We all want to see more creativity in our kids. There is nothing in this world that brings me more joy than hearing my child singing an original song while they are playing alone, or witnessing my children engrossed in a detailed and peculiar game of pretend. It’s like I can see those creative wheels in motion, and it is such a delight to watch. I try to do so without them noticing, because nothing stops a child in his creative tracks more than a mother hovering over him, beaming with pride. I have been known to hide around the corner and listen in. It’s not weird.
Here at MossyBrain, we subscribe to the idea that we are all born creative. Dr. George Land and Beth Jarman developed an experiment to test creative potential, measuring the ability to come up with innovative ideas to solving problems. They gave it to 1600 children between the ages of 4 and 5, and 98% tested in the genius category of imagination! Sadly, that percentage fell to 30% when the same children tested at the age of 10. At 15, only 12% landed in the genius category. Many believe our educational system is a large factor in the decline of creative thinking. For adults, that number is even sadder – 2%!
There is hope, my friends! We believe that creativity is like a muscle and the more we use it, the stronger it grows in us. As parents, we want to encourage their creative genius every step of the way! Perhaps through persistence and mindfulness, we can offset some of decline of creativity in our kids. Here are some ways to nurture that genius in your everyday life:
Make up songs with your child
It began before my child could even speak, much less sing. I would sing to him about whatever we were doing, or how I felt, or our environment. Experts say that narrating for your baby helps them develop language skills. I’m just taking it one step further. Let me be clear – these songs were not good. They were comically bad, but I just let the words flow. As your child grows, take turns making up verses. Belt it out, if you have the moxie. Encourage her to do the same and hopefully she won’t let insecurity or embarrassment hinder her expression.
Offer myriad opportunities to make art
Provide your children with a plethora of art supplies- paints (watercolor, tempura, biocolor, finger, activity), colored pencils, crayons, clay, chalk, even household items you don’t want anymore for recycled and figural art. The possibilities are endless! I will admit that you may have to set some boundaries and also be okay with a little mess. Let them think outside the traditional box of what “art” is. I’m sure they will surprise you with their genius!
Tell stories together
My children love to ask me to tell them a story they have never heard before. At first, that was a huge challenge for me. I felt nervous that I would get stuck or stumble, and unsettled that I didn’t already know the story, but the more I did it, the more comfortable I got with the ambivalence. I actually surprised myself with my storytelling ability and how my own creativity surfaced. Let’s give our kids the same opportunities to rise to the challenge.
Another take on this is what my children like to call, “Read me a book in your own special way.” They reserve this request for Ben because he is the master. He takes a picture book that they know and “reads” it in his “own special way,” aka makes up a whole new, absurd story in its place. My children LOVE this exercise; it is creative and gets the giggles flowing! Once you have had a turn, give them a shot to make you laugh!
Kids seem to be natural dancers; it bursts out of them at random times, with or without accompanying music. They don’t really give a hoot about “skill” or “talent” and it is the best thing to witness. There’s something to just letting go of your self-consciousness and cutting a rug. Lead by example! Anything can be a dance; let your body move to the music. Rumi said, “Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”
I don’t have to tell you that this is second nature to children, but it may be more of a challenge for you to play along. Start out by letting your child take the lead. Ask, “If we could be anywhere in the world, where would you want us to be?” or “Let’s pretend! Who do you want to be?” An open-ended question like this can reveal a child-led world of possibilities, and they will love that you want to play along. It’s kind of like improv; you know the rules: always agree, say Yes And! Have fun!
Scavenger hunt, puzzles, tower building, and free play; these are just a few of the countless ways to encourage problem-solving. I think the key (speaking to myself here!) is to allow your child to lead. Often times, parents want to be knowledgeable, to teach, or even impress our children with our insight, but what happens when we ask questions, listen, and let our children lead? We give them opportunities to let that creative genius shine, and while they’re flexing those creative muscles, they’re learning new problem-solving skills at the same time.
What I love about engaging in creative play with your child is that these are incredible bonding opportunities. These activities facilitate togetherness, laughter, and fun. Let’s encourage their natural creative genius and, even better, join them in the process! Who knows? Maybe your child could teach you a thing or two along the way.
What are some other ways you nurture your children’s creative genius? Share them with us in the comments or email us- firstname.lastname@example.org.