6 ways to foster creativity in your child is a guest post by Alexandra Newmarch.
When I became pregnant, one of the things I did was think about what I wanted our family’s values to be. What qualities did I want to instill in my children? To teach them, this is important. This matters.
One of the non-negotiables on my shortlist was creativity. I knew that I wanted for this to be part of our family story and culture – however, that ends up looking. I want to be a family who celebrates creativity.
The obvious next question – how was I going to do that?
Well, as for most challenges in my life, I turned to books, to see what the current research says, and I turned to the people around me, to see how they were doing it.
These are some of the things I’ve come up with:
How to Encourage Creativity in a Child
1. Start from a secure, stable base
Having a secure, stable base, where basic needs are met, they feel safe, and they are securely attached to their caregiver(s), helps to give children the cognitive flexibility and inner confidence to explore, try, take chances, and take a leap/tentative step into the unknown.
They have the certainty that you will be there to help them scramble back up and dust themselves off if the chance doesn’t work out as they’d planned.
This is the foundation that your children need to be able to open themselves up to creativity and imagination, and happily, it’s something most of us will be trying to do anyway!
2. Encourage Curiosity
As they grow and learn about the world, children ask a lot of questions. Ask them questions too.
Wonder together about the things you see and experience. That bird is looking at us. I wonder what he’s thinking? This sandcastle keeps falling down. How could we make it stronger? That man is in a hurry, where do you think he might be going?
Not only does this exercise your child’s imagination, and their thinking and reasoning skills, questions like this can also encourage them to put themselves in others’ shoes – the beginning of empathy (another great quality to have).
3. Take Notice
Most creatives, when you ask where they get their ideas/inspiration from, will say something along the lines of, from the world around me.
A snatch of conversation overheard in a supermarket becomes a poem, the colours of a sunset inspire a quilt, a piece of driftwood ends up the centrepiece of a living-room redecoration.
If their creator hadn’t been paying attention to their surroundings, that poem, quilt, and new living-room might never have come into being.
Taking notice of the world around us is closely linked to curiosity, and again, is something that most children do naturally. Together, notice small things, beautiful things, funny things, intriguing things – iridescent beetles, autumn leaves, dandelions pushing through cracks in the pavement.
Doing this with your child teaches observational skills, fosters curiosity, and builds up a repertoire of source material for future projects.
4. Try different mediums
On a very practical note, give your child the opportunity to try out different creative mediums, so that they’re able to explore what clicks for them. Clay, collage, craft.
Poetry, theatre, jewellery-making, drums. Calligraphy, dance, baking, photography. There are so many different ways of expressing your creative spark.
I’m not suggesting you have to buy all the things just for them to try out – that would get very expensive, very fast. This is where after-school and holiday classes can be invaluable.
Do you (or they) have a friend who would let your child try out their watercolours, knitting needles, or materials they’re not using? Great!
If your child demonstrates a particular interest in/gift for one thing or another, that’s when it’s worth investing more fully.
5. Give your child time to develop their own style
Most of us aren’t born with a fully developed artistic voice. We have to find and develop it.
Sometimes, developing your style means working out what your style ISN’T, like Michaelangelo chipping his famous statue of David out of the marble, cutting away all the bits that weren’t David, until all that was left was his statue.
I was homeschooled when I was in primary school, and one of the things my Mum did with my younger brother and me was read a wide range of poets and look at paintings from lots of different eras and artists, then try to emulate that ourselves. I quickly discovered which styles I enjoyed and which I didn’t, and was then able to explore the ones I did like further in my own time. Gradually, I developed and refined my own voice, my own style. Encourage your child to experiment, explore, and learn from others.
Alongside this, be intentional about structuring time into your child’s life for creativity and play. This can get harder as your children get older and have increasing demands on their time, but the creative arts – like any skill – require time and practice to master the mechanics.
Children learn through doing. That means that it doesn’t matter how many art gallery trips you take, books you borrow from the library, and inspiring nature walks you go on if your child never actually sits down and works on a project for themselves – while they’ll certainly gain other benefits from these activities, they won’t be improving their technical skills, or building muscle-memories.
6. Model it yourself
We’ve already touched on this in the curiosity and taking notice sections above. But it’s worth making this its own category because as we just noted, children learn through doing, but they also learn through what they see you doing.
If they see you taking the time to photograph a wildflower or a sunset, decorate a cake, or sketch up a design – whatever your medium is – they receive the message that creative pursuits are important, and fulfilling, and worth giving time to.
You have competing demands on your time too. In a busy family, there will always be jobs that could be done, errands to run, things to organise. There are seasons of life where you simply might not have time to be anything except Mum. But you’re not just a parent, you’re also an individual with gifts and interests of your own.
Remember that by allowing yourself permission to create and express yourself through your creativity, you are giving your family a wonderful gift – a happy parent, who is modelling self-care/soul-care, living an authentic life.
To be human is to be creative, and creativity comes in so many different shapes and forms. By giving your children opportunities to explore and engage with the world, practice their skills, and observe your example, you build foundations which help their creative spirit to thrive and shine.
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About the Author
Alexandra is a wife, mama to one adorable baby boy, bookworm, writer, daydreamer, and psychologist, predominantly working with kids and teens.
She loves using the expressive/creative arts and play therapies with her clients (both the small ones and the big ones), and, when she’s not working, throwing herself into different creative projects and mediums. She also loves baked goods.
Do you have any tips on how to foster creativity in your child?