Ideas to Inspire Creativity in Your Kids
“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” Neil Gaiman
As I write, we are enduring a windchill of -21 and our 3rd snow day this week. The Polar Vortex 2019 they are calling it. The perfect weather for creative indoor projects. My boys have been relishing this extra time to pour themselves wholeheartedly into their Lego projects. We also baked birdseed cookies to hang on the trees outside.
My 9-year-old is currently making a full set of armor out of cardboard. He LOVES cardboard. He wields it like a blacksmith forms metal and with it can create just about anything.
I hear him humming a Star Wars tune. The snow is blowing fiercely outside and I can’t see my neighbors’ house. But inside it is warm and there is creative clarity. He is full of energy and passion as he works out his full artistic vision for this cardboard wonder.
Creating this armor with his hands… cutting, coloring and taping is satisfying and joyful work for him.
Creativity is important. And not just because it helps our wellbeing or can elevate our mood. It is also entwined with how we learn and how we express our unique personality. It is a key part of what makes us human. And it is a skill that we can help our kids hone and sharpen as they grow.
Cultivating creativity helps us on our way to becoming flexible thinkers, problem solvers, innovators and idea generators. Nothing new will be invented without creativity. Creativity is a highly valuable skill needed for life and work. Educators and employers are realizing more and more the importance of having this skill.
“The principle goal of education should be to create people who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done … who are creative, inventive, and discoverers.” – Jean Piaget
As I was thinking about cultivating creativity in our home, I thought of a few simple things that have helped us along the way. Maybe you will be inspired to give them a try too.
1. Offer blank paper
Giving kids a stack of blank paper without lines is like giving them freedom. They have to engage the creative side of their brain when presented with an empty “canvas”.
I can’t tell you how much my boys drawings delight me. It is like a window into their minds. You will find out how they are interpreting life, what they are learning, their biggest dreams, fears and what they are interested in.
We buy paper in reams. If you can find it in a roll, even better. My kids love BIG paper. My husband was telling the boys one day, “If you are going to take paper out of the printer, you needed to use the short size. The long paper (what we call legal size in our house) is too expensive.” Tyler looked longingly out of the window and said, “When I grow up, I am going to buy myself some long paper”.
That year we wrapped up a ream of legal-size paper for him for Christmas and he was delighted.
You will also want a selection of creative tools. Pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers, scissors and tape. Lots and lots of scotch tape. Buy it in bulk. I don’t even know where it all goes, but they are always asking for more.
If the word “creativity” brings on visions of a thousand snips of paper on the floor and scrubbing glitter glue out of little mops of hair, I get it.
Sometimes the everyday mess of dishes and crumbs and laundry and diapers is already too much. Inviting your kids to come and make another mess for you to clean up sounds ridiculous and exhausting.
If you are in that season of motherhood right now, then think simple. You do not need to offer googley eyes, glitter and paint to give them the opportunity to grow in creativity.
Start with paper and color pencils. There is something to be said for how creativity can really blossom when faced with limitations.
2. Offer simple instruments
My husband has all the musical ability between the two of us. I love listening to him play his guitar. Music has a way of inspiring my paintings like nothing else.
A few years ago, he set up a keyboard in the play room. His hope is that they would use it to play, explore and create. And it has proved to be a wonderful tool.
They regularly try to play songs they have heard and make up new ones. Lately, my youngest has been strolling around the house, serenading us with his harmonica. Having simple instruments around is a great way to inspire musical creativity in your kids.
3. Expose them to beautiful art
My favorite way to do this throughout the years has been through children’s books. Snuggling with my boys under a cozy blanket with a pile of new books from the library is my favorite way to connect with my boys. You will be amazed at the variety of beautiful and diverse styles of art you will see. And the stories themselves will inspire creativity and imagination.
4. Listen while you work.
When you are not reading them stories, why not listen to them? My boys love to build or draw while listening to a good story. There is just something about engaging our mind in an imaginative story while working with our hands.
Maybe it fends off the negative and perfectionistic thoughts that kill creativity? Or maybe using our imagination to bring the story to life keeps our minds in that creative place? I’m not sure. But something about it is really special for us. Maybe it will be for you too.
5. Be the model
We teach best what we model. Show your kids that making time for your own creative project is important. It will speak volumes.
Once I started painting more regularly, I saw my boy’s creativity really take off. Getting excited about painting inspired them to take on their own creative projects and feel good about it.
6. Go on a curiosity hike.
Go for a nature hike and make the goal to stop often and explore. Let your little ones guide you. Leave plenty of time, and bring water and snacks.
Stop and touch the moss, collect leaves and sticks. Smell the wildflowers, listen for woodpeckers and watch the squirrels.
Children are wonderful teachers of wonder. They naturally delight in the smallest of things and find treasures everywhere.
It is a gift they can give us if we allow them. And giving them the gift of time for exploring, is a way we can honor this natural sense of wonder they possess. I often find that after a curiosity hike we return home refreshed and full of inspiration.
Chances are, you are already fostering creativity in your kids in a variety of ways. What ideas do you have that have worked well for you? I would love to know. Is there a new idea that you would like to try soon?
Let’s inspire this generation together to be the creative thinkers, artists, engineers, musicians and innovators of tomorrow.