How to increase creativity in Children
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Logic will get you from A to B – Imagination will take you anywhere.” – Albert Einstein
Last weekend, I took my five-year-old nephew to the park near his house. It was an overcast day and the park was nothing fancy – just a few swings, a climbing frame and an old tin fishing boat mounted on a metal coil. My nephew ran towards the boat yelling ‘I’ll save you!” Following his lead, I climbed in behind him and we started thrashing the boat from side to side on its metal spring.
After a while, curiosity got the better of me. “What are you saving me from, buddy?” He looked at me as though he couldn’t believe my stupidity. “Lava…and pirates!” Obviously.
Anyone who has interacted with children will know that they are natural dreamers with powerful imaginations. But research shows that a child’s imagination is actually essential for his or her development, a powerful tool that improves social and emotional intelligence, problem-solving and analytical abilities, as well as allowing them to explore and develop their own identity. Studies have even shown that creative practice can alleviate pain in young children. Quite simply, when children create, they bloom.
In the age where the toy market is saturated with technology and highly manufactured products, fostering a child’s natural creativity can be a challenge. I’ve collated six simple suggestions from experts around the world to ensure your child’s creativity and imagination flourish every day.
- Be creative with your child
Spotlight’s on you! A recent study from the Journal of Child Development showed that at the age of one, children are already absorbing creativity from their parents. That means that before your child can speak or hold a spoon, he is already forming his ideas of the world based on your interactions with it. So take the lead and show him the magic in everyday items during play time. A tablecloth can make a fabulous swirling cape. A set of measuring cups can double as a squadron of boats in the bath. Using everyday items in creative ways will allow your child to see the magic in the world around him.
- Use ‘open-ended’ materials
Great news – your child was born a creative genius simply because he was born a human! Humans are one of the most complex and dextrous species on the planet and at the age of two, can already invent tools on their own. You can encourage this by using things like blocks, shapes, paint and play-doh during play to encourage children to build, mould and shape. These materials are referred to by early childhood teachers as ‘open-ended tools’ because they can be used in a variety of different ways. Older children can be extended during active play with encouraging comments and challenges: Can you make a colour that matches the tree in the backyard? Do you think you could build a tunnel out of those blocks? For parents who know that shop-bought isn’t the only way, making paint and play-doh at home can be a great hands-on activity.
- Engage the Senses
I don’t have a creative bone in my body! is something adults say on a regular basis, and perhaps they’re right. After all, bones are deep within us; we cannot see or feel them. Creativity is sensorial; it lies on the surface. Recently, I took part in a creative writing workshop for young girls who were guided to write a poem about themselves, based on sensorial memories. The girls loved recollecting tiny, magical details of their lives, such as the light bouncing off a trampoline, or the smell of their mother’s lipstick. According to Child Educational Psychologist Charlotte Reznick, the five senses play a big role in a child’s imagination and it’s easy to activate them during creative time. Reznick advises that that activating a child’s senses is as simple as taking them into the outdoors, to a park, beach, museum or library. If reading a story about a fantasy world, she suggests asking your child – what this place might smell like? Would be hot or cold? What animals would be there? What noises would they make?
- Eliminate the pressure to perform
Being ‘good enough’ is an adult concept – studies show that from the age of six, creativity in children can begin to become stifled by the expectations of adults. There are many schools of thought on the best way to comment on a child’s artwork – some believe in praise while others refrain from commenting at all, believing that art is not meant to be validated by others. Some parents love to paper their fridge with their child’s handiwork, and others will only display their child’s artwork if the child allows them to do so. One of my earliest memories as an artist was when I was five, bursting with pride as I watched my mother leave the house on a dinner date with Dad, wearing the rainbow macaroni necklace I had made that day. Learning to strike a balance with encouragement will give your child the confidence to keep creating, and more importantly, to keep dreaming.
- Encourage self-reliance
During creative time, a child’s sense of self-reliance and self-confidence can be fostered by encouraging them to make decisions. If a child asks a question, a good response could be “I don’t know, what do you think we should do? How can we find the answer? Do you think there is another way?” Encouraging children to lead projects allows them to build their trust in their own sense of judgement. Will a child’s decision always be the right one? Probably not. Will you laugh together if you blow it, celebrating mistakes as part of the journey? Absolutely!
- Expose your child to the arts
Experiment with your child. How does he or she express creativity? Do they like to sing, dress up or draw endlessly on scraps of paper? Once you identify your child’s enthusiasm, you can expand on this by enrolling them in art, music or drama programs. If you’re unsure of your child’s artistic calling, try a program that provides exposure to multiple channels of creativity. The Colouring Dreams program* by House To Grow combines art therapy and music to encourage children to unlock their creative talents while inspiring them to create and follow their dreams. According to Pilar Lopez, founder of the House To Grow Charity, “Creativity is a state of madness, where failure has a good reputation.”
*The next Colouring Dreams program is now open for enrolments. To register, complete an expression of interest form.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.