All babies are born with the ability to think creatively, that’s a given. But what we do as parents can either help or hinder this ability to flourish in our children as they grow. And flourish it must! For creativity and imagination are much more than artistic expression and play. They are the tools used to form mental images and thoughts of what has never been actually experienced. And for kids, that means just about everything!
Imagination, daydreams, games of make-believe. These are the cornerstones of curiosity, intellectual inventiveness, and ambition. And they are the tools kids use to tryout different scenarios — explore the what-ifs before they act, which in turn allows them to foresee consequences and make good choices. Vital in today’s world.
But as natural as it is, creativity is a use-it-or-lose-it kind of thing. If not exercised on a regular basis, it tends to fade; become harder to tap into. As adults running the rat race, we know this to be true. And when you consider the busy, technology-filled lives of today’s children — with everything coming “at” them rather than from within them — you realize what little workout their imaginations are getting.
However, all is not lost. As a parent, there are several things you can do to intercede, slow things down, and allow your child to exercise and strengthen their creative capacity. None are complicated or expensive, but they will require a certain stick-to-it-ness when it comes to tuning-out the inevitable: There’s nothing to do! refrain. But rest assured, employing even just one or two of these tactics is well worth the effort.
So here are three things you can do now to boost your child’s creative intelligence:
Limit the number of toys that depend upon following step-by-step instructions
Instead, focus on those with open-ended purpose. For instance, when selecting Lego’s or Tinker Toys, go for the original collection of random pieces rather than the kits predestined to become something specific. Although the picture on the box may be cool and enticing (Johnny loves pirates!), it is the process of figuring out — through trial, error, and visualization — how to make something from nothing that exercises the imagination and strengthens problem-solving skills. Besides, for most people, there’s more joy and pride in realizing one’s own vision than replicating someone else’s.
Put out the crayons and leave them out
Ask any artist and they’ll tell you: having a studio, a place to create art where you don’t need to haul things out or clean-up afterward, is practically essential. Why? Because out of sight is out of mind, and the prospect of having to put things away when you’re done is often enough to stop a creative urge in its tracks.
So find a corner, preferably a low coffee table so the kids can sit on the floor. And on that table, leave out crayons, pencils and a big stack of blank paper. Ideally this should be in the room where the family gathers, where children spend most of their time. That way, drawing will become as spontaneous as any other form of entertainment. No need to make a big project of it. Ten minutes here, a half-hour there. The length is not important, nor is the quality of the output. The point is to make the tools of creative expression visible and enticing; so they beacon to your child from across the room. And to make satisfying their urge easy. No permission needed, no clean-up required.
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