This week we’re talking about raising imaginative kids, and today we’re going to focus on our role as our kids’ creative director.
First, we are in charge of establishing our kids’ creative space. Check out How to Build a Creative Environment. For parents who shudder at the thought of the wreckage that creativity can bring, we offered some practical tips to help in How to Embrace the Mess.
Next, we have to give them permission and freedom to explore and create.
Frequent Limits Can Produce In-the-Box Thinkers
We’ll talk more about this when we get into the things that kill creativity, but we have to touch on it here too. We’ve got to give our kids freedom, and sometimes (especially with kids who are addicted to screens or incessantly lap the block on their bikes or want to spend every free minute with friends), we have to impose the freedom to explore and create.
But for many parents, this means letting go of some things. For example, it’s okay to let toddlers empty the bottom shelves of the bookcase. The motor planning and small discoveries involved in the process are building creativity and imagination.
We have to let our kids risk some scraped knees and failed projects and frustration and disappointment.
Remember That The Joy is In the Journey
Don’t focus on the product; focus on the process. If your child brings you her creation, ask open-ended questions like, “Tell me about the colors you chose?” or “How did you think of adding grass and sticks to your creation?”
Stay away from confining questions like, “What is it?” The answer to that question is “art” — it’s art. It doesn’t have to look like a person or an animal or a car to be valuable. Along the same lines, avoid value statements like, “It’s beautiful.” Instead, say, “Thank you for sharing that with me.” And definitely, stay away from criticism. If your daughter brings you a drawing and says, “See my elephant, mommy!” Don’t say, “That doesn’t look like an elephant.” or “Elephants are grey sweetheart, not green.”
How Involved Should You Be?
Obviously, we need to make sure the kids are safe. So, when they’re little or when they’re doing something new that could be dangerous, we can watch from a distance.
If you’re loosely monitoring, keep yourself busy. You could read or journal. You could make your shopping list or write thank you notes. You could work on your iPad or plan the next birthday party or make your menu or grocery list. Make it an enjoyable and/or productive time for you so that your child has the freedom to work uninterrupted, and you don’t feel tempted to cut the time short.
Some kids want their parents’ company while they’re experimenting or creating. If that’s the case, stay interested and involved but without any hint of criticism and without offering much suggestion.
Immerse Kids in Language and Stories
Read together and engage in great conversation. Let kids draw while you read chapter books. That will occupy their right brain and free up their left brain to listen to the story. Listen to audio books together. Use car time to make up creative stories together.
If you watch movies together, make time to talk about them. Tell your kids stories from your childhood. Ask them probing and thought-provoking questions. And encourage them to ask you interesting questions.
Set The Example
Be a creative role model. What things are interesting to you? Do you like to sew, crochet, scrapbook, decorate, cook, garden? Make time to do those things. Not only will you be happier, but you will be setting a good example for your kids.
Look things up with your kids. Find out why the sky is blue and why there are so many languages in the world and why people get sick and why some people have freckles and others don’t and why sometimes people cry when they’re happy.
Kids who are afraid to fail are less likely to be creative. If your child acts disappointed at making a mistake, try saying something like, “What can we do to change this outcome?” Mistakes can often produce a better outcome. Teach kids to embrace the activity in and of itself and value the process more than the product.
Inspire kids to look at failure in a new way by studying some great inventions that were created as a result of mistakes. Look up the history of these things to find out how failures turned into great inventions:
- Post-It Notes
- Ivory Soap
- Potato Chips
- The Slinky
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- The Pacemaker
- Silly Putty
- Corn Flakes
Set aside creative time, even if kids aren’t feeling so inspired at the moment. Remember that GREAT quote from Monday’s post? Boredom is a powerful means for birthing imagination. Don’t be afraid of it.
Answer Questions With Questions
Child: “Mommy, why is the sky blue?”
Parent: “What are some things you can think of that might cause the sky to be blue?”
Kids need open visual space to think and create – it gives them physical and mental freedom.
Support creativity with good nutrition, proper hydration and adequate sleep.
I am ABSOLUTELY sure we missed a great many things. Leave us a comment and share other ways that parents can be excellent creative directors for their kids!