Children spend most of their days following different sets of rules designed to tell them how to think, how to act, what to do in any given situation. But they need time to explore things outside of those rules if they are to be successful in the future. They need to be able to think creatively. I have compiled a list of ideas for you to get them started in their creative adventures where the limits are boundless.
These ideas are meant to inspire your child’s creativity – but us adults need to remember we are capable of tremendous creativity – and may be doing so much of what we ‘need’ to do – we’ve forgotten how to let loose and do our own thing. We may want to consider these for ourselves too.
- Turn off the TV – Creativity is not about screen time. Watching television and playing video games are passive activities. And while some television shows and video games can have educational value, you still need to limit your child’s screen time. No matter how good they might be, they’re still playing in what someone else imagined.
- Think outside the box – the ‘box’ can be good. The ’box’ can provide structure, a framework for doing, for being. But sometimes you need to think beyond the box and step into new territory. Every new invention, new discovery, new way of doing things – came from outside the box. Kids need to know what’s in the ‘box’ and how to operate there, but they also need to spend time thinking about what’s outside that ‘box’.
- Play outside the box – I have shopped in the toy isle of many a department store, looking for a new toy to keep my little ones busy, only to realize again and again, those kinds toys have a limited depth of play. To inspire more creative play, shop for things that inspire a different kind of fun. Head to the art and craft store, the army surplus store, scientific shop to find age appropriate props that inspire original thought and increased engagement.
- Be Curious – Remember what it’s like to be a kid and the hunger you had to explore. Spend time with a 2 year old and bugs become really exciting again. Go to a play. Attend the ballet. The symphony. Listen to different kinds of music. Find new places to walk. Take a hike. Be adventurous.
- Listen in new ways – Invite your child to listen in ways to develop the theater of the mind, where the listener supplies the visuals. Learn to see with your mind and not depend on what others create for you. My husband listens to old radio shows and now our grandson has developed a taste for listening as well. Gunsmoke, The Shadow and Johnny Dollar are some of their favorites.
- Put on a show – When our kids were young they were often leading the neighborhood kids in creative adventures. Encourage talent shows, bike parades and hot lava pits in the backyard. While they revel in creative play, they also learn the value of teamwork, relationships and how to celebrate each other.
- Be original –It’s almost impossible to buy a bedspread, a poster, clothes, toys and even food – that are not branded by the latest movie or video game. But don’t do it. Be original. Expose your kids to other artists, other t-shirt designs, other kinds of toys and play. Being creative starts with having original ideas. It starts with letting your child be who they want to be.
- Sing, dance, act, create – The arts are all about creativity. Exploring, doing and training in ways that build confidence and more doing. Provide lots of materials and opportunities for kids to create on their own and with friends. But also sign up for music, dance and art classes so your child can practice their craft regularly, while developing core skills and competency.
- Play in the junk drawer – Every house has that one place, a drawer, a basket or the closet where the odds and ends end up; the knob from a broken cabinet, extra batteries, ball of string, odd Lego parts, duct tape… Think of Apollo 13 – what looked like a random pile of junk – but they had to rethink, re-imagine its purpose – to create something new.
- Go outside and get messy – Today’s kids are either playing some techno gadget, at a scheduled activity or attending a party at noisy pizza place. But that’s not doing anything for their creativity. Kids need time to go outside and play in the sandbox. They need to take a hike. Make mud pies. Dig a hole. Dance in the rain. And mom and dad need to not worry about the dirt, the mess, or what’s next on the schedule. Once in awhile, let your kids be up past their bedtime. Send them outside and let them play. Let them run. Catch fireflies. Play Holly in the dark. Build a fort. Dig a hole. Make a mess.