Raising a creative child

by my daughter in Kindergarten

Creativity is essential

While not everyone will agree, I feel that one of the greatest gifts you can provide for your child is the ability to be creative.  Thinking with a creative mind allows a person to not only develop novel solutions to a problem they are faced with, but also imagine what might happen should a certain course of action take place.  In our world there is quickly developing a divide between those that can imagine novel solutions and those that are the sheep that follow.  While both are required in society, in my case I don’t follow all that well or happily.

Raising creative kids

So, if I think raising your child to be creative is so important how do you go about doing it?  To start I would like to say that I am not an expert on raising kids; this is just one mom’s opinion on the matter.  What I suggest and do myself may or may not work for your family, kids or yourself, all we can do is try.

That being said, I think the first and most important step to raising creative kids is to have creative parents.  It is far easier to approach things from new angles when you live in a setting where you see the adults doing so all the time.  This is why my kids are welcome to sit at our gaming table and listen to the group try to figure out how to solve the latest challenge the GM has thrown at them.  This is also why we discuss problems that we have at work or with school at the dinner table, trying to find the best way and share our different approaches we have tried in the past with each other.

I think that the best way to bring out the natural creativity in any child (or even adult for that matter) is to ask “what if” type questions.

a drawing by my son in 3rd grade

Such as “What if your rubber duck could swim on its own, what would it do?”, this gives a young child the chance to imagine a clear picture and respond with an answer.  Now comes the hard part, respect your child’s answer by either expressing approval or by asking a question to get more information.  It is critical that you allow them the freedom to answer with something that isn’t even logical, especially when they are younger then school-age.  If their rubber duck would turn upside-down and swim with its feet in the air using its wings to paddle, then respond with a “Neat”.  Don’t shut them down by pointing out that ducks can’t swim like that.  Creativity is about imagining those things that are, combined with those things that aren’t, to generate a newness.  We cannot be creative and endlessly bound by our current reality at the same time!

My creative kids

As a result of letting my children be free-thinkers they are often praised for their creativity.  Of course there are times, such as school assignments, where we have to reign in that creative thinking some so that they can conform enough to pass.  It is a fine line to walk, especially with my daughter who is very free thinking.  In the end though, I find that it is worth the struggle.

I find that because of their creativity my children are constantly looking for ways to rework the world into something new.  Our dining/game room has 2 bookshelves in it primarily dedicated to art supplies, our recycle bin is regularly scrounged through for the latest creative endeavor.  In fact, just yesterday my son looked at his old twin mattress we are getting rid of and since it is too worn for use, he asked if he could take two of the springs from it so he could attach them to his shoes.  As you can see I work to keep up with them as they surprise me with questions I am at best half prepared to hear.

Lego creation by my son

So what do you do with this?

Start asking your kid questions about “what if” with no wrong answer.  Buy them blocks and Lego sets and let any style of car or rocket ship they build be awesome, and join them at it even if you aren’t very good in your eyes – they will think you make cool things.  Watch clouds go by and decide what they look like, cats or elephants or flying monkeys.  If they create a new creature and draw you a picture, provide approval and reinforcement by asking them what its favorite food is.  Anything you do that allows them to make new things adds to their creative pool, giving them the means to move past how it has always been to how it could be.  That is, after all, how we turn our wishes into reality.  And while you are helping your child be creative, help yourself to be creative as well.