Encouraging creativity in kids: A simple guide for the everyday parent

First published on Makchic on 21 September 2017.

So it’s settled. Creativity is great and we’d like some creative children. Now what?
With so much to do and so little time, it’s time to get creative in our quest to raise creative kids.

#1 – Introduce chores

With no extra time and a tonne to do, getting your child to help with chores is a great way to let them be hands-on.

Get them to help with simple tasks like washing rice, folding clothes, washing the car or watering plants. Show them once, then challenge them to do it better every time.

In addition to exposing them to a variety of activities, encouraging them to understand that there is more than one way to do something is critical to creative thinking.

Resist the urge to make them do it “your way”. The brain is a lazy organ. If there is a “right way” to do things, it would autopilot and stop thinking. Creativity is about thinking up new ways to do things.

#2 – Use car time as story time

No, we’re not suggesting reading in the car – #carsick.

Look out the window and pick a subject. It could be the old man with a cane or the lady in the red car. Start a story based on this subject. Where did she come from? Where is she heading?

Story-telling is a great way to stimulate your child’s imagination. It also teaches them to observe and empathise.

Resist the urge to stop them when their story seems unrealistic or outrages. Just roll with the punches and have some fun – after all, children say the darnedest things. Ask probing questions to understand why they say that or add some madness of your own.

#3 – Allocate time for independent play

You’ll like this one. Essentially this just means you should leave your child alone for a couple of hours to play.

Scientists have observed that the most creative minds alternate between a focused state and an idle state. During idle time, the brain is subconsciously connecting the dots. That’s why a lot of us have Eureka moments in the shower or while doing mundane tasks.

So go ahead. Leave them with a variety of different materials and let them play around with it for a couple of hours – doctor’s orders.

Resist the urge to leave them with the iPad during “independent play time”.We’re not the iPad police! In fact, the iPad can be a great learning tool.
All we’re saying is, limit those hours. During screen time your child’s brain is fully engaged. That means less time for the brain to connect those dots critical for creativity.

#4 – Day trips and mini excursions with the family

Find some time (perhaps once a month), to experience something new as a family. Check out the petting zoo, an orchard or the Science museum.

Creativity is about associating unrelated items in your brain. And you can’t associate what’s not there. So expose your child to a variety of experiences, places and people. Encourage them to observe and ask questions.

Resist the urge to stop them from asking questions. As parents, we want to seem like we know everything. But it’s ok to say – “Let’s find out together.”.
Show them that it’s ok not to know as long as you know how to find the answer. Then whip out your smartphone and let Google save the day.

#5 – Music, dance and improvisation

If music, dance or improvisation seem difficult to master – that’s because it is. Turns out these activities are a real brain teaser.

They require coordination and use of many parts of the brain all at once. Pathways in the brain are cleared, dots are connected.. it’s a symphony of creativity waiting to happen.

So what are you waiting for? Get your groove on. Who knows, you might have a little Youtube child star in your midst.

Resist the urge to perfect their craft. Studies have shown that child prodigies rarely change the world. They focus more on earning approval than taking the risks required to become originals.

Sheena and Jin Hui are childhood friends on a mission to make learning as fun as play. They left their day jobs to start Atom & the Dot, making surprise boxes filled with Arts and Science activities for kids. The perfect activity box for busy parents.