How to Build a Creative Environment

Embracing boredom helps build imagination, creativity and innovation in our kids. Although we can’t stuff these things into our kids, we can set up an environment that will support the journey.

Supplies

Stock the house with lots of supplies in easy to reach, organized ways. Recycle glass jars, boxes, plastic containers, and other things to hold supplies. Collect items to store in these containers. The list is really endless, but here are a few suggestions to get you thinking. Just be sure to group like items together and to make it easy for kids to see what’s available and easy to clean up when they’re done.

  • old socks
  • bubble wrap
  • cork
  • googly eyes
  • pom poms
  • popsicle sticks
  • paint
  • a variety of different glues and other adhesives
  • drawing supplies
  • paper of different colors and textures
  • string
  • shells, rocks and sticks
  • straws
  • empty spools
  • bottle caps
  • Nails, wood, hammers, saws, etc

Painting and Drawing

Limit coloring books, but have lots of paper in all different colors, weights and consistencies, and have a wide range of things to draw with (pencils, oil pastels, chalk, markers, crayons, pens, quill and ink, etc.). Encourage kids to use brush alternatives occasionally when they’re painting: string, cotton balls, bubble wrap, potato stamps, q-tips, wine corks, fabric, Walmart bags, leaves…the list is endless.

Encourage kids to use a variety of different surfaces for drawing and painting: old cereal boxes, blocks of wood, tiles, junk mail, t-shirts, etc.

Music

Music speaks the language of the soul. Fill your house with all different kinds of music. If you’ve got cable TV, chances are you have a wide range of music channels. You can also create customized music lists on Spotify.

Play classical, jazz, blues, rock, rap, gospel, Latin, swing, funk, ska, show tunes, country, hip hop, techno, dubstep, Asian, disco, folk, polka, opera, blue grass, R & B, punk, world fusion…play it all! Sure you want to filter out songs with bad lyrics, but there are plenty of acceptable options within each style.

We find that this is a real challenge for some Christian parents. It’s as though they think the only music that’s acceptable to God is on the Christian radio station. God created music, and He loves it! How do I know? The angels sing; heaven is full of music. David, a man after God’s own heart, was a musician, and the Psalms are all set to music.

Encouraging kids to listen to and play music is God honoring because it explores something He created and is quite fond of. Plus, playing music is one of the few activities that actually builds NEW brain cells!

Language Promotes Creativity

Jody and I must sound like a broken record when we say that conversation is king, but we believe so strongly in the power of language that we just have to squeeze it in at every opportunity. Talk, talk, talk and listen, listen, listen! Filling your home with conversation helps build a creative environment.

Encourage kids to journal. Almost everyday we have our kids do something we call sensory writing. For at least ten minutes, we have them sit somewhere unique (under a desk, in the car, in a tree, on the sidewalk, etc.) and write about all the things their senses are experiencing (what they see, hear, smell, taste and feel).

It goes without saying that books are great boredom busters and obvious tools for promoting imagination. Stock the house with books. Listen to audio books in the car. Read poetry and plays together. Read newspaper editorials and talk about them.

Words are imagination building blocks. In fact, according to readaloud.org, the number of words a child has in his vocabulary on entering kindergarten is a key predictor of his or her success.

Science

Stock the house with science supplies and experiment books. If you don’t know how many baking soda benefits exists, then I suggest a little reading on your poart, everyone should have baking soda, vinegar, glue, food coloring, iron shavings, magnets and other science basics on hand. Home Science Tools has just about anything you could need for reasonable prices.

Fill your bookshelves with experiment books. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Toys

Toys can either be creativity boosters or busters. Avoid single purpose toys — toys that do only main thing. Instead, look for open play toys — toys that can be used in many different ways. Here are some examples:

  • Blocks
  • Lincoln Logs
  • Tinker Toys
  • Legos
  • K’Nex
  • Snap Circuits
  • Play Silks
  • Dress Up Items
  • Dollhouse
  • Play Dough
  • Cash Register
  • Play Kitchen
  • Sand Pit
  • Water Table

Skills

If we can empower our kids with a wide range of skills, we’ll give them more choices for boredom-busting, imagination-sparking activities. With YouTube and Instructables, Squiddo, Pinterest and Google, your kids can learn how to do just about anything.

Arm them with some basic skills to help them build imagination through boredom:

  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • sewing (by hand and on a machine)
  • drawing
  • origami
  • using a power drill
  • using a hot glue gun
  • hammering
  • using different screw drivers
  • using different saws
  • making paper
  • knot tying
  • paper mache

Babies

It’s never too early to inspire babies. Make non-toxic finger paint and play dough. Put the baby in a contained place like the high chair, and let him have his way. Don’t worry about whether or not he eats it; that’s all part of the experience.

Give babies big chunky crayons and blank paper and let them play with it as soon as they can hold the crayon. Again, don’t worry if they want to taste the crayon. Just make sure they don’t bite off a chunk that can choke them.

Line the floor with old towels and pull a chair up to the sink. Fill the sink with bubbly water and a variety of utensils like ladles, measuring spoons and cups and a colander, and let baby stand on the chair and play.

Tomorrow we’re going to talk about how to embrace the mess that comes with inspiring creativity. Check back and be sure to leave us a little note!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

7 thoughts on “How to Build a Creative Environment

  1. This article is fantastic! I am a teacher and many of the things you talk about here can be used in a classroom. In fact, I have some of these things in practice already. I am a firm believer that creativity is important and a blessing. Thank you for sharing these things! I will be back to read more!

Comments are closed.