Discover how to foster your child’s imagination and creativity as you learn about creative pursuits that make youngsters happier. This guide will help you encourage your children to think, act, write, and solve problems creatively.
Our second kid, who was extraordinarily clever, affable, and a voracious reader, like string sculpting. So for his eighth birthday, we gave him a box of yarn the size of a dishwasher. The following day, we could not leave because Dan had tied all the yarn together and run around the living room innumerable times until he had created a beautiful cocoon. Initially, his inventiveness was aggravating, but over time it became evident that this was Dan’s passion. This is Dan being himself. Who was I to dictate his speech?
As it turns out, many of us, especially children, would be happier if we spent our time engaged in creative endeavors. Researchers at UNC Greensboro discovered that young adults who reported being joyful and physically active were more likely to be engaged in creative activity. And numerous pediatricians report that their observations support this.
Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, M.D., a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine, is a Parents advisor and developmental-behavioral pediatrician. She explains that when children are given the freedom to explore in this manner, they can experience significant brain growth and personal development.
You may wonder, What if my children have no interest in sketching, writing, or performing music? What if they’re not even interested in making yarn cocoons? That’s okay.
As the author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., explains, creativity is not limited to the beautiful arts. It is about approaching the world with an adventurous spirit. Even savoring a new cuisine or observing an uncommon bird, window shape, or flower might be considered creative.
How can you encourage this type of observation and sense of adventure in your child? Most of the time, you can do nothing. Read on to find out why children’s imaginative play is so important and how you can encourage it regularly.
How Leisure Time Encourages Creativity
Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, asserts that unstructured play teaches children the best life skills. “When we intervene in whatever our children are doing to assist, enrich, or educate them, we appropriate what was once their endeavor. That is disheartening.”
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), children’s physical, mental, emotional, and social development requires unstructured play. This is because the type of movement that typically occurs during unstructured play is beneficial for children’s bodies and helps them release pent-up tension and stress. In addition, imaginative play teaches children risk analysis and decision-making, while interactive play teaches empathy and problem-solving.
It can be difficult for parents to refrain from interfering with unstructured play. Parents may be concerned that their children are performing duties improperly or that the activities are too difficult for them. That may be the case.
But, Skenazy explains, “The objective is not for our children to create a perfect muffin, scarf, or origami swan. They aim to figure out some things, take modest risks, and perhaps even do something in an entirely new (messy) method. The result may be something quite lumpy. However, it is theirs, and they are on a path of discovery, trial, and error.”
One of the best methods for parents to encourage their children’s imagination is by giving them plenty of opportunities to do nothing. Boredom, not necessity, is the mother of creativity, according to Peter Gray, Ph.D., a research professor of psychology at Boston College.
“Children are intrinsically creative,” notes Dr. Gray, who explains that as we age, other factors (work, responsibilities, general adult tiredness) often squelch the spark of curious inquiry.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a golden moment of child creativity. Dr. Gray’s study colleagues discovered that many youngsters thrived during the pandemic. Initially bored, they swiftly resorted to their own resources. So, even though it seems like your youngster spent an eternity stuck to a screen, take heart: Dr. Gray thinks that video games, particularly those that demand strategy and role-playing as opposed to racing or blowing up a target, can be extremely creative.
Children Succeed When They’re Creative
When my elder children were small, I was a working widow who lacked the stamina to transform the bathtub into an oatmeal sandbox. I was even too exhausted to participate in most of their activities. But instinct prompted me to try removing televisions and computers from my team at least five days each week, pushing them to use the incredible computer within their heads. They cried out in outrage. However, they adapted to it. They flourished.
I was unable to dedicate much time to organized sports and lessons due to my eventual responsibility for nine children. However, I was able to facilitate genuine interests, typically at the children’s request. The majority of our time was spent reading, dancing, and creating a thumb-sized character named Tiny Eddie, who had weekly adventures.
I was concerned that my children would not be as successful as youngsters who participated in every sport and organization, but I was never concerned about their capacity to entertain themselves. In recent years, my children have:
- As a seventh-grader, I knitted each sibling a large blanket.
- She designed and sewed her own prom gown.
- Built an outdoor shower over the course of a weekend.
- Become an expert with computers.
- Cooked gourmet vegetarian dishes.
- A coffee maker powered by a stationary bicycle was designed.
And Dan, our youthful yarn master? He is now a college graduate, happily married, and the sous chef at Cape Cod’s ritziest restaurant, where he has never followed a recipe. He was always aware that his happiness resided outside the norm. Perhaps your child does as well.
This does not mean that parents should not provide prompts. Feel free to grill each other with questions as you take in your shared observations. Put resources in their hands that will stimulate their creativity. However, once your children have the resources or the ideas, step back. And while you embark on your family journey toward a more creative existence, keep in mind that your children already possess this adventurous spirit. Your responsibility is to convince them to keep it.
How to Spark the Imagination of Your Child
Do you know how on Top Chef, the host gives each participant a box of unusual, bizarre stuff that they must then employ in a way that is sometimes delicious and always inventive? This same approach works wonderfully to spark your child’s creativity in areas other than food, such as writing, visual art, and improv.
Set out an assortment of household things, establish a theme (“Jungle safari! “), and urge children to come up with their own stories, skits, and projects. Let the imaginative games commence!
Create a thriller.
Lexi Rees, author of writing activity books for children and The Relic Hunters adventure series, provides a creative exercise.
The objective is for children to use their abilities of perception to determine what is happening in the photographs and then to compose a story based on their interpretations. They can examine details, location indications, and historical era hints to create a story based on their assumptions.
The Materials: three magazine or newspaper photographs of people and three photographs of a location (like a busy street or an interesting building)
Direct Them: “What is happening in this image? What would you write on the photo’s caption? Can you guess what occurred before or after the photograph was taken?”
Paint in a novel manner.
Meri Cherry, founder of Meri Cherry Art Studio and author of Play, Make, Create: A Process-Art Handbook, offers a creative practice.
Your children are trained to stay within the lines when coloring, but what would happen if you threw that (and their paintbrushes) out the “figurative” window? Unteach them by providing them with unorthodox painting implements; fingers are also welcomed.
The Materials: Oil pastels, watercolors, and acrylics, paper leaves, flowers, or twigs, feathers, sponges, plastic utensils, and plastic food containers for mixing.
Direct Them: What is the most ridiculous shape you can make? Can you create a hue that matches your disposition? Where would you like to exhibit your painting? What shall we call it?
Construct a nice house.
Jonathan Adolph, author of Cardboard Box Engineering, provides a creative activity.
By repurposing old cardboard boxes and recycling waste, children may make anything from a pet playhouse to a toy castle in the style of Bob the Builder. Let them design it whatever they choose, with trapdoors, swings, or whatever!
The Materials: cardboard containers, paper towels and toilet paper rolls, wooden craft sticks, egg cartons, paper cups, glue, and tape
Direct Them: How can the house be strengthened so that it does not collapse? Who will frequent your home, and how can you build it to accommodate them? How would they progress from level to level?
A game of make-believe under the water.
Carol Murphy, the founder of Acting Bugs, a theatre enrichment program for children, devised a creative exercise.
The Objective: It’s showtime! Have your child improvise their own ocean trip, including the discoveries they make and the individuals they meet. Caution, parents: it’s likely that you’ll be lured into the role of best supporting marine creature.
The Equipment: a blanket, a shoebox, costume jewelry and coins, beach towels, a shovel and a bucket, blue, purple, and green streamers, and oven mitts.
Direct Them: Who or what would you see on an ocean excursion? To what extent would you suffer if a whale ate you? How might various sea creatures move and sound? What might different noises sound like underwater?
Meaningful articles you might like: Benefits of Playing with Household Objects to Child’s Development, Encourage Your Children To Engage in Imaginative Play, Children’s Games And The Power of Play