How to Nurture Creativity In Children (& in yourself)

I’m far from an expert on the subject, but I think the key word is nurture: creativity is there within our children; it’s not something we need to inculcate but simply something that must be tended, guarded, and allowed to flourish.

I have a new piece at iBelieve on the subject. Here’s a taste. Click through to read it all!

Nurturing Creativity in Children

Rachel Marie Stone

Nurturing Creativity in Children

Many people think of creativity as a trait one either has or doesn’t have, like having dimples in your cheeks, or having brown eyes. In truth, creativity is innate to each one of us, given as a gift by the One who created all things. And like a living thing, creativity can be stifled as well as nurtured.

In a popular TED talk, British educational adviser Sir Ken Robinson provocatively asked “do schools kill creativity?” Schools, he argued often enshrine right answers as preferable to divergent thinking, and many schools reinforce the idea (usually indirectly) that a mistake is just about the worst thing a person could do. Yet creativity “is as important in education as literacy,” he says, “and we should treat it with the same status.”

But how? What can parents do to nurture their children’s God-given capacities for creativity?

Realize creativity might not always look the way you expect it to look.

Many of us immediately think of paints and canvases–or perhaps of musical instruments or poetry–when we think of “creativity.” But creativity encompasses more than just the arts. In its essence, creativity is the ability to make something new–to put words or ideas or foods or colors or Lego bricks together so as to create something that didn’t previously exist in anyone’s mind but your own: a poem, a scientific theory, a new kind of dessert, a painting, a toy spaceship. Scientific advances and technological innovations require creativity every bit as much as painting murals or playing violin concertos do. So if your child shows no interest in arts and crafts, don’t write him off as “not creative.” He’s probably just creative in a way you didn’t expect. Which brings us to–

Give your child freedom to pursue his or her interests.

It’s important that children have some freedom to pursue what they are interested in. This doesn’t mean they should never have to engage in activities that they don’t like, of course–it simply means if your seven year old is content to build new things out of Lego for hours on end, you don’t necessarily need to interrupt him to make him do an art project, because chances are he’s already flexing his God-given creative muscles. Some parents are perplexed to find their children aren’t interested in the same sorts of things that they are, but it’s a mistake to assume that because you love music, your children will, too. It’s important to give children a wide range of experiences, but it’s equally important to allow them to become who God created them to be, instead of trying to mold them in our own image.

Offer your child a safe space that’s free from too much criticism, and too much praise

For creativity to flourish, a child needs to feel safe. She needs to know what she makes, says, or thinks will not be harshly criticized, and that she is not loved conditionally, the condition being she performs well and makes no mistakes. Essential to creative success, notes psychologist of creativity Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi, is a high tolerance for making mistakes, and we develop that when we learn a mistake is not the worst thing in the world. We can instill this necessary confidence in our children first by loving them unconditionally, as God loves us, and then by communicating to them that their beings, not their doings, are what are most precious to us. A firm resolve not to criticize or mock their efforts–or to base your affection for them on their talents and gifts–can help strengthen their willingness to explore and take creative risks.

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