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How to Raise Creative Children and Why Why You Should

9:00:00 AM

Why is Creativity important for childhood development? Why do children need to be creative? Why do we need to foster creativity in our children?

These are great questions. Have you ever stopped to think about the answers? Have you ever just sat back and watched children at play? It is truly an amazing thing to watch. On their own children are quite creative. They create art, they create games, and stories, dances, and songs. It is spectacular! Why do they do this?

Children are naturally inclined towards creativity! They create because they are wired to do so! So why then do so many adults say, "I don't have a creative bone in my body?!?" The answer to that question is that somewhere along the way their natural creativity was crushed. So how and why should we raise children to be creative?

Creativity helps children to: 

  • Become divergent thinkers
  • Solve problems
  • Refine motor skills
  • Express their thoughts, feelings, and needs
  • Understand the world around them
  • Try out new ideas
What great benefits!
Children, when left to their own devices (without the influence of various screens) play...they play creatively. That is great news right? Yes, it is. However, children today are exposed to so much outside stimulation and structured events that they don't have time to just play creatively very often. When skills are not nurtured and practiced the become dull. Eventually these same children who were naturally inclined towards creativity become adults who believe that they don't have a creative bone in their body.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."- Picasso

So then how do you foster that creative spirit in children? Here is a great You-Tube documentary on the subject called, 

"Raising Creativity" 

This is a documentary which serves as the doctoral research of Rebecca Zak. In this documentary she is arguing for the need to change our educational system to encompass more creativity. She looks a several models of education and how they promote or discourage creativity.

So, if creativity can do so much good, then how do you ensure your child has creative opportunities. Many schools these days are drastically cutting their art programs including visual arts, dramatic arts, music, and dance. They simply don't have enough time to live up to the testing standards put forth by the powers that be to include these types of programs in their curriculum. The schools that still offer such programs are often highly focused on the end products because they show measurable results and fit nicely into that "testing" culture of today's schools. There is nothing wrong with this type of art, however it does not foster creativity. All of the creative decisions are made for the child. It is this type of education that begins to dull the child's natural creativity. 

There are numerous extracurricular activities within most communities which can expose your child to various art forms, but often in many of these programs the child is producing a product designed by the instructor. There is absolutely value in this type of instruction. It teaches skills necessary for creativity later on, it does not generally teach creativity however.
If children are exposed mainly to an educational system that does not value creativity of thought, and they are moved from one scheduled activity to the next when do they have time to be creative? The message they are taking home is that these types of activities are more important than creativity. Over time these children learn many new skills, but creativity is not one of them and eventually for many children their natural creative drive begins to fade.

So with all of these product driven activities out there, how do you ensure that your child is exposed to creativity? 

I believe that unstructured play is one of the best ways to spark creativity. Children make the choices, they discover the problems and the solutions. They use divergent thinking to look at things outside of the box. They are intrinsically motivated and led by their natural curiosity to discoveries big and small. Their creativity is nourished.

It is for this reason that I am a huge fan of choice based art. Choices in the art room is one way that a child's creativity begins to flourish. They follow their own interests and create art that is meaningful to them. In our studio we offer weekly Open Studio Sessions where artists of all ages can come in and explore our art supplies. They can "play" with art. Choices in the art studio coupled with skills they have picked up along the way, either through direction or through self discovery lead the artist to create art that has meaning to them personally. Creating this type of art allows for introspection and self expression. The artist becomes a problem solver, first finding the problem they wish to solve and then discovering ways to solve it. One day, I overheard a little girl say to her mom, 
"Mom, this place is so cool! You can come in here and use all of the things you have learned in art class but in your own way!" 
That was a great moment for me, it is exactly what I am going for here at the Basement Community Art Studio. I try even in my more structured classes and camps to provide time for the child to explore and create their own art in their own ways. I try also to encourage adults to rediscover their own creativity through classes and workshops that encourage art exploration. The great news is that creativity leads to more creativity. Once you begin to create new ideas form, new things inspire you. The key is to just start somewhere.

So what can you do if you are not local and can not come to our Open Studio Sessions?

  • Look around your own communities. Many art studios out there also offer some sort of open studio art session. 
  • Check out your local children's museum or art museum. Many have a "maker space" where kids and adults can explore their creativity.
  • Set up your own tinkering station in your home with items from your recycle bin, basic art supplies, and glue, hot glue guns are a favorite...with a bit of supervision  ;)  
  • Turn up the music and have a dance party, creative movement is awesome!
  • Tell stories together. One great way to spark a  story is with story cards like these:
  • Encourage your child to create dramatic plays, they can act out their stories, or an event from their day.
  • If all else fails send them outside, they are very likely to engage in some creative play all on their own!
  • Read about my favorite creativity building toys here
Kids need time to unwind, and to be creative. If you place value on these types of play your children will grow in their creativity. Their lives will be enriched by it, and they will reap the benefits of it throughout their lives. Read more about my observations of how kids create here

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