Although our educational system offers many benefits to the millions of kids and teens who are involved, it can also act as a negative influence. Many a child who started school as a creative and spontaneous kindergartner graduates from 12th grade with a brain full of facts but an extremely stunted ability to move beyond the rote and the conventional. The good news is that there are several things you can do as a parent to keep your child’s unique nonconformity alive and well.
GIVE PERMISSION TO MAKE MESSES AND TAKE UP SPACE
Creativity and spontaneity mean trying things out and even making mistakes. Set up an area in your house or garage where untidiness is not only all right but encouraged. This is where your kids can experiment with art supplies, play dress-up, build and tear down structures made of blocks and let their imaginations fly free. If they’re a little older, you can build a lesson in cleaning up into their fun experience. If friends or family members ask for gift for children, list items such as paints, costumes, blocks and drawing supplies.
ACT AS A ROLE MODEL
For better or worse, one of the best ways to manifest behaviors in your children is to engage in them yourself. To that end, make an effort to share your own creative hobbies and passions with young family members. If you’re captivated by a painting, a piece of music or the story of a scientist, don’t keep it to yourself. Show them that adapting to new things is a normal part of life by embracing new technologies and ways of thinking.
LIMIT SCREEN TIME
Although there is much that kids can learn from computers and other electronic devices, they can also limit the scope and flexibility of children’s thinking processes. While you may choose to allow access to e-devices, also encourage your boys and girls to read actual books, draw pictures freehand, learn crafts, compose and perform plays, etc.
ENCOURAGE CONSTRUCTIVE DEBATE AND PROBLEM-SOLVING
As your children get older, they can and should take on additional intellectual challenges. Get into the habit of discussing current events, spiritual issues or other topics of interest. Ask how your kids would solve a particular problem, following their logic through to the end even if you disagree. Encourage them to think about the choices and consequences of their solution and to arrive at alternate answers as well.
FOCUS ON PROCESS NOT RESULTS
During any creative endeavor, the journey is more important than the destination. As a parent, it is tempting to concentrate on the end result while failing to see all of the benefits the child gained while getting there.
If there is an artist or otherwise creative person your child looks up to, encourage the pair to spend time together. There is nothing like a positive, non-parental role model to reinforce what you have been doing your best to inculcate in your child. This beneficial relationship will also set the stage for similar collaborations later in their life. Some of these can come from surprising and exciting sources. For example, there is a foundation called Find Your Grind, founded by Nick Gross, that fosters the entrepreneurial spirit and creative passions of young people via experiential learning and events.
Creativity is not a talent you are either born with or without. It can be nurtured, and there is no better time than now to start. Encouraging flexible, nonconforming thought outside the lines in your children today can help them throughout their lives to be flexible, independent and ready to embrace change.