) to come up with creative solutions to problems.
Building creativity and self-expression in children can have lots of benefits. It can improve problem-solving skills, boost self-esteem, and encourage independent thinking.
So next time your child wants to paint a picture with their food, or build a fort out of couch cushions in your nice neat living room… smile, embrace their innate creativity, and watch as they blossom!
One more thing: Dr. Seuss famously declared, ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’
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