Children are born creative. They naturally come up with things that our adult minds would never think of.
As parents we don’t need to teach our children to be creative. They already are. The trick for us is raising them in a way that keeps that creativity from being stifled.
Now we want to help you parents. Over the next few weeks we will give you a few different tips for things you can do to keep the creativity alive in your children.
One of the biggest reasons that children are so creative is that they are not afraid to be wrong. They are willing to try and say many things that would make most adults die of embarrassment. The famed educator Sir Ken Robinson gave a good example of this during his talk at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) Conference.
For a Christmas nativity three children were chosen to represent the wise men. During the show the first wise man approached and said, “I bring you gold.” The second came and said, “I bring you myrrh.” The third boy strode forward and unabashedly said, “Frank sent this.”
This kind of creativity is something that we have come to expect from children. But few adults would dare to say something like this. As we grow and become more and more self-conscious, fear of being wrong prevents us from taking the risks that result in creativity. In schools and at home children are told that there is a right and a wrong to everything. Right answers are praised and wrong answers are criticized.
The right/wrong attitude is so engrained in our culture that we are conditioning our children to stop thinking creatively. Rather than risk the ridicule of being wrong many children simply decide to give up. If you want your kids to make it through childhood unscathed you will have to protect them against the opposition they will face.
The best way to do this is by giving consistent encouragement to your kids. Build up their confidence and let them know that it is okay to be wrong. Here are a few tips to get you started.
When your son scrawls his first crayon giraffe put it up on the fridge even if it is nothing more than a few crude lines. If you daughter writes you a princess story tell her it is wonderful. I was very lucky to have proud parents. In his office my dad still has a framed drawing of a multicolored cow with two legs that my youngest sister drew when she was 5.
All children want to please their parents. Take the time to show your pleasure. Go out of your way to give them praise. Display their work in a prominent place. When visitors come over make sure to point it out to them while your child is listening.
There will be plenty of time later to teach your kids grammar or how to draw with perspective. Children don’t know the difference between criticism and constructive criticism. If you say something well intended like “Your portrait looks good, but you should have done this instead” all your child will hear is that their drawing was not good enough.
Hold off on the teaching moments until they are older. For now just let them create. You will have to live with a lot of sentence fragments and flat dimensionless drawings, but it will be worth it in the end.
Go out of your way to help your children’s creativity flourish. At the risk of being cliché, actions speak louder than words. It is one thing to praise your kids work and tell them that they are creative, but it is another to be actively engaged in the process. Show them how to paint or take crayon in hand and spend time drawing with them. Not only will this translate into valuable time with your kids, but it will prompt them to engage in creative activities more often.
As parents we are the ones responsible for helping our children stay creative. Their future depends on us. At the end of his speech Sir Ken Robinson shared a poem by W. B. Yeats entitled “Cloths of Heaven.”
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
The dreams of our little ones are spread under our feet. We must tread softly.