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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to Support a Creative Child

In titling this post, “How to Support a Creative Child,” I realized that I should have titled it, “How to Encourage Creativity in all Children.” I believe that all children are born with a creative gift; however some children have had their creativity “bud” squashed by parents who are overly critical, or who continuously hover, not allowing their children to think or reason on their own. Other children have had their creativity “bud” nurtured through proactive parenting and good use of simple parenting techniques.

Building and supporting creativity in children should be one of the primary goals of good parenting. For a child to maintain their creative spirit, they cannot live in a restrictive box at school or a restrictive box at home.

I learned as a school principal that you could always tell the students who came from families where the children were encouraged to be creative. Many times they were the kids who came up with new and interesting ideas in the classroom, they felt confident in their abilities and often were the ones who raised their hands first. Children who are creative, become better critical thinkers, and are more confident in their own natural abilities.

Children need to experience life and learn from their mistakes, and thus become more creative. I’m not saying that children shouldn’t be disciplined or that they don’t need specific guidance, however, when we never allow a child to think on his own or to make decisions without constant criticism, his creativity becomes stifled.

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Lewis Carroll

I remember when my boys were young, they enjoyed creating forts, scenes and costumes as part of a make believe play world they liked to play in. They were using their creative “senses.” At times, it was difficult not to impose my opinion or input. Encouraging a child’s creativity is kind of like allowing your child to color outside the lines.

If your child attends a school where creativity is not encourage or expected, it will be even more important for you to allow them to develop and expand that creative need when they are at home after school and on weekends. It’s crucial that you don’t overly criticize or critique their ideas. Children get enough criticism after they start school and begin interacting with their peers.

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
Joseph Chilton Pearce
(American author on child development)

As with all proactive parenting, the best way to encourage creativity is to be creative yourself. That may mean doing something funny or silly or being willing to make a mistake. It definitely means that you allow your child to think without constant suggestions from you. Instead of offering one suggestion, offer several. All of them good ones and without one right answer.

Children who are creative when they are younger and maintain that creativity, grow up to be adults who can think critically, reason for themselves and who look beyond the obvious answer.

Here are a few simple tips to develop and promote creativity in your child:
1.      When taking a walk, let your child tell you what they see, feel and smell.
2.      Spend time on art projects that don’t have borders or specific directions. Use blank paper, sidewalks, empty boxes and poster boards to create projects.
3.      Encourage make-believe play.
4.       Spend time listening to music and creating dances together.

“It is better to create than to be learned, creating is the true essence of life.”
Barthold Georg Niebuhr

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