When my son turned one, his interest in exploring different things seemed to explode. Suddenly, he wanted to try placing caps from his cups on every toy to see what happened. He experimented with how he could put toys inside of other toys and started to learn how things work together. While some of the tests he ran seemed quite silly, this was the beginning of his creativity, and I always did everything I could to encourage it. We put the caps on our heads, pushed toys along the floor, and stacked toys that weren’t designed for stacking. And with every passing day, he became more curious and experimental. You want your children to be curious and try different things. Creativity encourages children to use different parts of their brain and might later lead to innovation and entrepreneurship.
You can start encouraging your child’s creativity from a young age. Here are some tips for promoting creativity in your child of any age.
Set aside creative space Your creative space is separate from your playroom, though it can be part of your playroom. Creative space might be a table full of Legos, art supplies or Play Dough depending on what your child is interested in. And, your creative space might change and adapt as your child grows. Encourage your child to spend time in the creative space but don't force it. Creativity strikes at different times and you can't rush it. Providing space for creativity will encourage your child to try using their creative skills. This article contains some ideas of how to set up a creative space for your child.
Keep toys simple I’m sure you’ve children who enjoy playing with the box more than the toy inside it. That’s because children are innately creative and inquisitive. Their imaginations can run wild with the box, but the toy inside might be more set as to how they play with it. To encourage creativity, keep your toys simple. Having a room full of elaborate toys or with too many toys might not encourage creativity as much as a simple playroom with simple toys. If children choose to use imagination play instead of spending time at the creative table, recognize that there are still benefits from this type of play.
Allow children to have unstructured time Allow children to have time each day where they play how they want to. Your goal as a parent is to allow your children to have free time where their activities aren’t scheduled. When children are “bored,” they often activate their interests in creative or imaginary play. Enable your child to just explore at home and play how they please. Encouraging creativity doesn’t mean telling children how or when to play but allowing them to simply be a child.
Engage their senses The more senses that you involve in your child’s play, the more they’ll learn. When children tell you they are going on safari, ask them what they might hear on a safari. Then lead them through what sights they might see and smells they might smell. As you walk them through the senses, you’ll encourage them to think about their senses in all play. At the art table, encourage them to finger paint so that they can feel and see the work of art they are creating. When you visit the zoo, take time to visit the petting area and encourage children to pay attention to each of their senses on the trip. Each sense that you engage encourages your child’s creativity in using all of their senses in their play.
Talk about creativity As your children age, ask them questions that help them understand what creativity is and how they can maximize their creativity. Discuss with your child when they get some of their best ideas. Then discuss those ideas with your child at those key times to encourage their creative thinking. Take a notebook with you or write down some of their ideas in the Notes app on your phone. Tracking their ideas will show them that those thoughts are important and have value. Review past ideas with your child and see if they have any further thoughts on the matter after the fact. Build upon previous concepts and show them how creativity generates innovation.
Show how creativity helps critical thinking One of the important reasons to encourage children to be creative is to help them in critical thinking later in life. After encouraging creativity from a young age, you’ll be able to show your child how to apply their different ways of thinking of things to solve problems. Critical thinking skills are essential for higher education and the workplace. By encouraging that creative way of thinking from a young age, you’ll be able to help children develop that skill into critical thinking.
Pursue their interest When your child shows an interest in something, help them pursue their passions and do activities they enjoy. The more in-depth they go into a topic or interest area, the more creative they'll be in that area. For example, when your child shows an interest in dinosaurs, borrow books from the library and help them learn more about the topic. This will expand their ability to use imaginary play on the topic.
Model creativity Take a moment to evaluate your own life and see if you’re modeling creativity for your child. Are you always on the move from activity to activity and have no hobbies of your own? If so, it might be time to change that. Children learn by watching others so if you aren’t cultivating creativity in your own life, it’s hard to show your child how important creativity is. Allow yourself time to be creative and engage in imaginary play with your child from time to time. Follow their lead as they create imaginary worlds and characters. Go along with it and show that you can imagine right alongside them.
Creativity will benefit your child throughout their whole life. So turn the screens off and give your child the tools and space to cultivate their creativity. You can’t force a child to be creative, but you can encourage creativity whenever you see it in your child.