The first thing most mums think of when I start talking about creativity is mess! Mess is no fun I must agree but encouraging creativity in our kids is important so maybe we can lay aside the mess issue – just for the moment – and think about creativity as it is something that benefits our kids.
When my kids were little I worked with the idea that Creativity was doing something in a new way – a way no-one else had thought of. Of course that definition has limitations – but it helped me break some of my pre-established ideas about creativity.
Creativity is more than Arts
Creativity is more than arts and it’s more than a childhood pursuit.
Creativity is the ability to look at something in a new way, and/or the ability to make something.
Creativity is a way of approaching life – approaching problems, approaching things (products and stuff), words, thoughts and ideas. It is far more than art.
It is important that we see the arms of creativity beyond art because not everyone is artistic, but I believe everyone can be creative.
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My four children are very creative – developing these skills has been something we have valued and intentionally worked on and made time for in our family. But of the four kids, only one likes to paint and act!
- Joshua is a thinker – he works with ideas. When he was young he was a ponderer. He would just sit there and ponder. I often thought he was wasting time, until I accepted that pondering a thought was a creative process – he was making thoughts! He also teaches – which is a creative process of taking an idea or truth, breaking it down and communicating it to others.
- Jessica is a do-er! She creates order out of chaos. She writes so she communicates ideas and feelings, she plays the piano and creates music. She likes to make things look nice, she creates beauty to the eye.
- Naomi is the arty one – she creates original pieces of art, she performs (on stage and around our dinner table!) she has a natural affinity with colour.
- Daniel’s creativity is broad – he is a problem solver, he understands and makes interpretations or conclusions, he has an eye for photography, and loves making things from wood.
Now these things are just summaries of some of the things I see in my kids. What they actually do isn’t the important thing to me – they will continue to learn new ways to be creative – the important thing is that they are creative – that they approach life with the attitude of ingenuity, flexibility and resourcefulness.
These three traits are actually good ways to see creativity outside of making stuff:
Ingenuity – it is about being clever, looking outside the box, being inventive and having wisdom
Flexibility – it is about being able to change, to think diversely
Resourcefulness – to problem solve, to use your imagination, to use whatever is on hand,
Do you value these traits? Allowing these things in our kids can be confronting for a parent because when we allow – or enable – our kids to be these things, we relinquish control of what happens in our family life. We have to make room for our kids to take their place in the family team. (Please note, this does not diminish our role as parent – but rather we can start gleaning from the skills and creative ability each member of the family can contribute – we don’t have to do it all ourselves.)
How to Establish Creativity in your Family
Now that we have established that creativity is more an attitude than art how do we grow and develop that in our family? Here are my tips:
1–Time is the biggest resource we can give our kids. Give your children stretches of time where you haven’t directed them – I used to call this Productive Free Time. They had the choice of how to spend their time, but it had to be doing something specific – they could play, create, read, work, rest, or think!
2—Allow them to change their interests – let them jump from being interested in horses to colour to blogging; or steam trains to cricket to history. As long as they aren’t being irresponsible with resources – don’t box them into one particular pursuit beyond their interest.
3—Let them solve their own problems – let them think about it first – don’t jump in with solutions or directions. Be available to brainstorm ideas with them, and eventually they may need your help, but see what they come up with first. And sometimes let them try their ideas even if they make you uncomfortable (age appropriate etc…)
4—Accept that anything they create is theirs – let them own it. Don’t interpret it – ask them to tell you about it; don’t write their name or date on it, ask them first; don’t give it away, or throw it away without talking to them first.
5—Teach them how to use the equipment and supplies appropriately. Expect them to be responsible with their tools and the space where they work. Teach them to clean up after themselves.
6—Make it a habit to use their creativity in your family life– If they are thinking let them share their thoughts, if they can fix things let them do the household repairs, if they play music sit down and listen to them perform, if they create art hang it on your walls, if they cook celebrate their food, if they write read their words, if they solve problems tell them well done. We can all benefit from the creative works of each member of our family.
7—Encourage them to express their opinions and ideas – even if they differ from yours. As long as they are respectful toward you and others then their thoughts need to be talked about.
8—Let them fail – it is hard to let your kids continue down a path when you know something isn’t going tow work out well but we must let them fail. If we step in we actually hinder more than help. Like helping a butterfly out of its cocoon – they have to have their struggle – it is what gives them the muscles to survive. We need to let our kids meet failure and disappointment. Help them assess their mistakes, encourage them to fix them when they can, but also let them know that sometimes they have to walk away and that is okay.
9—Let them do things their way – let them own the process and the end product. The only proviso is that they are safe and responsible with the space and equipment. This being so, I also taught my kids that if they learnt from those who went before them, they would stand on their shoulders and see further. I want them to find the balance between learning from others and trying it out for themselves. Don’t take offense when they don’t do it your way!
10—Give them time to ponder, observe, dream and rest. I have already said time is the greatest resource we can give them so I’m mentioning it again. We see these words – pondering, observing, dreaming, resting – as passive words and we see create as active – but without the pondering, observing, dreaming, resting we are unable to create.
Creativity is built on Confidence
One final thing that parents can give their children in order to establish creativity is confidence.
Our children will grow in confidence when we start to trust in their ability to be creative. If we always step in we tell them they aren’t able. If we criticise we tell them they aren’t good enough. If we push we tell them they have to perform to get approval. Instead we are to encourage and praise them – not in the outcomes but in the process. We are to praise their choice to be creative – to be inventive, flexible, and resourceful. And then stand by them regardless of the outcome.
How many of us put limitations on ourselves because someone at some time told us we couldn’t do something. I don’t want to be that person in my kid’s life. I want them to know that I am behind them in their every endeavour. I want them to explore possibilities, I want them to stretch themselves, I want them to know that whatever happens Mum will be there for them.
Get over the Mess!: I share some of these tips in more detail – this is the story of when I realised I had let my attitude to mess stop me from doing what was best for my kids.
My Anxiety over Mess is not Helping my Children Succeed: Once I recognised this I started to look for strategies to help me overcome this.
5 Ways to Encourage your Kids Unique Talents: Each child has unique talents, abilities and interests – it is the parents job to help discover and encourage those skills to grow.
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