by Kerry Hart, LLMFT
Children are endowed with extraordinary imaginations, and it pays to foster their creativity. Encouraging self-expression will allow your child to explore their artistic potential while helping them to better understand the world around them. Studies show that children with increased creativity tend to develop well socially and academically and have better overall health.
Encourage and praise your child in whatever they enjoy. Being their biggest cheerleader will lead them to seek out more ways to experience praise and positive attention. Providing positive reinforcement surrounding activities they love will reinforce the activity as something they should further engage in and explore — and exploration begets creativity.
Play To Their Strengths
Does your son excel at drawing, and you were hoping for a star soccer player? Let him know you are proud of his accomplishments and keep your athletic expectations to yourself. Obstructing creativity in even one area of his life will hinder him from trying new things and possibly discovering new skills. That kind of pressure can cause a lot of anxiety in a child, which will prove difficult to live with. Supporting your kiddo’s strengths will allow them to find their path and think outside of the box.
Let Them Be Bored
When your young one complains of boredom, don’t feel pressured to entertain them; doing so is counter-productive to cultivating their imagination. Children today are accustomed to instant gratification between utilizing electronics and parents adapting to behaviors that put their children’s needs before their own. Giving your kiddo free time to explore their surroundings on their own — sans screens — allows them to find inspiration in the world around them.
Let Them Think
Creativity and critical thinking are like peanut butter and jelly: one is enhanced by the other. Ask your children how they might go about attacking various problems from multiple angles, discussing potential solutions and outcomes. This will heighten their creativity and will exercise their mind as a muscle. Allow your child to develop their own process, even if it isn’t the way you would do it. Be there for them to encourage their successes and assist them in questioning what went wrong.
Often, parents feel their way is the right way and will take over their child’s project to get it done “properly.” Although good intentions lie at the heart of this, doing this will inhibit your child’s creativity and prevent them from utilizing their emerging problem-solving skills. Allow your child to attack their projects in their own way, so they may learn how to develop creative solutions when they hit roadblocks. Once children pass toddlerhood, it’s important to give them the freedom to manage their world and allow them to make mistakes from which they can learn. In these instances, mom or dad should be within arms reach to interject guidance, affirmation or correction; however, allowing life lessons from independent decision making to take hold makes the creative learning process more effective.
Kerry Hart, LMFT