Real Parenting: Creative Kids

Creative Kids

by SM Ford

Creative kids don’t just happen. All kids have the ability to be creative, but they need opportunity. Here are a few tips to help you encourage creativity in your kids.

  • Start Early

Sing action songs with your baby. Songs such as “The Wheels on the Bus” or “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” have great appeal to little ones, especially when you move their hands or feet to create the action. If you don’t know any songs or don’t sing, go to your library or bookstore—there are a variety of good DVDs, CDs and CD/tape book combinations of songs for small children—or check out YouTube—one of my favorite channels is Super Simple Songs – Kids Songs.

Read to your baby. There are many wonderful cloth or board books that you can use.

Recite action poems like “Pat-a-cake.” Do the movements with your baby.

  • Make Time

Limit or eliminate screen time. Except for a very few shows, programs, and apps, children are not thinking or doing when watching TV, on the computer, tablet, or phone.

Plan time to do projects with your child. Check out project books if you need ideas or again find them on YouTube. Here’s one of my favorite videos: 10 Easy Science Experiments - That Will Amaze Kids.

Plan time to play with your kids. Spend time pretending with them, racing cars, dressing dolls, etc.

Don’t fill every moment with activity. Kim Raver says, “I think it’s necessary to let kids get bored once in a while—that’s how they learn to be creative.”

  • Provide Material

Have creative toys available. Toys such as Duplos, Bristle Blocks, and wooden blocks give your child the chance to make something. Toys where only imagination is the limit are especially important.

Scout your closet or garage sales and secondhand stores for shirts, hats, dresses, scarves, gloves to be used as dress-up clothes. You might be surprised at the creative way your child combines these items to make fun costumes.

Provide more than the drawing basics of crayons and paper. Coloring books, marker books and washable markers, sticker books, paint-with-water books are all easy starters. But in addition, give your child construction paper, safety scissors, tape, glue sticks, stencils, rubber stamps, etc. Waterpaints or fingerpaints take more of your supervision time, but all of the materials can give kids wonderful outlets for creating.

Don’t forget the Play-doh or the homemade equivalent. Let those small hands shape and squish and form. Provide tools to go along with it: cookie cutters, plastic silverware, rolling pins, molds, straws.

Let them sew. Start with sewing cards where a child weaves the threads through the holes in the cardboard. Fabric scraps, felt, buttons, yarn can be glued to make a fun creation. As your kids get older, needles and thread can be used, too.

Provide tools for playing in the sand or dirt. It’s okay for children to get dirty or muddy.

Have water toys. Many household items are great fun in the tub: empty squeeze bottles (e.g. ketchup), sponges, plastic bowls. Let your child play in the bath before you put any soap in the water; then it doesn’t matter if they drink the water or get it in their eyes.

  • Provide a Location

Whether you use a box, a drawer, a shelf, give your child easy access to creative items. Messy items that require your participation or supervision should, of course, be out of reach.

Find a place where your child can work: at the kitchen table, at a counter, or at a small table just for her.

  • Involve Them

Let your child participate in cooking. Early on children can stir, shake, or sprinkle. Allow kids to choose a menu for a meal. Or let them decorate cookies, cupcakes, or graham crackers.

Involve them in your hobby or craft. Perhaps your child can help you pick out colors and designs for that hand craft project. Give her a piece of sandpaper and show her how to smooth wood. Have him water the flowers.

Little ones like to do what you are doing. They can fold wash cloths, sort socks, dust, help unload the dishwasher, etc.

  • Take the Risk

Be prepared to clean up accidents or discover crayon marks on the walls. Know that scissors and paper will mean tiny bits of paper scattered everywhere. Pieces of Play-doh usually end up on the floor. Water will be spilled.

Realize your child may try something you never intended. I’ll never forget what my two-year-old did. She told me, “Mommy, I’m cutting my hair.” I thought she was pretending and made some inane comment of “that’s nice” and then looked up in time to see the snip. Oops!

Be prepared to receive a lot of creative projects as gifts from your child. The front of your fridge may be cluttered.

Realize things will not be done “right.” His cow may have six legs—don’t scold him. He’s being creative.

There’s work involved for you, but try these things and you’ll discover you have Creative Kids.

About the Author

SM Ford is a Pacific Northwest gal, who has also lived in the Midwest (Colorado and Kansas) and on the east coast (New Jersey). She and her husband have two daughters and two sons-in-law and three grandsons. She can't figure out how she got to be old enough for all that, however.

Sue likes traveling and animals, especially those in the cat family, and has a dog and cat who own her.

She loves kids and writing. You can find out more about her at her website or on Twitter.

You can read SM Ford's "Real Parenting" column the 4th Thursday each month here at Pandora's Box Gazette.

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