Older people sit down and ask, ‘What is it?’ but the boy asks, ‘What can I do with it?’ – Steve Jobs
What is creativity? Take a moment and think about your answer. I’ll wait.
Did you have trouble? I work in a creative field, and I still have trouble defining and pinning down the concept. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines creative this way, among others: “having the quality of something created rather than imitated.” Even that definition seems lacking. Creative people don’t imitate other things that they have seen other people do. However, just because you do something new, does that make you creative?
I don’t think so. I think creative people are generally characterized by:
- a gift for considering the world and in novel ways
- a knack for finding and deciphering hidden patterns
- a pension for making links and connections
- an ability to see similarities between seemingly disparate phenomena
- possessing skills that help them generate solutions
… among a million other things. Also, creativity has two parts. There is the thinking phase followed by the production phase. What do creative people produce? Well, that depends on the person. Maybe it is music or painting; perhaps it’s architecture or cooking, or perhaps it is an interest in solving complex problems.
If raising creative kids is your aim, foster the skills as mentioned above and give them opportunities to think and then produce. Here are some tips to get started:
1Question, question, question!
Questioning things is the first step to becoming creative. Ask your kid questions and encourage them to ask tons too. Look for the hidden patterns and then talk about them. When they have particularly interesting questions, comments or insights, encourage them to find a creative outlet to express those ideas. Maybe they will write a song, journal for a while or create a play dough masterpiece. What they do is not as important as the fact that they are doing it.
2Find what they love
There are no cut and dry rules about what types of activities are creative and which are not. Painting and drawing are lovely and artistic but building a block tower can be every bit as creative. So, if they love to build with blocks, encourage them to think up a new way to develop their typical tower. Push them to come up with new ways to consider how to make a tower. If your kid loves to cook, find age-appropriate recipes. The possibilities are endless when you are open to various types of creative expression.
Put away the other toys or screens and sit down with them and focus on a project. Allow them to sit quietly with a ball of play-dough as they create one beautiful blob after another. (Kids with fewer toys available to them tend to play more creatively out of necessity, anyway.) It’s easier to identify and solve problems when you are focused, and it is also a stress-relief that will keep your child healthy and happy.
Self-awareness is a key to becoming your own person. Creative people see the world in different and new ways. They have a unique perspective, and they are comfortable sharing it. Foster both confidence and a sense of self in your child so that they feel free to share their viewpoints.
5A creative environment
You don’t have to be an artist or musician to foster creativity in your home. You’d be surprised at how easy it can be. One incredibly simple way to boost confidence and foster creativity is to hang their art or projects prominently in the home. If they write a song, offer to help them record it. If your kiddo suggests adding new ingredients to the dinner menu, take your budding chef shopping.
6Get out of their way
This is the biggest one, in my opinion. Parents sometimes want to encourage kids to think creatively but end up doing the exact opposite because they hover or nitpick or chime in too much. Be supportive but also back off. They may genuinely amaze you with what they come up with on their own. And, don’t get too married to an activity of theirs. The truth is, as you watch them grow, they may try out and then lose interest in various creative hobbies. Just encourage them to find new ones.
Raising creative kids is not a science, and there’s no right or wrong way. But, kids who are given ample opportunities to be creative when young are logically going to grow up to be more creative. The creative process is unique to each person and finding that “secret sauce” of their individuality will be a lifelong process.