Creativity Made Easy
We all know that creativity is a good thing: it helps children and adults see various points of view and solutions to problems, helps people adapt better to change, and is a great asset in school and professional settings. But just how do we GET it? There’s a class for math and a course in Spanish, but where do we learn creativity? Here are some easy ways to build your child’s (and your own) creativity!
First, remember that creativity is like a muscle—we build strength gradually and need to exercise often. Don’t get upset if your first fliers into creativity are not brilliant successes—we’re aiming for everyday creativity, not world-class art.
Second, turn off your critic. Nothing stifles creativity like trying to do something “right”. Your child will sense if you’re disappointed in their efforts or you own, so try to keep your eye on the prize: here it’s the process of creativity that counts, not the product at all. Just by trying to be creative, you’re succeeding!
Third, stay loose. The most creative ideas are often the ones that come when we’re most relaxed.
Now that you’re ready, here are some fun ways to practice creative thinking with your child.
- Ask for solutions. Say you’re making dinner together and the macaroni spills on the floor. Ask your child “I wonder what are some ways we could clean this up?” Wait for answers beyond “the broom” and see what else you can come up with—maybe you could borrow an elephant to suck up the noodles, or pour hot water on the floor and cook them right there. Once you’ve generated some fun and some practical ideas, ask your child to pick the best one. You’ll learn a lot about his critical thinking AND his creativity.
- Take the long way home. If you’re walking or driving somewhere that you go often, ask your child to suggest an alternate route. See if there are other ways you might go, and then notice the differences together. “I never knew this street had so many trees!” “Look at this—we never see the backside of this school”
- Play along: let your child lead the play sometimes and really get down there with them. On the long way home, your child may decree one block “sideways walking” or may decide that the neighbors only speak “Blurb-ese”—walk sideways for a block and jibber away at your neighbors. You may look silly for a moment, but your child will see that you value their ideas, and that you’re willing to build your own creativity muscles!
- Encourage curiosity and solution-finding. Sometimes the best answer to a “how” question is (like “how do you make a birdhouse?” not “how do I turn off the sewing machine?”) is “Hmmm … great question! I wonder where we can find an answer to that?” Or “Wow! What a great idea! What do you think would be the best way?”
- Explore possibilities. Ask questions like “would you rather ride a rocket ship or a horse to school?” or at the end of a favorite storybook “I wonder what happens next?” This will remind your child that “the end” never is, and that many problems have multiple solutions.
- Admire process without judgment or comparison. Rather than “what a pretty picture!” (they may have been trying to make something ugly, or just some blobs) say “I notice you used a lot of colors on that one” or “You just made that song up, and sang it for me!” You’ll be showing your child that the fact of creative expression is a lot more valuable to you than the results, and you’ll also be respecting their ability to evaluate it themselves. Face it, we’re all pretty critical of our creative expressions, so it would be nice to have at least one person (you) who doesn’t join in the evaluations.
- Reward reasonable risk-taking. A lot of creative solution-finding is trial and error. Don’t be disappointed if the first (or second) try doesn’t work. Show active curiosity “I wonder why that didn’t work?” and encouragement “I wonder what else we can try.” A little cheerleading “this is hard, but I know you’ll figure it out!” won’t hurt either.
- Show off! Ask which pictures or projects they’d like displayed (don’t just pick your favorites). Create a “gallery space” on the refrigerator or in a hallway. Kids also get a kick out of their work being displayed at your office or workspace—ask permission to create a display near your desk and ask for contributions.
These simple tips will not only encourage your child to flex his creativity, but they’ll also build your creative muscles. Enjoy!