Encouraging Creativity for Kids

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Research has proven that creativity helps kids be more confident, develop social skills, and learn better. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Because it is a key to success in nearly everything we do, creativity is a key component of health and happiness and a core skill to practice with kids. Creativity is not limited to artistic and musical expression—it’s also essential for science, math and even social and emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, which makes them more able to adapt to technological advances and deal with change—as well as take advantage of new opportunities.

The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry offers a wide range of programs, exhibits and activities that foster creativity through play-based learning. Although we remain closed until it’s safe to open, we have great activities to do at home and our Facebook page is a good place to check for updates. Here are a few ideas (some of which may surprise you) on ways you can encourage creativity at home:

 

Questions Without Answers

Asking open-ended questions are a great way to get a child’s creative juices flowing. These questions help a child distance himself from the here and now. Choices, comparisons, entertaining new ideas and formulating personal responses to these questions are all important ingredients in creative thinking. Keep in mind that you will need to tailor your questions to a child’s experiences and exposure to things.

Here are some open-ended questions to ask children to inspire their creativity:

  • What could happen if it always rained on Saturdays?
  • What if cars never wore out?
  • If you saw a mouse in your backyard chewing your mother’s favorite flowers, what would you do?
  • Why don’t we wake up with our hair neat and combed?
  • What would happen if a cow, a bee, and a clover got together?
  • What could happen if cats could bark?
  • What could happen if all the shoes in the world were the same size?

Designate a space for creating. Carving out a space where your child can be creative is important, but it doesn’t have to be a fancy playroom. It could be a tiny corner with a sack of LEGOs or a box of your old clothes for playing dress-up. 

Keep things simple. Just like you don’t need to create an elaborate play area, you don’t need the latest and greatest toys either. Provide simple games and activities. If your kids do play with toys, instead of following the rules, let the wheels of their imagination spin and create what they want.

Allow for “free time.” It’s also important to give your child unstructured time. Spend a few hours at home without activities scheduled, so your child can just putter around and play.

Activate their senses. Expose your kids to the world so they can use all of their senses. Again, this doesn’t mean costly or complicated trips. Take them to the library, museum and outdoor spaces. Ask them to imagine what traveling to faraway places for an adventure, such as an African safari, might be like. What animals would they encounter? What noises would the animals make?

Help your kids pursue their passions. Pay attention to your child’s interests and make these materials and activities available to them. 

Encourage critical thinking. Ask your child to solve a family problem—i.e. “The living room is constantly messy. What should we do about it?” This makes them feel important, creates space for their own creative problem solving, and allows an opportunity for them to contribute to the family.

Support (some) rule-breaking. Play your child’s favorite game together but encourage him or her to come up with new rules. It will feel like a brand new game again!

Stir the imagination with open-ended questions. Here’s a good open-ended question to get your child thinking creatively about other people: “If you could give one gift to every single child in the world, what gift would you give?” Ask your child to imagine what it would be like to have a superpower: “If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?

Suggest a drawing prompt. “If you could invent something that would make life easier for people, what would you invent? What would it look like, and what would it do?”

Creativity — using our imagination to come up with ideas or make something new — is one of the most valuable qualities human beings can have. Innovative thinking will serve our kids well in whatever endeavors they choose, and the more we encourage creative activity during their formative years, the more comfortable and confident they’ll feel in sharing their ideas with others.

We hope these ideas are helpful and we look forward to encouraging your child’s creativity in person as soon as it’s safe.

Boredom Busters for Kids (of All Ages)

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For most everyone, staying at home to help slow the spread of COVID-19 is the new normal. All those fun activities your kids were doing—sports, visiting friends, dance, museum trips—have all been shut down to keep everyone safe. We know you love your kids, but they’re probably going nuts being confined to the house, which is probably making you nuts! You can only watch so many movies, right?! 

Although The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry remains closed until it’s safe to open, we have great activities to do at home. And, remember to check our Facebook page for updates. In the meantime, here are a few ideas for things to do that may help curb boredom:

 

Have Fun with Science

A few household items are probably all you need to spark the imagination of budding scientists! Check out these great ideas for easy projects you can do at home. You can also make a lava lamp, have fun with Skittles or astonish your kids by making water walk.

 

Take A Virtual Tour 

No matter how much you love your home, staring at the same walls day in and day out can make anyone fidgety. But with these boredom busters you’ll find yourself exploring new places all over the globe! These are great options for keeping kids occupied while stimulating their creativity and sense of wonder, but adults will find themselves equally entertained and enlightened.

TravelAndLeisure.com has compiled a list of 12 famous museums from around the world that offer virtual or video tours.

If museums aren’t your thing, you might enjoy taking a virtual tour of a zoo. You can enjoy cute animal antics without the heat or mosquitoes you’d usually encounter! The Atlanta Zoo offers a live Panda Cam,” and the Georgia Aquarium lets you watch an assortment of underwater critters, including beluga whales, penguins, and sea lions. One of the most complete virtual zoo tours is offered by the San Diego Zoo, but if you’re looking for full zoo immersion, Good Housekeeping has compiled a long list of live animal cams you can track.

If you like the thrill of roller coasters, a quick search for “virtual amusement park rides” will bring up hundreds of links to rides at Disneyland and Disney World, Six Flags, Sea World, and Universal Studios. Or you can download RollerCoaster Tycoon (available on Steam) to build and ride your own!

 

Try A Free Trial To Take a Fun Course or Develop A Hobby 

Many companies are currently offering free trials to give customers an incentive to stay home. These boredom busters can also help you alleviate stress and improve your health or creativity. Some of these trials are considerably longer than typical free trials last, so this is a great time to test out a service you’ve really been interested in or one you’ve never even heard of.

Interested in trying your hand at photography? Nikon offers some great online courses (currently ten of their most popular courses are free) covering topics like photographing pets or making the most of lighting. Most courses last for about an hour, after which you can start documenting your quarantine experience for posterity. And if you manage to master all of those courses, you can still check out Nikon’s live events where you’ll hear from professional photographers about their experiences capturing everything from weddings and conventions to wildlife.

Fender has online lessons for acoustic and electric guitar, bass, and ukulele. For a limited time, you can get three months of lessons absolutely free. The typical length of a trial on Play is 14 days (some of their guitars come with a 30-day trial if you purchase them new), and the service costs $9.99 per month or $89.99 for a 12-month plan after the trial ends.

For those who are young—or young at heart—another great option for online learning is the newly-launched Hogwarts is Here. Users have the option to enroll in different Hogwarts classes like astronomy or charms. Although Hogwarts lore is woven into them, the courses actually involve real learning. In the astronomy class, for instance, students will learn about real “muggle” tools for studying space, while the charms class has a section on learning to focus one’s attention.

We hope you enjoy these suggestions and we hope to see you again soon!

 

Play-Based Learning

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That box your new television was in is now a castle for your daughter and her friends (she’s the queen, of course). The hammock in your backyard is a ship sailing the high seas with your son as its captain, using an empty paper towel roll as a periscope. 

Research has shown that when children pretend to cook, reenact a doctor’s visit, fight wild bears, or put out an imaginary fire, they are using imaginative play to help them make sense of the world. During pretend play, kids use words to interact and move plots along, plan and carry out sequences of events, solve problems for their real and imaginary friends, process information, predict the things that will happen next and cooperate with others. These factors encourage language development, empathy, concentration, problem-solving abilities, logical thinking, creativity, comprehension, and social skills in young children.

Although schools and other organizations are doing their best to provide programming to keep young children engaged during these unparalleled times of stay-at-home orders and educational and recreational closures, having resources to facilitate play-based learning at home has taken on new importance. 

While The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry remains closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, stop by our site for activities to do at home and get updates on our Facebook page. In the meantime, here are ideas to help you encourage play-based learning at home:

  • Re-enact your child’s favorite books. Make puppets from material scraps and buttons or build a jungle in a box with items found in the garden. It’s not only fun but can help children to focus and improve their listening skills and speech.
  • Use the bushes and trees in your yard to create a jungle, where you can be lions, tigers, monkeys, snakes, giraffes and hippos!
  • Use cushions and pillows to create “islands” in the living room or family room. Try to jump to each one without getting wet or bitten by a crocodile or try to catch fish or go swimming.

Unstructured play is also an important learning experience for kids. So, while it’s not that you’re not a fun parent, but sometimes, Mom and Dad, you just need to leave playtime to the kids. While parent-child play is crucial to a child’s development—it’s been shown time and again to enhance their vocabulary, school performance, and self-esteem—playing on their own is equally important.

Free, unstructured play happens when your child isn’t following any rules or guidelines, like when he’s busy building forts, pretending to be a superhero, or finger painting. It cultivates independence, imagination, creativity, and problem-solving skills, says Kenneth R. Ginsburg, M.D., a pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of a special report on play from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Free play also works wonders on stress. Neuroscientists say that play is fundamental to every kind of learning, and it even physically shapes the brain. The more playful an animal is, scientists point out, the bigger its brain is.

Here are some ways you can make free play an organic and exciting part of your child’s world. Here’s how:

  • Praise their play. Your child probably already engages in some amount of free play every day. Encourage more of it by regularly telling your little one what a great job she’s doing. “I’m so impressed that you built that tower all by yourself!” or “What a great game you invented!” Resist the urge to give suggestions like “Here, why don’t you use a towel instead of that sheet as a cape?” Your kid’s play is perfect just the way it is.
  • Offer open-ended toys. Playthings such as blocks, dolls, and balls that can be used in more than one way encourage imagination better than things like coloring books or board games, which have specific rules to follow.
  • Teach by example. Do you have free-play activities of your own? If not, how can you expect your child to? Don’t feel guilty about the time you take to yourself to work out, paint, read, garden or go for a walk. You’re teaching your child an important lesson: Play is a priority, no matter how old you are!

We’ll be back with all kinds of play-based learning experiences as soon as it’s safe. Until then, help your child unlock the power of play!