Ways to Encourage a Child’s Creativity

February 12th, 2013 posted by Tina Nocera

by Tina Nocera

cute girl Why is America in danger of losing the best and brightest jobs – the ones that create new ideas? Perhaps it begins with parents setting unrealistic expectations. Consider this:

  • Expectant mothers put headphones on their stomachs so children can listen to Mozart in utero.
  • Before we leave the hospital, newborns are registered for the right nursery school.
  • We monitor and measure how quickly they crawl, walk, and dribble in comparison to charts and other kids their age.
  • Babies are put in front of Baby Einstein DVDs for early stimulation, which is really ironic because, as a child, Einstein began to talk later than usual and did poorly in school. If he was in school today, he’d be on Ritalin, and we’d still be looking for a theory of relativity!

A More Competitive World

– Is it possible that today’s parents try to compensate (or so we think) by spending money on things like learning tapes and DVDs? Honestly, are our children learning anything from those tapes that we can’t teach them? I would bet parents know their numbers, colors, and alphabet.

Are we as parents outsourcing our job as our child’s most important teacher under the premise that we’re doing some good?

Dr. Sally Goldberg, author of Baby and Toddler Learning Fun, tells us that reading, singing, and talking to your child provide the best preparation for success in school. This is because the spoken language has an astonishing impact on a young child’s brain development. The number of words an infant hears each day is considered the single most important predicator of later intelligence, school success, and social competence. These words have to come from an active, engaged human being, not radio, TV, DVDs, or computers. Anyone would understand if a child is put in front of a tape to keep him safe as you get something done. But if this is framed under the premise of learning and advantages, the disadvantage is that you’re missing the opportunity to build a relationship with your child. Worse yet, you’re sending a subliminal message that the television is an approved teacher. Is that the message you really want to send?

Children get it; they like to be read to because of the closeness they feel with the reader.

Even with the advances of high definition TV, it is still better for a toddler to walk with you as you talk about the leaves that crunch under your feet, or see a real spider weaving its web.

Parents are the perfect educational toy.

There is tremendous joy that comes with having children, but the joy comes from spending time with your children. The gimmicks are not advantages. We had much better and happier childhoods with a lot less stuff, quite possibly because we had less stuff.

Creativity is About Play

Today, why is play considered a four-letter word? Having time to daydream, think, and play gives our children the opportunity to come up with ideas of their own. We over-schedule our children for a number of reasons, ranging from the perceived importance of how things look on a college application to the concept that children who are busy will stay out of trouble. Sadly, there is truth to both theories. But our children are hurried from baby swimming lessons to Harvard with no time to daydream.

Creativity Is Its Own Reward

When our children do something, we have to encourage them to simply enjoy doing it rather than the competition or the reward. We are too quick to give stickers, ribbons, and trophies for anything. All this does is promote the external value rather than an internal warm feeling. We pay them for grades, rather than instilling in them a pleasure for learning.

Creativity Is About Problem Solving

Trying new things is the best way to learn. Resolve yourself to understanding that it won’t always be successful, but we still have to try and even encourage mistakes and failures. Imagine telling your 11-month old as she tried to pull herself up and walk, “Let go of the table, sweetie. You’ve tried to walk three times now and have continued to fall, so just give up.” We have to realize that growth, innovation, and creativity thrive when mistakes are encouraged. Darwin found that the most adaptive creatures survive, not the strongest or the most aggressive. Are we too quick to solve our children’s problems? We even buy creativity kits in nice little shrink-wrapped packages. Does creativity come in a kit? What if we were to give children activity and craft kits with some of the materials missing? They might create something new. They might figure out, when faced with a problem, how to solve it.

17 Ideas to Encourage Children’s Creativity

  1. Give young children a tape recorder so they can capture their ideas.
  2. Change your normal mode of transportation. If you usually drive, occasionally take a bus or train.
  3. Grow a garden with your child. Even a windowsill garden can be fun.
  4. Give older children an ‘idea journal’ which can be as inexpensive as a 59¢ composition notebook.
  5. Take nature walks and see what your child sees; you’ll be amazed at his powers of observation.
  6. Discuss new discoveries over dinner and ask your children how they would use them.
  7. Toss out a problem and ask them how they would solve it; don’t limit the problems to those you think they could solve. They may surprise you.
  8. Start a story and let the children finish it.
  9. Limit noise, video games, and computer time.
  10. Play games with your children and read to them.
  11. Ask your children to explain what they have created; don’t assume you know what it is.
  12. Let them do it for themselves; we know you can color.
  13. Give your children supplies and materials you find around the house. Resist the urge to buy craft kits.
  14. Let your children find their own ‘right way’ in art. Don’t insist that it is done your way.
  15. Appreciate your child’s individuality. Resist temptations to compare children. It’s a subtle message to conform.
  16. Encourage curiosity.
  17. Answer their questions. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you need time before answering.
Tina Nocera (1 Posts)

Tina Nocera is the author of Because Kids Don't Come With Manuals® Contemporary Advice for Parents and founder of www.parentalwisdom.com a patented parenting website that recognizes parents as the real experts in knowing their own children best.

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Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!

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