There has been much talk about developing creativity in the way our children goes about life, but sometimes it's a tough balance between "developed creativity" and "spontaneous creativity". As new parents, how would you bring out the creativity in your children? Caregiver Asia is pleased to have guest contributor, Ms Jennifer Loh, write for us today on this topic. Jennifer is pretty much an insider on this topic, having once wanted to create a billion dollar newsletter empire when she was just in Primary 6 (together with our CEO Wan Ling), and she is the founder of Playeum, an award winning Children's Museum that encourages children and their parents to look and explore the world with different lenses. Read more about her thoughts after the jump, on creatively bringing up creative children!
Being a new parent and taking care of a child’s basic survival needs is tough enough. Load up on top of that, expectations and pressures to nurture a smart, capable, kind, caring, creative future leader of the world, and the task seems insurmountable. There are entire sections of bookstores that sell parenting books, tons of resources on the internet that tell you how to raise your child, and of course, there are also the real life examples we draw from our own parents, grandparents and caregivers, our friends and family who are parents. We are constantly sold one brand of parenting or another.
Just like most other things in life, there isn’t any one perfect way of parenting, especially to encourage a creative child. In fact, much of it is within yourself and your child already.
A creativity assessment was designed by George Land in the 1960s for NASA as they tried to assess new hires for creativity and innovation. The same test was applied to 5 year-olds, 10 year-olds, 15 year-olds and adults. The results were quite astounding! They showed that the 98% of the 5 year olds tested as creative geniuses, 30% of the 10 year olds and 12% of the teenagers attained the same. Out of the adults whose average age was 31, only 2% scored in the genius level for creativity! What this showed is that creativity is something that can be “unlearned” over time. So what is happening from childhood to adulthood that causes us to “lose” our ability to be creative and to innovate?
Creativity is often thought of as being able to “think out of the box”, but it is more than just that. It is also the ability to converge those ideas and to implement them. When the creation of the pool of ideas and their convergence come too closely together, that is a result of self-censorship and the undermining of our own divergent thinking. How often have we had lightbulb moments only to have them too quickly shot down by our own sense of practicality or patterned reaction by others? It very likely then that it happens less and less often as we learn to adapt and adopt paths of less resistance. That is the slow death of creativity.
So what can we do to help our children preserve their creative geniuses?
- Allow space for your child. This means to not direct every other action of your child. Odd as it sounds, to create space, we need to create boundaries. With clear boundaries about what is acceptable, for example “no hitting, no running beyond the garden” to safeguard the child’s physical wellbeing and that of others, we can then allow for freedoms within those boundaries without worrying about the child’s safety.
- Allow for “failures”. In allowing for space, we need to also allow for what we might consider as failures, or what we may think as not feasible. If a child is building a block tower, and is placing a block where we think is going to tilt the tower so that it will collapse, resist the temptation to say “no, it’s going to fall!”. Let the child experiment. We’ve empowered the child by putting the blocks in front of him and allowed the space for him to build, go ahead and let it fall, and not make a big deal out of it! We may be surprised if it does not, and if it does, the child gains insights and moves ahead!.
- Place ourselves as learners. By doing so, we humble our own opinions and allow ourselves to experiment and learn together with our child. If he/she comes up with some seemingly ridiculous idea for a breakfast mix creation, instead of saying “that’s going to taste yucky”, let the child go ahead and try a small sample together. You may be on the way to creating the next blockbuster of breakfast flavours!
- Allow for risk taking, whether it is with a crazy recipe of ice cream with raisins wrapped in ham, or whether it is trying to put on a shirt with the feet through the armholes. This means that sometimes the child will fall, physically or figuratively, but if there is no major harm done, let’s brush off and keep going.
- Allow time for unstructured play. It may seem hard to fit so much of what we need to get done into our waking hours, but set aside some time for your child to play without being hurried and in a setting that is open ended and allows for your child to explore ideas without needing to follow strict sets of rules that guide their play. Give your child recycled materials, reclaimed parts of old toys or appliances, I love these as they may not always have recognisable functions, so there are no preconceived uses for these, and thus the possibilities for play or making with them are not constrained by prior experience.
- Be inquisitive. Drop your own preconceptions and spark your own imagination. Ask lots of open ended questions. What do you think the squirrel goes home to do? How do you think the bird makes friends? Because nobody has a right or wrong answer, anything goes. Not only does this allow a level playing field for you and your child, it is just a really fun activity and brings you into your child’s world of fun fantasy, and perhaps a little closer to that 98% of creative toddlerdom.
Being creative requires some risk taking, resilience and self confidence. Allowing your child to fall and showing her that these are part of their journey helps build resilience. Being supportive and playing alongside of him, builds self confidence. It is hard enough being a new parent, you might as well try and play and be a kid sometimes when you can, and who knows, you may rediscover your creative self as well!
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