Fostering your child's creativity is important for a variety of reasons. Creative children are more apt to think critically and develop problem-solving skills. They are more likely to channel their feelings in healthy ways and grow in self-confidence. Creativity is an asset to one's long-term professional, social, and emotional development. Child experts encourage caregivers to nurture children's creativity. Mark Runco, Ph.D., director of the University of Georgia's Torrance Center for Creativity & Talent Development claims that everyone has creative potential, but, like many child-experts he believes "Our job as parents and teachers is to help kids fulfill it."
Here are 7 ways that you can help unleash your child's creativity during early childhood:
1. Don't limit your child's interests.
Sometimes it can be frustrating to entertain your child's diverse whims. One week they want to play an instrument and the next week they are practicing to become the next Picasso. It may be tempting to try to limit their interests to one or two areas. However, research shows that those most likely to become Nobel Prize winners dabbled in many creative arts, including music, performing and writing. In fact, although Einstein became a fluent violinist, he initially did not show a preference for the violin and only mastered it years after being introduced. Allow your child to try out a variety of arts until they decide what interests them the most.
2. Limit screen time in lieu of play time.
Technology overload is ever-present in our children's lives. While technology can be an asset, young children need to experience tech-free unstructured play time to develop their creative potential. Encouraging limited screen time and more time outdoors can boost more than your child's imagination. Huffington Post recently featured a family who had chosen to eliminate technology-based entertainment, and the parents reported a shift in their children's willingness, obedience and family participation. If you don't know where to start, begin by allowing children a set amount of tech-time per day, and give them opportunities to decide when to use it. The more they experience other ways to enjoy their time, the more likely they will be to choose less tech-time on their own naturally.
3. Encourage curiosity.
Paul Tough, author of the best-selling book How Children Succeed, reveals that children's development is more dependent on fostering curiosity than forcing them to learn massive amounts of information. Young children are naturally curious. As parents, we grow accustomed to being bombarded with endless questions, but it may be best if we don't try to give answers to all of them. Allow your child to experiment. Ask them what they think the answer might be. Children's curiosity is used to help them process information and develop their own conclusions.
4. Explore the outdoors.
In this era of information-rich education, children are rarely taught the skills associated with the outdoors, such as gardening, but these forgotten lessons teach more than we might think. Children need time outdoors to explore in a safe and protected environment. Preschoolers naturally absorb their environment. Young children need to be able to experience the wonder of nature, the beauty of flowers and sun, and the miracles hidden in our earth's processes.
Make it a family affair. Get outside together. Even during the colder winter months, families can enjoy outdoor activities for short periods of time. Ice skating, hiking, and even raking leaves can be times of togetherness that allow for fun, exploration, and critical thinking. Allowing your child to help decide which route to take, learning new skills, or sorting leaves by shape and color gives them the opportunity to exercise their creative minds, build thinking skills and participate in family fun.
5. Allow fantasy play.
Research supports that children who are allowed to take part in fantasy play tend to be more creative and have greater imaginations than their counterparts. Prompt fantasy play by leading your child to pretend. What do they want to be when they grow up? Ask them to be the teacher, while you pretend to be the student. Turn a rainy day into something magical by creating a fort and acting out roles of knights and princesses. Encourage them to pretend they are on a treasure hunt or safari. Take time to participate in their imaginary adventures.
6. Channel your child's inner artist.
Art allows for creative expression and has been proven to reduce cortisol in the brain. It has also been instrumental in helping children to work through traumatic events. It does not matter their skill level or ability as long as they are free to create. Make art materials readily available at home and ask them about their creations. Designate an area or shelf for paper, crayons, glue sticks, sequins, Popsicle sticks or any other craft materials. Change the materials out regularly and hang their work on the refrigerator or in cheap frames that can be updated monthly.
7. Use music and dance to unlock creative minds.
Music and movement provide outlets for children to express themselves, release creative energy and tap into their talents. Play music and prompt them to "move like the wind" or "dance like a leaf." This will get them moving to their own beat and allow them to make up their own movements to music. Encourage them to play " instruments" with household items. A drum can be a bucket and wooden spoon. A "guitar" can be made by cutting a circular hole in a cereal box and looping rubber bands through the center to be plucked as "strings." Your child will have fun, and you may discover a love for dance or music that will follow them for years to come.
Creative children grow into creative adults. Our job is to aid this development while they are young so that they are free to reach their unique, creative potential as they transform through the years.
GAC nurtures creativity at all grade levels during the school day and through after school co-curriculars. Students are encouraged to explore, create, and expand their interests as they strive to reach their greatest potential. Click here to learn more about creativity at GAC.