As a parent who wants to nurture your child’s creativity and ability to think outside the box, you’ll want to be aware of ways parents and teachers can unknowingly crush a child’s creativity.
A child is born with innate talents and creativity. But often by the time they get halfway through elementary school, much of their natural creativity has been pushed aside to make room for memorization, and in many cases, stress around learning.
Since the early 1990’s, studies that measure a child’s creativity show that kids are actually becoming less creative.
WHY KIDS ARE LESS CREATIVE TODAY
Of course, there’s no one factor leading to a decline in creativity among kids. It’s likely a combination of several ways life is different today than for previous generations.
USING SCREENS AS BABYSITTERS
When a child spends more time in front of a TV or a device that does all the entertaining, he doesn’t get much of an opportunity to learn how to entertain himself. Battery-free toys help encourage a child’s creativity and can help boost problem-solving skills.
Rushing around for too many activities “wears us out and erodes our patience. And it costs our kids even more,” explains Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids. It teaches our child to join in on society’s need to be hooked on adrenaline, and it doesn’t give them the downtime they need to be creative.
When you simplify your child’s world, it can make your family’s life more fulfilling and give them the space they need to flourish and thrive.
Too much homework causes “battles parents don’t want to fight,” says Cathy Vatterott, professor of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices that Support Diverse Needs. “Parents are stressed because they know their kids need downtime and play time, but are afraid to complain for fear of being judged unsupportive parents.”
Sometimes your child just needs to figure things out on her own. Alfie Kohn said, “The way kids learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.” If you constantly intervene and offer advice, your child will never learn to make choices and won’t experience the lesson that comes from making a mistake.
Rewards are another parenting (or school) tool that can kill a child’s creativity. Research shows that incentives and rewards often inhibit children’s exploration and imagination. A child will give just enough effort to get the reward and won’t push himself any further. In Punished by Rewards, Alfie Kohn explains that “promising goodies to children for good behavior, meanwhile, can never produce anything more than temporary obedience. Even praise can become a verbal bribe that gets kids hooked on our approval.”
When we expect perfection from our child, it’s really about our own insecurities. And nothing squashes creativity faster than telling a proud child who runs up to show you her painting that flowers shouldn’t be taller than people. In Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says perfectionism “will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force.”
So those are the things NOT to do. But how do we actually nurture and encourage a child’s creativity?
HOW TO NURTURE YOUR CHILD’S CREATIVITY
It doesn’t involve turning your home into a full time art studio or signing your child up to learn a new instrument every year. It’s actually easier than you think – and it can stem from encouraging your own creative side.
HAVE AN ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT
Try to be adventurous yourself even if it just means going to the museum or the park for a quick stroll. Traveling with your kids will open their eyes to fresh perspectives, aside from taking the time to bond with them in a different environment. Cultivate their sense of adventure by exposing them to new and exciting experiences in every place you visit.
BE PATIENT AND UNDERSTANDING
When kids explore the world with their hands, they tend to get messy. Being too obsessed with cleanliness and neatness may not encourage creativity at home. As long as they’re working with safe or DIY art supplies (e.g., not ingesting any toxic materials), a little mess isn’t something to lose your sanity over.
Letting her create what comes naturally will encourage her innate skills. But if you feel like your child needs guidance and structure, consider a class, whether in real life or online.
Supportive parents show interest in whatever their kids are passionate about, whether it’s photography, singing, building LEGO blocks, or even just reciting their A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s. Release your expectations and encourage them to be the person they want to be when they grow up.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND
Children are naturally curious. They ask a lot of questions so that everything makes sense to them. If they keep pestering you with questions and you don’t know how to answer them, don’t make up things just so they’ll stop bothering you. Be inquisitive and discover the answers together. Encouraging your children’s curiosity early on will enhance their ability to generate new, out-of-the-box ideas as adults.
Learn to let go from time to time. Kids who are often under strict supervision are less likely to take risks out of fear of failing or making mistakes, which is a big stumbling block to creativity. The next time your kids are busy coloring and drawing, resist the temptation to constantly comment or tell them what they should or shouldn’t do because it will just zone them out. Instead, relax and enjoy a cup of coffee while you quietly watch your kids discover and create new things.
ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR EFFORTS
Showing appreciation goes a long way in nurturing creativity in your kids. Make sure your praise focuses on your child’s accomplishment so he doesn’t feel like he’s being creative just to please you. Even a simple acknowledgement of their efforts, whether they succeed or not, can encourage them to think and act creatively.
Creativity is something that can be developed in your kids at an early age, regardless if it’s in your family’s genes or not. Crucial to that is developing your own traits that will help foster a creative environment for your children at home.