Creativity is a skill that a parent can help foster in their child. Creative children are more adaptable to change and problems, and take new opportunities. Kids need time for imaginative play, unstructured and no directions given by adults. Open-ended toys are those that be used in countless ways by children and their imagination. Open ended toys facilitate play and creativity because of the endless options. These can include building blanket forts, playing dress-up, or creating their own art. Here are some tips on how to help foster creativity with your children.
1. Give them a place to make a mess, play dress-up or spread out blocks. This could be a corner to play dress-up, a desk for art, etc. This space should be their own that they don't have to worry about (momentarily) keeping clean or following organizational rules. Children need a place to call their own and where their creativity can be unleashed.
2. For Christmas and birthdays, ask for things like art supplies, costume components, materials for building projects. Sidewalk chalk, puppets, dress-up outfits, music and blocks make wonderful toys for imaginary play. Put these supplies in easy to manage bins that your kids can get on their own. We love the princess dresses and costumes at Little Adventures Dress Ups ( plus 15% off with code TMK15% until 11/28/2017). They are affordable, soft and (bonus) washable!
3. Encourage your child to focus on generating ideas. Don't point out which ideas are not possible or which ones are best. For example, ask your child what they would take on a trip to the moon and what the vehicle would look like. Focus on the process of generating (not evaluating) new ideas.
4. Encourage your child to fail. Billionaire Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, recalled sitting at the dinner table with her father each night. He would ask her, "What have you failed at this week?" It framed true failure around not trying versus the results. She credits success to her father helping her frame failure this way (source).
5. Celebrate your child's creativity. Have a wall or space to display their artwork proudly.
6. Allow kids the freedom and autonomy to explore their ideas and do what they want. Let go of the need to give them direction and let them come to their own conclusions and ideas.
7. Encourage children to read for pleasure and participate in different forms of art. Children who love to read become adults who love to read. Plant the seeds of art and reading in your home, nurture it, and you will see their love blossom as they grow older.
8. Give your child the opportunity to express "divergent thought." Allow them to disagree with you, even encourage it, and prompt them to explain why they think a certain way.
9. Intrinsic rewards are enough. Don't give rewards when your child exhibits creativity. Incentives can block the creative process, reducing the quality of their responses and the flexible thinking. Intrinsic motivation and the fun of figuring out a creative solution is a reward in and of itself.
10. Try to stop pushing your kids towards only achievement. Hear me out. Kids become depressed and stressed when there is too much emphasis on the outcome. Emphasize process rather than product. One way you can do this is by asking questions about the process – Did you have fun? Are you finished? What did you like about that activity? Play based learning is how children in other cultures learn. And if you watch this Ted Talk, you will see how children learn best when they are allowed to play.
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