When we hear the word “creativity”, often what first comes to mind are artists and poets and musicians. However, creativity is much more simpler than that, and is something that starts early on. Creativity means using our imagination to come up with something new. Creativity is not for just the artistic, it’s something that helps children in their overall development.
Creativity is a form of self-expression. It’s the medium through which children learn to express themselves and enhances their confidence and personal development. And in the early years, it’s actively expressed through play. Play helps develop each child’s unique perspective and individual style of creative expression. Play expresses the child’s personal, unique responses to the environment. Play is a self-expressive activity that draws on the child’s powers of imagination. Play is open-ended, free-form and children have the freedom to try out new ideas as well as build on and experiment with the old
Creative experiences can help children express and cope with their feelings. A child’s creative activity can help teachers to learn more about what the child may be thinking or feeling. Creativity also fosters mental growth in children by providing opportunities for trying out new ideas, and new ways of thinking and problem-solving. Creative activities help acknowledge and celebrate children’s uniqueness and diversity as well as offer excellent opportunities to personalize our teaching and focus on each child. Creative thinking acts as a support for children in their endeavors later on, and the more that we encourage creative activity during these formative years, the more comfortable and confident that our children will be in sharing their ideas with others.
Creativity is not something that we have to teach our kids, but it’s certainly something that we must nurture. Most children seem to have a natural instinct for creativity. Provided with the tools, young children can create to their heart’s content. However, some things do get in the way, such as fear, time, passive entertainment, etc, and that is where it is necessary for us as caregivers to step in. We can mindfully help to create an environment that is stimulating and nurturing to fuel our children’s creativity.
Here are some ways we can help foster an environment conducive to creativity at home:
1. Embrace your inner child.
It’s not easy to swap roles from being a caregiver with responsibilities to that of a playmate, however in order to connect better with your child, it’s important to get down to your child’s level. Let yourself be silly and curious. Engage in messy play. Scream, shout, jump, laugh, dance … let yourself be a child once more! Talk and criticism communicate with your child as a playmate would, not as a parent.
2. Let them see you be creative.
Children observe everything and understand a lot more than we tend to give them credit for! Little ones learn more from what you do than what you say. If you are setting the example of exploring your creativity, they will see and follow that. Let them see you try something new and experiment until you figure out what works. Let them see you make mistakes and learn from them. Let them see you enjoy your own creative process. Let them see what it looks like to tackle your own fears or insecurities and let your imagination roam freely. By being braver and more kind to ourselves, we are fostering the same values in our children.
3. Provide open-ended toys.
A hallmark of symbolic play is that one object can be used in many ways. Open-ended toys, such as blocks, building sets, clay, toy figures, can be used in so many ways and for so many purposes. These help in encouraging imaginative play and creativity. Children don’t even need fancy toys – things like rice, rajma, markers, scrap paper, etc. can be used in so many ways and to create incredible things!
4. Creativity is about more than just artistic expression.
Being creative isn’t just for artists or for recreation. We can use creativity in every aspect of our lives. It encourages problem solving and resilience. Being creative means coming up with a new idea or putting things together in a way that hasn’t been done before. We can encourage it by sharing and building on ideas with our children in different aspects of life. Hold family brainstorming sessions and encourage everyone’s participation. Show children that their input and ideas are valued.
5. Ask questions about their creations.
Kids have their own thought processes, and we can’t always see what they are thinking just by looking at something they’ve made. Having them express their process and the ideas behind what they were going for helps you and them understand how they think. Asking questions also shows greater interest in what they’re doing than a simple, “Wow!”. Ask questions that encourage critical thinking and encourage storytelling around that creation.
6. Give them free-time and space.
While classes to develop creative skills are great for providing structure, we shouldn’t solely focus on building skills through music, dance or art classes. We must not neglect to give our children time and space to explore freely. Creativity needs room to emerge, outside of the boundaries of structured lessons.
7. Offer encouraging feedback.
Motivate your child by showing acknowledgment and appreciation for their efforts. “Look at that! You worked really hard on that! How wonderful!” is one way of complimenting a child’s creation without critiquing the content. Always find something positive to say. Encouragement is a much better teacher than criticism