Creativity drives innovation. It’s an essential life skill, and sadly, one that’s being shoved to the back burner in today’s electronically driven world.
It’s time to fight back against the over-scheduled calendar and beeping gadgets, and invite creativity into your family’s life. Everyone in the family will benefit from this decision.
Creativity doesn’t take much planning. It actually doesn’t require you to do anything. You get to sit back and watch your child unleash the amazing power of imagination that’s already inside. Here are ten simple ways to make it happen.
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1. Bring Out the Art Supplies: Without Pinterest Inspiration
Set out some basic art supplies, and let your child create. Don’t have an end result in mind that you found on Pinterest. Don’t supply a sample that your child should strive to copy.
Instead, let your child think about what to do, and then figure out how to do it. They might mess up. They might make something that you don’t think is beautiful enough to take a picture of for social media. But, they will be creating out of their own mind, which is the goal.
My kids love it when I set out:
- Paper (printer and a variety of colors of Construction Paper)
- Glue Sticks
That’s everything they need to create some pretty amazing things. I typically let them craft and create for thirty minutes or so – until I sense that the majority of the kids are done. Then I give them a quick “we’re going to clean up in 2 minutes” warning so they can wrap up their project.
Then everyone helps clean up and we all share what we’ve made. The sharing is my favorite part. I love seeing what my kids have come up with!
Lately, one of my children has been on a card kick. She loves making cards for other people, and is experimenting with different ways to make pop-up cards.
Another is creating maps of worlds he thinks would make fun Mario levels. Occasionally he’ll use his drawing as a guide when playing Super Mario Maker.
My three-year-old loves to cut out random strips of paper and glue them together. I have no idea what she’s making, but she’s sure gaining great practice with scissors and glue.
The important thing is, there is no right or wrong when crafting. Let your kids do their own thing and practice new skills.
2. Let Your Child Invent a New Game
Ask your child to invent a game, and then play it. If your child is stuck, break it into simple steps:
- Go find three items that you want to use in the game
- Think about the end of the game–will you all work together for a goal, or will there be a winner? What does winning look like?
- Are there any rules we need to know about?
It doesn’t matter if you’re using a fly swatter to slap the tops of tin cans around the house, or if you’re laying on your bellies trying to slide plastic dishes into a masking tape circle. What matters is that you’re allowing your child to think the game through, and be in charge of making it happen. This is so empowering for a child!
3. Go Outside without a Purpose
Head outside and sit and read or something while your kids play. Let them figure out what to do and how to do it. Of course you’ll be keeping an eye on them to make sure they’re not throwing apples into the road or tying the toddler up to the tree, but unless there’s a huge issue, try to let them be.
There’s something about fresh air and open spaces that inspire creativity.
4. Turn on Music and Move
Music encourages kids to move. Turn on some good music and let everyone move around to their heart’s content. There’s no special steps to learn, or way this needs to look. Just let them be free!
It’s also fun to bring out some simple accessories during this movement time. Silk scarves and bubbles add a new layer of fun.
Try to play a variety of tempos, so your kids can hear the changes and possibly change their movement accordingly. There’s some great classic music that encourages movement, like The Carnival of the Animals .
5. Stop Solving All their Problems
If you’re hovering over your child just waiting for minor problems to arise so you can swoop in and save the day, I have a news flash for you. You are not doing your child any favors.
It may be an unpopular opinion, but helicopter parenting is not a good thing when it comes to raising adults.
Critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving skills are learned through experience, not observation. So sit down and let your child figure out how to get their toy tractor out of the hole it’s stuck in. Let them figure out how to climb to the top of the playground equipment by themselves.
As they learn and experience, they’ll be gaining vital skills. And you’ll actually get a chance to sit down for a minute as you watch your child grow right before your eyes.
Of course, if they’re in actual danger, it’s not a good time to let them learn from experience. But for all the minor problems they come across in their day, let them try to figure things out before you intervene.
6. Allow Unstructured Time Daily
Boredom is not a problem that you need to solve. It’s a problem your kids can solve. But, if they’re structured from the time they get up to the time they crawl wearily into bed at night, they’ll never have to decide what to do.
They’ll never learn how to manage their own time, how to pursue their interests on their own time, or really anything except how to follow a schedule that someone else made.
Give your child a chance to be a kid. Put a quiet play time into your day. Let them play on their own, without anyone telling them what they have to do.
It’s during this time that kids can stop and reflect about the day. When they can do something they want to do, try new things, and just play.
I have free time and quiet time each day. Free time is meant for collaborative play and enjoying unstructured time with siblings.
But quiet time is for individual play. This is the time the kids get to dive into their own interests and do things their way. They don’t have to worry about a little sibling crumpling up their papers or knocking their line of toy trucks out of order.
I think both of these times are important, and can see creative benefits for both.
7. Build a Simple Fort
A fort encourages creative play. It can turn into a cavern to explore, or a reading nook to tuck away from the craziness of life for a bit.
Forts can be complicated, but they don’t have to be. You don’t even need to buy one of those fancy “build a fort” kits.
Here’s how I make a simple one for my kids:
I turn the couch around so the back of it is facing into the living room.
Then I drag two chairs from the dining room table over and set them out a ways away from the couch.
Next I have the kids find big blankets and rubber bands. We stretch the blanket over the back of the couch and onto the chairs. Then we secure the corners of the blanket onto the chairs with rubber bands.
You can also just drape a large sheet over your dining room table and make a cave style fort. That’s even simpler!
Then, give your kids time to play inside the fort. You might even give them a snack to eat in there.
8. Make House Rules for Games
Does your family love board games as much as mine does? If you do, you may already have house rules for your favorites.
House rules are exceptions or changes to the rules that you create. They make the game better suited for your individual family.
They’re also a great way to foster creativity. They show your child that you can think outside the box and don’t always have to do everything the directions say you should.
To unleash even more creativity, let your child come up with a rule change to try. It’ll make them think about the game, and how they think they can make it better. That requires some pretty high levels of thinking skills, but is also fun!
Just remember that when you play the game outside of your home, you may have to reread the rules to learn how it’s really played! 😀
9. Buy Open Ended Toys
If every toy in your house has a distinct purpose, or needs batteries, you’re really limiting creative play.
Kids for years thrived with simple toys. Those simple things, combined with some imagination, led to hours of open-ended play.
So ditch many of your battery operated toys, and opt for:
- Building Blocks
- Construction sets
- Train tracks that can have multiple configurations and are not glued down
- Baby dolls
- A car rug and several cars
And any other toys that foster creative play.
These toys, combine with time for free play, will help your children think creatively. They may use the blocks to create a city around the car rug.
Or set up a toy hospital for the baby dolls like Doc McStuffins does. You never know what they’ll come up with when you step back and give them space.
10. Celebrate Creative Thinking
When your child suggests something, don’t be so quick to blow them off. Let them try putting ketchup on their ice cream even though you think it’s disgusting.
You don’t want your child to be you. You want to encourage them to be the best self they can be. They have to be allowed, and encouraged, to stretch their wings, and fly a bit. So don’t squash them every time they try to be different.
Let them be creative in the kitchen, in play, and in talking about the future. Just listen, and celebrate their creativity.
Instead of saying, “That sounds gross!” say, “I never thought of doing that!”
Instead of saying, “You can’t do that!” say, “I’m not sure how it’ll work, but I’d love to see you try!”
Use positive words that encourage creative thinking. Just because you can’t do something doesn’t mean your child can’t. Don’t put them in a little box!
How Do You Unleash Creativity in Your Child?
Creativity is so important! I’d love to hear other ways you encourage it. Please share your best tips in the comments so we can all benefit from your experience!
This post was originally published on my Tanner Learning blog, which I’m slowly taking down and moving over here. It’s been refreshed and updated.