Promoting Creativity in Children

After all the recent reviews and talk about DVDs and Apps for the iPhone and iPad, you could be forgiven for thinking that all the things my kids ever do involve some sort of screen. Well, I admit it, I’m a tech-Mom. I love technology and everything that encompasses it and if I could get one of those holodecks from Star Trek, I really would. But since those things don’t exist for us to buy, these are some of the activities that we do at home to round out the boys’ development and to focus on promoting their creativity…

Play Dough has always been a favourite of Gavins. Gareth hasn’t gotten further than the squishing part, but I’m sure he’s learning fast. I love play dough because there is so much you can do with it. You can make letters, pretend food, trains – virtually anything your imagination can conceive. That’s why I feel it is such a great activity for developing creativity – it helps to develop our children’s imagination. It is also a terrific art activity for developing fine motorskills.

What else can tickle the imagination more than painting? And I love framing the abstract works that my son comes up with. When he’s older, I plan to get him a real canvas and some oil paints (or maybe acrylic) so he can create a masterpiece for our house. In the meantime, we make paintings to celebrate special occasions, like Father’s Day. And when I’m too lazy to clean up, I let him paint in the shower and wash off the paint after he’s done. It is actually a lot of fun when you paint in the shower because you get a huge canvas to do anything you want.

If painting tickles the imagination, then reading has got to take the cake. As a child, I love travelling to far off worlds and getting consumed by the books that I read. Alice in Wonderland was always a favourite because it was such an amazing place to be in. I used to dream I took visits to Wonderland and I wished I could open a portal that would take me there physically.

It is a delight to see that Gavin loves his stories just as much as I did as a child (I still do). Another benefit of having a child who can read on his own is that you can catch another twenty winks in the morning while he enjoys reading his books. The only pity is that we don’t really have a good library where he can borrow books because he does get bored of reading the same books after a while and it is a costly affair getting new books all the time.

And with all the talk about the importance of imaginative play for the development of the executive function, I encourage the boys to play pretend at home. Gavin’s favourites are pretend cooking and pretend camping. He used to enjoy playing pretend doctors, too, but we had to stop that for a while because he was jabbing his brother too enthusiastically with his pretend injection.

Although it would be really cool to have one of these bunk beds for the kids to play in, for now we’ll settle for the pop-up ball tent, blankets and pillows to create their pretend tent site and houses. It requires more imagination this way, anyway…

Creating random structures out of Lego and blocks are also a great way to get those creative juices flowing. Although you can follow the patterns and instruction manuals that come with your Lego, I think allowing your child free reign to create whatever he can think of is a great way to encourage creativity.

Yes, I’m sure all these are your typical run-of-the-mill activities for any child. So what else can you do to promote their creativity? Don’t be too quick to point out your child is wrong because sometimes his answer could be right from his point of view. I learned this lesson when I was doing a “put the pictures in the right sequence” activity with Gavin. It was a series of pictures on planting a seed and watching a flower grow and bloom. There were 4 pictures and it was supposed to go in this order:

1. Plant the seed.
2. Water the plant.
3. Flower bud.
4. Flower in full bloom.

Gavin arranged it in this order: 1, 2, 4, 3. I was about to tell him he was wrong, but I decided to ask him why he put them in that order. He replied:

1. Plant the seed.
2. Water the plant.
3. Flower in full bloom.
4. Dead flower.

When I looked at the pictures again, I realised that the picture of the flower bud could easily have been a picture of the flower after losing all its petals, in which case, Gavin’s logical deduction would have been correct.

Along a slightly different perspective, friend of mine once said that when her children colour, she lets them “paint the sky purple and the ground pink if they so choose, because there are no limitations to what they want to do.” And I think that’s a great way to encourage creativity. A sky can be purple in a sunset, and the ground can be pink in certain lighting conditions. As Ken Robinson said – children are born creative, but this creativity is so easily killed off when we force them to stay within the box and conform to society’s expectations.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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