Supporting a child’s creativity can take on many forms. It may show up when you ask your child to invent a new ending for his bedtime story. It may come out when you wonder aloud how to make a snack out of an avocado and a piece of bread.
When we give children the opportunity to try something on their own, we are helping creativity grow. When we challenge them to think and reason, we appeal to their creative imagination. We encourage them to use what they already know, think, and feel. Children have innate creative ability. They have clever answers to problems and can offer their own solutions.
Open-ended questions without right or wrong answers encourage a child to think creatively. Ask a question that doesn’t require a yes or no answer, and a child will draw on what she knows, what she remembers, and what she imagines as she forms her answer.
Crafts and activities draw on children’s imagination. Kids can vary lines, colors, or materials. They can depart from the directions and end up with their own product. Given the chance to make decisions, they use their creativity to follow their own ideas. When we give exact instructions, we stifle them a little bit.
Raising a creative child means focusing on the process, not the product. It is important for children to experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from expressing themselves creatively. And this creative expression shouldn’t be about, say, who draws better or who dances better. It’s about valuing individual effort. We live in a diverse world, and our creative expression can—and should—reflect that.
There are many opportunities for children to be passively entertained. Many shows and games do little to spur children’s thinking. But when provided with materials that challenge him to think, a child will find his own ways to answer a question and explain his thoughts.
Part of raising a creative child also means managing time—and letting children have downtime. There are fewer and fewer opportunities for us to sit and think. In our culture of busyness, we often view free time as wasted time. There is pressure on us, as adults, to fill the minutes and be productive. And frequently that emphasis and focus trickles down to our children, whether we encourage them to be as busy as we are or they simply see how we value busyness.
In supporting creativity, we need to value the downtime, the quiet moments, and the idle minutes. We need to remember that staring out the window is OK and that daydreaming is healthy. It is during these times that we allow our brains to rest and reflect on what we have learned or observed. And doing so helps a child become her best self.