Creative children don’t just play the piano or write fiction. They come up with new, nontraditional thoughts. They’re sensitive to problems others may overlook. Ideas seem to flow effortlessly from their minds.
Kids are naturally creative. But rules, social norms and unrealistic goals can be erosive.
Fortunately, there’s plenty that parents can do to keep creative juices flowing. Here’s how:
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▪ Be comfortable with boredom. Creativity occurs on its own schedule and is often highest when kids start to whine about being bored. Don’t intervene. Let them devise ways to entertain themselves.
▪ Avoid overscheduling. Too many extracurricular activities tax the family unit and limit kids’ abilities to create. Find that just-right balance between involvement and nonstop activities.
▪ Allow for mistakes. Boys and girls who are afraid of failing are less likely to think outside the box. Don’t overreact when something goes wrong. Use mistakes as opportunities to learn.
▪ Fix things yourself. A hands-on approach employs many virtues. It teaches kids how things work, demonstrates problem-solving and models diligence. Involve them whenever possible in your DIY projects.
▪ Cook together. The kitchen is ripe for learning and creativity. Plus, cooking involves children in food preparation and stimulates their interest in health.
▪ Provide open-use toys. Blocks, cardboard boxes, paint sets and craft materials invite them to create to their heart’s content.
▪ Follow kids’ interests. Horseback riding? Choir? Tap dancing? Fencing? Let their passions guide the process, even if their interests are different than yours.
▪ Take a hands-off approach. Whenever possible, let kids lead the way. Encourage them to design, plan and problem-solve on their own.
▪ Limit the number of rules. A study in the Journal of Creative Behavior by social scientist John S. Dacey showed that the parents of ordinary children had an average of six household rules for things like bedtime and homework. Parents of highly creative youngsters had an average of less than one rule.
▪ Keep academics in perspective. Children who are pushed to achieve in school develop a narrow, robotic mind-set. And mega-GPAs have limited impact on kids’ ultimate success as adults. View grades as one facet of a youngster’s well-being.
▪ Say yes to mess. Creativity goes hand in hand with chaos. Whether it’s a fort out of blankets in the living room or an art project with glitter and sequins on the kitchen table, embracing good clutter gives kids the freedom to build and design.
▪ Model creativity. Show kids how it’s done. Children who have creative parents are more likely to follow suit.
▪ Reduce screen time. Teach kids how to entertain themselves by limiting the temptation to turn on a screen. They may complain at first. But they’ll quickly find something else to do.
▪ Emphasize participation over achievement. It’s important for children to be exposed to a wide array of opportunities. They don’t have to excel — they simply have to try.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.