On Quora, the social question-and-answer site, we asked, "What are some practices parents use to successfully foster creativity and creative thinking in their kids?" Two of our favorite sets of answers came from moms/Quora contributors Joyce Fetteroll and Camille Forte.
1. Feed kids' interests and passions.
No one will be creative in an area that doesn't interest them. Don't denigrate children's interests. Quite often kids need to absorb a lot of what's been done before they show what adults might judge as creativity. Just because a parent sees nothing worthwhile in Pokemon doesn't mean the child doesn't find it fodder for their imaginations. My daughter created her own very different world by playing for a long time in someone else's creation. She saw what could be done and built on that. Even the Home Shopping Network sparked some wildly creative video spoofs. [J.F.]
2. Keep kids' lives swirling with new ideas.
Expand their horizons. Do new things. Even a trip to a new grocery store or an international market is new to them. Be patient as they explore what draws them. Do new things the child will enjoy. Creativity doesn't happen in a vacuum. Nor does it flourish when pushed towards the parents' idea of what is creative. Don't drag them around an art museum unless you want them to hate art. Make the exploration enjoyable and fit the child's interests. [J.F.]
3. Give kids a safe place to try their ideas out in.
There's no creativity in memorizing the "right" way to do things. In creative thinking there is no wrong just outcomes that didn't turn out as expected. Exploration and creativity is messy. Don't criticize "wrong" ways. Use your own creativity to help them find better solutions. Are they drawing on the walls? Put up butcher paper. Let them paint on the walls in the bathtub. Let them draw with chalk on the driveway. Find ways to say yes. [J.F.]
4. Be creative yourself.
Keep looking for better solutions. Break out of the tried and true. It's too easy as a parent to fall into routines in order to get things done. Try new things for yourself. (Don't push new things on your kids. Let them be drawn in by curiosity but don't push. That will be counterproductive.) Try new foods. Try new hobbies. Creativity can't flourish if you're afraid to fail. Don't expect more of your children than you're willing to do. [J.F.]
5. Find learning options that match who the kids are.
Some children can be creative in school. Some children find school soul-crushing. The more the second type of child is pressured to be the first type, the more they'll lose themselves along with any hope to be creative! Be your child's advocate, not the school's. If the school won't work with you, find another school. Unschool. Anything that will keep school from shoving your star-shaped child into a round hole. [J.F.]
6. Don't judge their creativity.
Don't look for output that pleases you or looks creative. Look for a child choosing what interests them, following what draws them. Creativity comes with the freedom to explore and create. It's a mistake to judge kids who play "imaginatively" with sticks and stones as being creative. They're not creative. They're desperate. All people need tools to be creative with. Was Peter Jackson less creative because he had computers, a plethora of plastics and a childhood of watching movies than a Paleolithic person who had only primitive paints and cave walls to paint on? My daughter found Pokemon, manga, Star Trek, Judas Priest inspiring. She's drawn hundreds of pictures, a thousand pages of comics, written dozens of stories and songs. I found Barbies inspired storytelling and costume design. (And didn't warp my sense of beauty. She's a plastic doll, not a human being.) Let kids be drawn by what fascinates them. That will feed their creativity. [J.F.]
7. Give them choice, not fear.
My mother instilled a fear in me at a very young age that I would struggle in life if I chose any path outside business, medicine or law. Today we know that everyone, especially people on those very paths, struggle immensely. As Jim Carrey said, when he saw that his father could fail at something he didn't love, it made a lot more sense to allow himself to fail at something he did love - comedy. [C.F.]
8. Take them to neighborhoods they don't usually go.
Especially if they come from a "good" area. Seeing different ways of life not only makes them more appreciative of what they have, but shows them that life isn't the narrow microcosm they live in every day. "Street smarts" and quick-thinking wit are some of the best forms of creativity with which one can equip their children. This is even more critical if the children are growing up in a lesser-privileged area... encourage them!! Show them life outside the struggle and make sure they know they have the potential to be and do anything. [C.F.]
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