Many people assume that creativity is an inborn talent but is actually more a skill that can be nurtured. It is a key to success in nearly everything we do and is not limited to art and music—it is essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence.
Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, which makes them more able to adapt to technological advances and deal with change—as well as take advantage of new opportunities.
Researchers believe we have changed the experience of childhood in a way that impairs creative development. Children no longer need to imagine a stick is a sword in a game or story they’ve imagined: they can play Star Wars with a specific light-saber in costumes designed for the specific role they are playing.
Here are some ideas for fostering creativity in your children:
1. Provide the resources they need for creative expression. The key resource here is time. Children need a lot of time for unstructured, child-directed, imaginative play –unencumbered by adult direction, and that doesn’t depend on a lot of commercial stuff.
2. Space is also a resource your children need. Give them a specific place where they can make a mess – like room in your attic for dress-up, a place in the garage for painting, or a corner in your family room for Legos. Next time someone asks for a gift suggestion for your children, ask for things like art supplies, cheap cameras, costume components, building materials. Put these in easy-to-deal-with bins that your children can manage.
3. Foster a creative atmosphere. Ask for a lot of different ideas, but resist the urge to evaluate the ideas your children come up with. Brainstorm activities for the upcoming weekend, encouraging them to come up with things they’ve never done before. Don’t point out which ideas aren’t possible or decide which ideas are best. The focus of creative activities should be on process: generating (vs. evaluating) new ideas.
4. Encourage children to make mistakes and fail. Yes, fail – children who are afraid of failure and judgment will curb their own creative thought. Share the mistakes you’ve made recently, so they get the idea that is okay to flub up. Laughing at yourself when you make a mistake is a happiness habit.