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.