I once heard a 12 year old boy ask his mother, “Is it okay if I organize the pantry?” I knew at that moment, not all kids think alike. I had three kids of my own at the time, plenty old enough for the task, but I was sure I would never hear such a request. This mom said yes and as our kids played together, her oldest made himself busy organizing.
This mom friend of mine had 3 kids and a very orderly, linear thinking kind of dad that her kids took after. These are the kids most likely to have high test scores and success in school. But mom balanced her kids by being sure they had art, music and other more open ended creative opportunities. This was great wisdom because we all have two sides of the brain and while linear test score intelligence lies in the left, real genius is when we use both sides of the brain in tandem.
Here are some things you can do to get your left brain linear thinkers to open up the right side of themselves:
Get music in their life. It’s hard to imagine life without music because it’s everywhere. But we can develop the right side of us by being intentional about listening to all sorts of music. Classical, jazz, contemporary, oldies but goodies, African drum rhythms and so much more. But music is not just about listening. Have your kids sing, dance or play an instrument. The experience of playing music, alone or in an ensemble has tremendous impact on our brains, our social development and emotional well-being.
Get them doing art. All kids need to do art. Art isn’t just for the kids with ‘artistic talent’. It’s for everybody. Kids need to doodle. Draw. Paint. Invent stuff. Make stuff. Doing art is supposed to be fun. Don’t wait for your kids to ask for art. Stock up on a variety of art supplies. Go see art at local museums or art fairs. Check out books on art masters, or look at their work online. You can even help your art shy kids develop confidence by enrolling them in classes.
Make time to daydream. Our linear kids are all about following the rules and getting things done, but we need to get them to loosen up and let their minds wander a bit. Daydreaming requires unstructured time and permission to do nothing. It also means no TV or tech devices. It’s about being quiet and letting one’s imagination fill the space. This can be tough for people that are driven to do, but the benefits are worth the effort. You can prime the pump by listening to an audio book, telling stories or looking at photographs and asking questions about the possibilities.
Encourage them to tell stories. The sillier the better. This might be the hardest of these suggestions because your logical kid may lack confidence in making up original stories. But kids are kids and a little encouragement will get them there. Try doing this in a group setting; around the campfire or family game night. Have everyone participate by building a story together. One person shares a few sentences to start the story, then everyone else takes turns adding on. It’s a great way to imagine and get silly together.
Let them be a little messy. While we appreciate all the ways our left brain kids keep things in order, a little bit of chaos can loosen them up and let new things happen. Creative thinking needs a little space and sometimes a bit mess to happen. We don’t have to get crazy, but let there be times or places when creative play, disarray or doing nothing, come before getting things done.
Enjoy and appreciate all the ways your left brain kids think, but know, it’ gets even better when they develop both sides of themselves. If we encourage them to think outside the lines and imagine the possibilities, there’s no telling what they will come up with. For more ways to get their creative juices flowing, read 10 Ways to Encourage Creativity.