As a behavioral therapist, I have worked with kids of varying developmental and mental abilities. And after ten years in the field, I still challenge myself to find news ways to foster creativity. Creativity tends to reveal itself most prominently in arts and music, but often in much simpler ways as well. Anytime a child is required to problem solve, come up with a unique idea, or think outside the box, creativity is the driving force at hand. Here are four ways to help develop a child’s creative abilities..
Spend Time at the Bookstore
The bookstore is one of the best places to foster creativity in children. You don’t even have to go with an agenda; just give them browsing time and see what they gravitate towards. The books they choose may surprise you, but that’s the whole point! Being exposed to new ideas and subject matter might just spark something. And don’t get discouraged if your child loses interest in some books quickly – that’s part of the process. And besides, there are plenty of worse things they could be doing than reading.
Encourage your Children to Ask Questions
Kids have a natural thirst for knowledge. Sometimes this thirst seems to pop up at the most inopportune times, like a sudden interest in the colors of the sunset while you are drive around lost and desperately looking for a gas station. Our gut reaction is to snap and say something like “not now,” which can discourage a child’s inquisitive nature. Instead, promise to talk later or explore it further at home. Show genuine interest in what the child is inquiring about. Asking questions enhances creativity, so try to reinforce the tendency.
Let Them Unwind
We all want kids to push themselves to try their best, but how much is too much? In his book Imagine, Jonah Lehrer says “a relaxed state and a good mood” are keys to successful patterns of creativity. Encourage kids to take breaks when they start to display frustration. People naturally view down time as unproductive, but in the scope of the larger picture, this is not always true. Finding time to relax doesn’t have to be difficult. Activities like a 10 minute walk or a game of catch are simple ways to break up a child’s particularly burdensome night of homework.
Construct a Creative Environment
One of the best ways to encourage creativity is through a child’s environment. I can’t remember the last time I was in a restaurant and didn’t see kids playing on their Gameboys and iPads (not to mention parents practically glued to their cell phones.) Having a conversation at mealtime is a simple but effective way to provide a more creative outlet. It doesn’t have to be centered around the usual stuff like school and homework; talk about why a new movie looks interesting or where to plan the next family vacation, or even why a particular app or electronic game is so appealing to your child. In a group or school setting, set aside a few minutes each day to talk about “fun stuff.” Look for ways to encourage more social forms of interaction and play in the child’s environment…and no, Words with Friends doesn’t count.