Encourage, don’t stifle! Using free play and crafts, here’s how to nurture your child’s creativity and cultivate a love of learning and imagination.
What encompasses creativity? If we tell our kids exactly where to glue the pieces of paper that will eventually produce a walrus, is that art? Are toy kits truly fostering your child’s creativity when everything is pre-determined?
How to nurture your child’s creativity
Thankfully kids come equipped with imagination, but there are ways we can help nurture (or at least not stifle) their creativity.
1. Don’t micro-manage
I had the perfect activity for my then-18-month-old: cotton clouds! We would glue cotton balls onto card stock I would later cut to make a beautiful cloud.
But my son had different plans. He wanted to play with the cotton balls, and even when I finally convinced him to start gluing, he had no intention of doing so within the cloud outlines. “You’re supposed to glue it here,” I blurted, before asking myself, “Whose project is this—his or mine?”
Sometimes we find ourselves taking over children’s crafts. We see these amazing projects on Pinterest, gather the materials, and direct every nuance in what is supposed to be their creative time. We’ve hijacked their projects.
Instead, we should be like guides. Projects are great for teaching kids to follow directions and to show them new techniques, but we should also be open to their own interpretations as well.
We can show our kids how to do something, but if all they really want to do is explore cotton balls and glue outside the lines today, so be it. It’s not worth any ensuing argument (pick your battles!). Plus they’re more creative experimenting in their own ways than if we were to outline every step.
2. Provide space for creative activities
A wonderful way to nurture our kids’ creative streak (or any work ethic, for that matter) is to provide a physical space for them to do so. A child-size table and chair in a corner of the room would provide enough space to create, such as for painting, writing, drawing or sculpting.
Our kitchen has a little nook where we’ve designated one corner as our son’s “painting studio.” It happened by accident. We didn’t want paint on the carpet and so set his table on the tile floor of the kitchen.
We’ve since strung twine and clothespins to hang and dry his paintings and have hung some of his favorite pieces onto the wall.
3. It’s okay for your child to be bored
The more you allow you child to feel bored, the likelier she will find creative ways to fill that space. When we step in and feel pressured to provide activities, kids can’t entertain themselves using their imagination.
The next time your child says, “I’m bored,” encourage her to find something fun to do. He’ll depend less on overstimulating toys, activities and media and rely on simple objects and moments for pleasure.
If need be, provide toys and props, but allow her to feel bored—she’ll find her own creative ways to pull herself from it.
4. Focus on the process, not on the finished product
When the result is the main focus, kids assume that finishing is the goal instead of the experience, effort, or creativity. Or they think that finishing is the means to get your approval.
Instead, describe what your child is doing along the way: “Looks like you’re drawing the eyes on now.” Or highlight the effort he puts into his projects: “Wow, that’s awesome you kept trying to mix the colors to find the right shade of purple.”
Now you know what to do to nurture kids’ creativity:
Give them plenty of room, both physical and directional, to take charge of their projects. Don’t save them from their boredom—they’ll find plenty of creative ways to more than make up for it. And focus on the process of creating, not necessarily the finished product.
After all, we can all improve, and the fun is in the learning. With these tips, you can encourage your child’s creativity to limitless possibilities.
Get more tips on how to nurture your child’s creativity:
- 12 Crafty Ideas for the Non Crafty Mom
- The Benefits of Open Ended Toys (plus a List of My Favorites)
- Why Boredom is Good for Your Child
- The Downsides of Having Too Many Toys
- How to Encourage Your Child’s Imagination
What are your best tips on how to nurture your child’s creativity? What are your kids’ favorite creative projects? Let us know in the comments below!
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