We all see those creative kids, who are always building forts, having imaginary friends and coming up with super creative stories.
When you hear the word “creativity,” your mind probably goes immediately to the arts.
However, creativity isn’t limited to art or music.
It’s also valuable in science, math, writing, and even social intelligence.
The reality is that people who are creative tend to be better problem-solvers and more adaptable to change. (That’s why so many self-improvement and business books have been written on the topic.)
Naturally, these are all skills we want in our kids.
So how can you go about fostering creative kids?
Here are four strategies that may work for your own family.
Let Your Kids Be Bored
As Dr. Vanessa LaPointe explains, “So many parents now have this mistaken belief that they are meant to provide entertainment constantly to their children.
Your children are meant to fit in the quietness of their own world so that they can hear themselves. And if they don’t get the opportunities to sit in that quiet and be bored, really be bored, then curiosity doesn’t live because they don’t get the chance to really experience that and have that emergent wave bubble up and out of them.”
Susan Greenfield, a well-known neuroscientist, has said that because she didn’t have much to do as a child, she spent her time drawing and writing stories. Those pastimes eventually led to her later work, the scientific study of human behavior.
The next time your kids complain about boredom, resist the impulse to give them ideas for how to pass the time.
You never know what creative pursuits may emerge during those quiet moments of boredom.
Explore Maker Learning
Maker Learning is hands-on, creative, and design-centered learning.
This method of learning has the power to increase a student’s interest and skills in STEM, promotes social and emotional learning, and makes curriculum more relevant.
Professional counselor, Phyllis Fagell, explains, “Maker Learning is when you’re working on a hands-on, self-guided project using technical skills and tinkering and inventing and designing to solve a problem. And as a school counselor, I love it because, in addition to learning fabrication and circuitry and whatever technical skills you happen to be working on, you’re also learning grit and perseverance and creativity and collaboration and how to work in a team and it really can help meet the needs of different types of learners.
Not every child is a traditional classroom learner, and if you talk to a lot of people in that field or even in the design thinking field they’ll say they were non-traditional students themselves.
They were trying to figure out how to make the traditional school setting work for them, and it often didn’t.
Schools are increasingly incorporating maker learning into their curriculum, but it’s not as widespread as it should be. We do maker learning at the school where I work because it’s so great for helping kids stay curious and to learn to love learning and value the process of trial and error and focus on innovating in new and different ways.
And it’s good for accelerated learners too.
Parents can find maker spaces in their communities as a way to augment whatever they’re getting in their traditional educational setting and to really hone those skills that will create the kinds of creative kids who can go out and start businesses or invent things or take risks or sit with failure and understand that process matters as much as the results.”
Try Design Thinking
Unfamiliar with design thinking?
That’s okay, you’re not alone.
This relatively new method of problem-solving relies on empathy, observation and careful listening.
And, when it comes to parenting, it means throwing the parenting manual out the window and accepting that there’s no “one right answer” to a problem.
“I spoke to a partner at IDEO, who is the founder of their Toy Lab, a guy named, Brendan Boyle, and he likes to run experiments and flip ideas,” Fagell says.
“He wanted his son to use his cell phone less so instead of just saying you can’t use your cell phone or just taking it away, which was really difficult for his child, he let him keep it, but it had to be in a sealed envelope, and he couldn’t open it for a set amount of time. And his whole philosophy was that you’re better off running experiments than setting tons of rules, and he likes to flip ideas so you can’t do your homework until you’ve gone outside and played for 45 minutes.”
As Fagell explains, “when creating kids who will grow up to be inventors and creators and designers and entrepreneurs [you need to] just throw out the whole idea of a parenting manual and to tinker with your child and honor the fact that each of your children will have a different need.”
So how does design thinking encourage creativity?
Because you’re teaching your kids how creativity can be used in the real world to solve problems.
“Just free yourself from any parenting doctrine you’ve heard and work together with your child to come up with different approaches,” Fagell says, “Then talk together about what may or may not have worked; [this includes] making household rules because you’ll get more buy-in if the kids create the rules with you.”
Encourage Failure to Promote Creativity for Kids
Naturally, we all want to protect our kids from pain.
Unfortunately, pain and disappointment are inevitable and it’s imperative that we teach our kids to handle those things.
They need to be able to handle failure and keep moving forward.
The best way to do this is to redefine what it means to fail.
Instead of failure being tied to a specific result, it should be tied to whether you’re willing to try in the first place. This change in mindset will help give kids the courage to pursue new interests.
Share mistakes you’ve made, things you’ve tried that didn’t work out the first (or even third) time.
And even take a page from Spanx founder Sara Blakely’s dad and ask your kids weekly what they’ve failed at, celebrating failures.
Take away all fear of failure to encourage your kids’ creative pursuits.
Final Thoughts on Raising Creative Kids
Outside of art and music class, the traditional classroom setting isn’t set up to foster creativity in students unfortunately.
Students who have a great passion for video, for example, may still be expected to produce lengthy papers that don’t align with their skills.
While more and more schools are adopting maker learning, most still have a long way to go.
That’s why it’s up to parents to encourage their kids to remain curious and creative, as this will have a lifelong impact on not only their careers, but also their overall success and happiness.