Imagine That: Fostering Creativity in Children

child with paint on hands

Finding creatures in the clouds. Stirring up a pretend cake for an impromptu tea party. Building a sandcastle. This kind of thinking illustrates one of the most delightful ingredients of childhood — creativity. It is creativity in action, and it happens every day of children’s lives. You might be surprised to learn you can help that imaginative spirit soar. You do not need to invest in expensive toys and high-tech software. Creative spirit is a wonderful odyssey that we can enter with our children by valuing their innate curiosity and by allowing self-expression so that competence blooms. The work of little hands is amazing and awe inspiring.

Problem solving of all sorts begins with creative thoughts.

Indeed, what our children needs to thrive in the world is creativity. They need to come up with multiple ideas and solutions to everyday problems as well as new ways to look at old issues. Those who are going to excel are going to be those who are the most flexible and creative. Creativity is all about a willingness to take risks. The good news is that creativity is natural in children. And luckily, creativity can also be supported and engaged so starting today, spark creativity coupled with a dose of fun.

So, if children are innately creative, why can’t we just sit back and watch them go for it? One problem is that in our efforts to be a good parent who sets boundaries, we may inadvertently squelch creative spirit. Sometimes an adult mind-set plus good intentions can equal squashed creativity. You may set out to correct your child’s way of thinking, and before you know it, you may be missing out on a highly creative teachable moment. We can nourish the creative spirit or squelch imagination by imposing adult standards on their work.

But that does not mean we should gush over children’s creations either. In fact, that will stunt creativity. It is the process that is more important than the end product. Look for ways to help children feel proud of their creations without rewards – as rewards take the focus off the experimentation and put it on production. The creative process brings its own rewards, joy, wonder and fulfillment.

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Keeping creativity alive begins with attitude.

Creating is usually a messy process. If you worry about cleanliness and order, children will fear making creative messes. Plan ways to protect the learning environment using old sheets to protect floors and designate a dedicated area for children to experiment with their ideas and various materials. Set only necessary safety limits for the creative corner. By doing this, creativity can be nurtured early on, encouraging toddlers and preschoolers to experiment with non-toxic materials without the worry of messiness. Be sure to display their creations around the house to show you value their work. Elevate the work by keeping work in a portfolio or scrapbooks, or use budget-friendly frames from the dollar store.

Here are some suggestions to jump-start the lifelong process of thinking outside the box.

  • Ask open ended questions rather than questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
  • Process is Paramount! Comment on the process your child is going through, rather than focusing on the product. For example, say What an interesting approach you are using, you are using feathers as a brush rather than Good work or How pretty!
  • Play What If? Prompt your child to see both sides of dilemma or situation. After they have told you their favorite part of a story ask them what they liked least. Or when watching their favorite DVD ask them about what could happen next?
  • Be Mindful! Children are naturally creative-you just have to avoid discouraging them. Do not correct your child when they are considering an offbeat approach to solving a problem they are facing.
  • Teach brainstorming! Encourage your child to think of all possible solutions to a problem without censoring their thoughts. Let’s see if we add more water to the paint what will happen? how about more paint?

A spontaneous silly song filled with giggles. A brightly colored finger-painted design to decorate the refrigerator. A sweet valentine made with glitter, doilies and construction paper. These are the treasures of childhood. Nothing is more important than allowing children’s imaginations to flourish by delighting in the whimsical inspiration of childhood. As they grow, all children are budding creators, whether by stacking colorful blocks in eye pleasing patterns, by drawing increasingly complex figures or making music with pots and pans. Let’s keep childhood creativity alive!

Most everything you need to inspire creativity can be found around the house. Save these items and buy only the highest quality essentials like no-toxic and washable paints, markers and chalk and crayons.

  • Cardboard boxes, cereal, shoe, shipping
  • Egg cartons and berry baskets
  • Cardboard tubes, toilet paper, paper towels
  • Newspapers, magazines, catalogs
  • Paper bags, plates and cups
  • Used wrapping paper, tissue paper, ribbon, greeting cards
  • Eye droppers, coffee filters
  • Sponges, paint brushes, cotton, q tips
  • Paper and cloth strips
  • String, yarn, ribbon, thread
  • Popsicle sticks, spools, buttons, corks
  • Old clothing, shoes, scarves, hats and jewelry for dress up
  • Old mittens, tights, gloves, socks for puppets

No Cook Homemade Playdough

  • 1 c flour
  • ½ c salt
  • ½ c water
  • Food coloring

Will keep for a week when refrigerated in plastic bags or containers.

girl kissing her nanny
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Dawn Marie Barhyte is a widely published author with over a hundred articles to her credit. A former early childhood educator and co-director who continues to touch the lives of families through her writing! She lives and works in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY with her beloved husband and rescue chihuahua dachshund.

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