Porter (7) usually prefers a snack and playing with his brother & sister as soon as he walks in the door after school. But there was a day recently where he went straight to the kitchen table and got busy with a project. Before anything else.
Whatcha doing, Porter?
I’ve gotta make these pictures for the treasure box.
Perhaps like some of your school children, his teacher has a treasure box in the classroom. When they earn enough points for doing certain things, they choose a small toy from the treasure box. Great little reward program. Porter had noticed the treasure box getting a little low in goodies. So he offered to create some art — coloring pages — to contribute to the treasure box. He thought maybe his classmates would enjoy that. His teacher (this is key) was supportive of the idea and encouraged Porter to do it.
Yay for amazing teachers.
So he worked and drew and cut and drew some more. He’s wearing out my black Zig Writers, by the way (he’s a boy after my own heart). Porter put a set of 4 little coloring pages per baggie. This is all his idea. I offered to help him create a label for packaging and he’s officially on-board with that whole concept. (Should I cry tears of joy now?) I just cut and folded the labels and he came up with his title and logo.
So how does a child get to this point of feeling confidant in his artistic (and even entrepreneurial) abilities? I full-heartedly believe this is a case of NURTURE and NATURE. Nature is … well, it is what it is. But nurturing — well, that’s something of a choice. Something we can control. So I’ll share with you some thoughts on nurturing creativity in your children.
1. Invite your child to explain. Instead of saying, “That’s a great picture of the jungle with a family of monkeys”, say “Wow, tell me about this picture. It looks like an adventure.” Don’t assume you know what the picture is about. Allowing the child to explain what they drew or created — and why — will aid in their creative growth.
2. Allow the mess. Creativity isn’t always clean and organized. (I will argue that sometimes it can be, by the way.) Having supplies scattered about is just part of the process of creating. Let it be. The clean-up can happen when they’re done.
3. Be involved. Regarding the treasure box project example: I could have said, “That’s nice Porter” but I wanted to be a supporter, a fan, an assistant (if he wanted it). Did he want me to help this idea become a little more tangible? If not, I would have let it be. But he was very receptive to my helping him “kit” those coloring pages and it was total bonding. (As a mother, I admit I started daydreaming of Porter designing his own mouse pads or opening an Etsy shop.) If your child wants to sell lemonade, help them make flyers and set up a lemonade stand in the neighborhood this Spring.
4. Praise freely. We should never hold back complimenting those we love the most. Our families should have no doubt how talented, smart, charming, funny, and creative we think they are. So if you think it, say it. This does not mean that we say, “That is the most amazing art I have ever seen. There is no one in the whole world who could create something better than that!” Umm, no. Not necessary. That just sets them up for disappointment when they get 3rd place in the art fair. It does no one any good to tell them that they’re the best ever in some sort of skill. That would mean there’s no room for growth & improvement.
5. Make creativity accessible. Where are the art supplies in your house? Are they in a place that the kids can easily access? Strategically place some “stuff” (paper, pens, crayons, paints, glue, craft supplies, popsicle sticks, empty toilet paper rolls, etc.) where they can get to it whenever they’re in the mood to create. By doing this, you are providing opportunities for discovery and nurturing their creativity.
6. Ask them what they think. If your child asks you something like, “Where’s this piece go?” or “What color is this supposed to be?” turn the question back to them: “Well, what do you think?” If they’re just handed answers, they’re not really being creative, are they?
7. Display, display, display. Just think of what this does to boost a child’s ego! You like her painting so much that you put it on the refrigerator. You enjoy his storytelling so much that you laminated his papers into a little spiral-bound book. You are such a fan of his Lego creations that you take a picture of each one before he tears it down and then print these pictures. You are so proud of her handwriting that you frame a sample of it and set it on the table.
I want to mention that this has nothing to do with what we would love to see our kids do when they grow up. This has everything to do with encouraging well-roundedness and overall well-being and happiness. So … what works for you? In your family or with your students. What are some ways that you nurture creativity in children?