Artists are not the only ones who need to be creative. Every one of us can benefit from it.
Creativity is more than just painting, playing the piano and writing poems. It is solving a problem, making a beautiful thing, doing something different, travelling off a beaten path, telling a joke, flying a kite, planting herbs, having friends from many walks of life. One take on creativity is what the two characters from Broadway’s play Wicked says: “It’s looking at things another way”.
So, what can you do to encourage your child’s creative thinking?
Don’t Correct Their “Mistakes”
Telling your child that he shouldn’t paint a person’s face purple can leave him stalled on his creative tracks. Anna Peterson, co-owner of Impressions Art Studio, works with kids a lot, says, “There are no right or wrong design, colour or layout. It is all part of expressing one’s self and what they like. You need a free environment to keep the creative juices and imagination of kids flowing.”
Let Them Play For As Long As They Like
Don’t stop at the playground and tell your kids, “Okay, 10 more minutes.” They will just spend 10 minutes grousing that they only have 10 minutes left for fun. Deadlines are a natural anxiety producer and a sure-fire creativity crasher. Anna suggests: “Give them free time to just relax – a no-structure day in a week. Make available materials and toys that allow creativity at home – building blocks, art supplies, games. Encourage pretend play and creative art works. Creativity is best nurtured if the child is given plenty of down-time and left to their own devices.”
Emphasise Less On School Results
This is exactly why learning in a school setting is not fun or creative for a lot of kids. Risk-taking can go out the window when kids feel that they are being judged. Suddenly, all the “outside the box” thinking jumps inside the box. The joy of the experience itself is lost, and the worth of the end-product becomes all important. This is creativity suicide.
Try Not To Compete
This can be equally stiffling. If a situation of winners and losers is established, only the child that is clearly above and beyond everyone else can truly relax and have fun with it. The rest of the group is likely to be anxious and nervous, with their creativity in check. When Michael Jordan was little, people used to marvel at how well he played even when he was ill. It seemed as if some of his most creative ball handling occured when he had the flu. Perhaps his mind and body had only the capacity to play the game and not think of the results.
Support Their Passions
What’s fun and creative for you, may not seem the same for your child. You like crafts, he likes Minecraft. You like sports, he likes Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s nice to share interests but don’t deprive him of his passions. In addition, don’t discourage a pursuit just becaus eyou think your child can’t be best at it. It’s not about achievement. It’s about having fun and learning something from it.
Originally published in “Building The Case For Creativity”, Singapore’s Child Jan 2012