Kids are naturally creative and inquisitive beings. They dance, and make art with mud, and they ask Why? until you could pull out your hair.
In 2010, a four decade study (the Torrance Test) determined that creativity in American children is decreasing. The study found today’s children less humorous and imaginative and less able to come up with original and unusual ideas.
Creativity requires both divergent thinking (coming up with many unique ideas) and convergent thinking (combining the ideas for the best results). It’s thinking and acting outside the box.
This dwindling trend in creativity is worrisome for parents. There’s a big payoff for kids who can maintain and develop their creative energy. Studies show highly creative adults tend to have happier, more successful lives.
The good news is that creativity is innate and can’t be lost. But it needs to be nurtured. Here are seven kid-friendly ways to foster creativity at home.
- Be a role model for your kids. The most powerful way to develop lifelong creativity in your kids is to show them. Be curious. Laugh and play with your kids. Ask questions that stretch their imagination. After they play with a toy, you might ask, “How could you improve this toy to make it better and more fun to play with?”
- Give your kids plenty of time for unstructured, open-ended play. Children require large blocks of spontaneous, self-directed play for lifelong, creative development.
- Have a wide variety of expressive materials available. Provide your kids with a rich mixture of community and cross cultural experiences. Creative experiences are pathways to self discovery.
- Choose open-ended toys and games that allow children to create a wide variety of pretend/fantasy scenarios. Wooden blocks, balls, LEGOs, train sets, tree swings, and an old trunk stuffed with dress up items are good examples.
- Put your emphasis on the process of creativity and not on the finished product. Competitions that put kids in a win-lose situation, the excessive use of prizes, and unreasonably high performance expectations are creativity killers.
- Children need to make their own choices. Take a step back and give your kids creative space. Hovering chokes creativity and kills risk taking.
- Restrict screen time. (They call TV “the boob tube” for a reason.) Limit computer time as well. Help your kids choose computer games that allow them to learn more freely, rather than ones that aim for a specific outcome.
- Ask your kids questions that expand possibilities and encourage divergent thinking. Here’s a good resource for family games that teach kids to think outside the box. http://growingcreativekids.com/divergent-and-convergent-thinking-techniques-for-creative-kids/
- Free up your busy family schedule to include time for creative play. Soccer is great but kids also need unstructured play every day. Play is essential to problem solving, searching out new solutions, social skills, creativity, and intelligence. Unrestricted play is the magical place where children dream.
It’s through creative play that children discover the possibilities and the wonder of their own lives. With her very first mud pie, a child begins creating her unique place in the world.
K.J. Larsen’s Cat DeLuca Mysteries, are published by Poisoned Pen Press. Larsens’ debut novel, Liar Liar, was awarded Library Journals Best Mystery, 2010. Liar, Liar, Sticks and Stones, and Some Like It Hot are available at the Seattle Mystery Bookstore and on Amazon. Cat’s fourth adventure, Bye Bye, Love, will be released April 2015