Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, William Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, Steven Spielberg, Steve Jobs - if you were asked what these personalities have in common, apart from enjoying fame and gaining the admiration of people across generations and cultures, one inescapable realisation clutches us by our shoulders, shakes us vigorously and screams ‘CREATIVITY!” in our ear. Oh yes, admittedly, these names belong to an elite circle of the chosen few and never in our wildest imagination could we ever aspire to hear our name spoken in the same breath as these creative geniuses. We stand back in awe of their talent and go on with our lives accepting, without question, the fact that fate simply did not see fit to bestow us with the same creativity and talent.
But fate was not so biased after all as it appears that ALL people, in fact, are born with creativity. Of course, we have it in different amounts and a lifetime of unique experiences determines whether we eventually cultivate our innate creativity or not.
The great news, however, is that creativity can be taught! Parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and basically everyone who has contact with a child, have the wonderful opportunity to nurture the child’s creativity. It’s not at all difficult to do and, in fact, can be quite an enjoyable and mutually rewarding experience for both adults and children.
1. Encourage your child to explore art materials but focus on the exploration rather than on the finished product.
Provide your child with a variety of art materials such as assorted colored papers, cloths of different textures, paints, markers, clay, and craft scissors, to name a few. Do not forget to include non-traditional materials such as pine cones, spray bottles, and twigs. In fact, anything and everything can be used for an art creation. Support the process of creation and do not judge the final product based on your own standards of beauty.
2. Assure your child that you value and respect all her ideas.
When you dismiss your youngster’s ideas as “absurd” or “wrong”, she will feel ashamed of her thoughts and will not venture to express them anymore. Show her that you understand and appreciate why she thinks the way she does about certain things. If she feels confident that she will not be ridiculed, then she will not hesitate to think of and express many new and original ideas.
3. Encourage role-playing and dramatic play.
Together, you can pretend to be characters from familiar stories, nursery rhymes and songs. Maintain a box full of improvised props and put this within easy reach of your child. You can also pretend to be inanimate objects and portray ‘what if’ situations.
4. Provide your child with lots of versatile building and construction toys.
Give your child a variety of blocks, paper tubes, boxes, and play dough for use with tiny plastic animals, small cars and planes, road signs, and little people. You can build scenes from favorite stories, lessons learned at school or actual experiences of your child.
5. Keep a stash of materials that an “inventor” might be interested in.
Encourage the creation of inventions by having a constant supply of materials such as boxes, jar lids, pipe cleaners, tape, paper clips, rubber bands, old brushes, and many other things that would otherwise have gone to the dustbin. Challenge your child to invent a musical instrument, a robot, or a vehicle using only the materials at hand.
6. Make meaningful gifts and cards for family and friends instead of buying them.
On special occasions, ask your child what a special someone might appreciate. Your child can make a card with a personal message, or a picture frame, a paperweight, or even decorate a pot for a plant present.
7. Encourage the use of tools to solve problems.
Provide blocks, tubes, string, marbles, paper clips, magnets, and many tiny objects ideal for counting or estimation. Try out ‘what if’ scenarios and learn more about math and science concepts, in addition to the skills of making predictions and confirming guesses, by using these tools.
8. Encourage the use of different ingredients in cooking activities.
Have your child think up original menus and innovative ways of presenting a meal or a snack. Make tropical fruit kabobs, slice veggies differently, add unusual food coloring, create edible sculptures – and the list goes on and on and on.
9. Play a variety of games.
Learn about games from all cultures. Challenge your child to invent games or modify the rules of familiar games. When playing, encourage your child to be spontaneous and flexible.
10. Encourage outdoor play.
There are many possibilities to be explored outdoors such as imagining the sources of sounds, conjuring up other worlds, exploring animal habitats, and building fortresses at the beach.
This list, of course, goes on and on has as many items as there are ways by which you and your child can explore the wondrous realm of creativity.
Sources of this article:
Backer, Barbara. 101 Tips for Preschool Teachers. Encouraging Creativity. California: Warren Publishing House, 1996.
Hausner, Lee, and Jeremy Schlosberg. Teaching Your Child Creativity. Washington: Lifeline Press, 1998.