We often confuse creativity with being artistic. But creativity has to do with so much more than just the fine arts. In fact, being creative is what allows people to discover, problem solve and succeed not only as children but as adults, too.
That’s why one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to support your child’s creativity.
Why is Childhood Creativity Important?
Creativity is divergent thinking, which is a fancy way to say, thinking outside of the box.
A divergent thinker is someone who can look at an object or situation from many different angles. And being able to think outside the box comes with many other invaluable benefits. It supports cognitive development, communication skills development, and it strengthens neurological connections within the brain.
Creativity also allows children to learn new concepts through interactive, personal experience.
Creativity allows you to achieve what you put your mind to because you aren’t held back by perceived limitations. Being creative allows you to think up new strategies and solutions.
Every child inherits this potential to be creative. It’s clear that children are naturally more imaginative and expressive than most adults. And because adults often lose their creativity as they grow older, many parents and teachers unintentionally stifle a child’s natural inclination to create.
Not being able to play, create and express themselves can obviously impair their problem-solving skills.
But that’s not all. It can lead to setbacks in their emotional and behavioral development. Adolescents and teens can suffer from addictive behaviors and mental illness if they didn’t have enough opportunities to be creative as children.
Are Children Losing Their Creativity?
Educational psychologist, Kyung Hee Kim, Ph.D. says, “creativity scores have significantly decreased since 1990.” What’s more, “creativity scores for kindergartners through third-graders decreased the most, and those from the fourth through sixth grades decreased by the next largest amount.”
Your child, along with his or her peers may very well fit within this research finding, too. And that’s difficult to hear, especially since we know that children lose their innate creativity the older they get.
So, it’s important to know what you, as a parent, can do to cultivate and encourage creativity in your child’s life before it’s too late.
How to Support Your Child’s Creativity
These seven ideas will ensure that your child becomes a divergent thinker. And their creative abilities will serve them in all areas of life as they grow older.
Expose Children to New Things
Allow your child to see that there are many other cultures, ethnicities, and customs in this world. You can do this within your own home by introducing them to new cuisines, music, language, and art. You can talk to them about different traditions, customs, and ideas.
Another way to expose them to new worlds is to visit the zoo’s, art galleries and museums. This will help them look beyond their everyday surroundings.
Reading literature from the earliest age is a fantastic way to welcome imagination. Let them think of different worlds and people, get curious, and maybe even write their own tale.
Mistakes are Welcome
If your child is afraid of making mistakes or afraid of the negative feedback or judgment he’ll receive, this can keep them from trying new things.
So, whenever your child makes a mistake, or his idea doesn’t go as planned, let it roll. When your child sees that there’s nothing to be ashamed of in mistakes and that mistakes are just another, normal part of life, they’ll want to keep trying and discovering.
Toys are Good, But…
Toys and costumes can be great ways to encourage children to play. But what’s even better are the everyday objects around the house.
Here’s why. When a child has a detailed toy in front of her, she can be creative, but a lot of the creative work has already been done for her.
Now, if a child gets to play with cardboard boxes, blankets, towels, and other random household items, they must think outside of the box. And that’s a wonderful thing.
This doesn’t mean you should deprive them of beautiful toys, but if they reach for something banal, encourage them! By playing with that, they’re going to become more creative.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
If your child comes to you with a problem – whatever it might be – try not to give them a solution right away.
And if they have a question, don’t spoon feed them the answer. Instead, ask them questions and encourage them to think – divergently, of course!
Feel free to guide them or suggest ideas, but be patient as they figure it out for themselves. This will empower your child.
Process Is Better Than Perfection
We often confuse success with getting all the answers right. Because of this, we often don’t value the creative process as much as we do the finished product.
Children, on the other hand, get caught up in creating, and they aren’t as focused on “getting it right” with realistic representation. This is especially true for arts and crafts.
As a parent, you can allow and encourage these creative endeavors. Their painting or story might not be what you expected, or what you’d come up with yourself. And because of this, you might feel the need to edit, alter or improve their creation.
But instead, validate their experience, and let them know that it’s welcome and wonderful just the way it is.
In fact, let them know that not only is it okay to be creative, but that it’s even more important than getting all the answers right.
It’s necessary for children to be well-versed in technology. This knowledge and aptitude will help them maneuver in our ever-evolving society.
However, technology should never replace play and imagination.
Watching too much television can literally change the brain in a negative way. So, limit your child to small amounts of TV, and ensure their shows are edifying and high quality. And even though there are many interactive devices that children can play with, try to set strict limits on these, too.
That way, your child gets to spend even more time thinking and discovering.
Children already have the potential to be creative. As a parent, all you have to do is welcome this natural gift, and allow it to flourish with these seven, simple strategies.