Recently in our Charlotte Mason book club, we’ve been talking about habits verses heredity. Children are naturally born with personality traits: some good, and some bad. But this is not the end all, be all. We can help them learn how develop traits that they don’t have, and gently guide them in improving traits that aren’t beneficial (she gave the example of maliciousness). One trait that I think we assume a child either has or doesn’t have is creativity. But I think the difference between a creative child and a less-creative child is the amount in which creativity has been fostered. Today, the fourth day of my series on learning through play, I want to talk about how we can inspire creativity through creative play.
We Were Created to be Creative
I recently had the opportunity to listen to author and speaker Justin Matott talk about “Creating creative creatures.” He had so many great ideas to share that inspired me to learn more about creative play. Something he said really stood out to me: we were created to be creative. Since we are created in the image of God the Creator, we are meant to be creative, too. So many times I’ve viewed creativity as a bonus. It’s great if you have it. Maybe you’ll come up with something great one day. But seeing it as something that we should intentionally encourage in our children because they were made to be creative has changed my outlook.
Inspire Creative Play
For my children, their ability to be creative and pretend developed around at around a year old. They both started to pretend that they drank out of a play cup, or they put pretend food on a plate to share with me. Through encouragement, this little seed of creativity grew. Here are some proven ways to help your child develop creativity.
1. Help Them Explore Their Interests
Sometimes I get stuck in ruts with my children. We go to the same places and do the same activities. I get comfortable with where we are, and I forget to explore other opportunities that my little ones might enjoy. Lately, I’ve been trying to add new adventures to our days. Exposing them to different things allows them to explore their talents and interests. A wide range of experiences also builds their background information (schema) so they have more knowledge to pull from when they play creatively, solve problems, etc. Also, not overscheduling or constantly entertaining children allows them time to explore their interests.
2. Help Them Develop Their Talents
When I read Parenting With Grace and Truth last month, one idea really stood out to me: it’s our duty as parents to help our children discover and grow their gifts. My daughter is a nurturer, so of course I love to play dolls with her! I’m a nurturer, too (comes with the job!) She also loves to sing, dance, and act. These are not my things. The thought of some of being on stage brings sweaty palms and visions of people laughing at me (AT me.) But, this sort of entertaining is something she loves and she’s good at. I can’t just try to avoid this kind of play constantly because I feel more comfortable brushing a doll’s hair. I’m thinking we’ll get a puppet theater and maybe take some music classes!
3. Encourage Risk Taking
Risk taking is a huge part of creativity. If we aren’t willing to take risks, we won’t create something new. So, encourage your child to play new games and experiment with toys, science concepts, etc.
4. Limit Screen Time
Anyone want to go back and count how many times I’ve used the terms “limit screen time” in a post? It seems to be a solution to many, many parenting challenges. We aren’t an unplugged family, but those glowing rectangular screens do have an impact on children’s creativity. Right around the time Baby E was born (and Miss H watched more TV than usual) the only games she wanted to play were reenactments of television shows she had watched. This didn’t encourage her imagination and creativity! This video explains why limiting screen time is important for encouraging creativity.
5. Let Them Be Messy
Creative play requires experimenting and risk taking, and these things make messes! I took my two little robins to an art studio last week. They scuttled between the different stations that were set up with paint, markers, and oil pastels. Baby E loved that he had some freedom to choose what to do. I gave him some space because it was the perfect environment for it. But, when we got ready to leave, I noticed huge, orange paint blobs on the top of his Stride Rite shoes! The very next day was when I had the opportunity to hear Justin Matott speak. He said that the messes that we worry so much about today will one day be a treasured memory of creating and playing. He told me I need to keep those paint-splattered shoes forever- and I think I will!
6. Give Them Inspiration Through Good Books
Books really do spark imagination and creativity. Charlotte Mason often mentioned making a mental image from what children read or saw. (This is another reason that technology hinders creativity- the mental image is given to them!) Encourage children to pretend they are characters in their favorite stories. If your child is older, encourage him or her to creatively act out events in history.
7. Offer Different Materials to Experiment With
You know I’ve been on this object lesson kick lately (see the second post in this series about Charlotte Mason inspired sensory bins). Giving children the option to observe and play with new materials helps them create new things. At the art studio we went to recently, there was a station with cornstarch packing peanuts (yes, they’re a thing!) and toothpicks. My kids spent a lot of time at that table, poking the toothpicks through them and getting them wet so they would stick together. Hold on to interesting containers, boxes, and other scraps to see what your children can create with them!
Even if you don’t feel like you’re a creative person, you can still encourage it in your child. The point of this isn’t so that they’ll become the next Steve Jobs, but so they can enjoy the process of creating something “new.”
Tomorrow, the last day of this series, I’m writing about games that preschoolers will love to play!