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How to Teach Your Child Creativity

Happy little girls with dirty hands and faces having fun being creative with finger painting.

by Aimee Ketchum

Pediatric Occupational Therapist

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When I started kindergarten, the focus of our learning was on reading, writing and arithmetic (The 3 Rs). But times have changed quite a bit and children entering kindergarten today have a different set of requirements. There is a lot of focus on social and emotional development and early science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. But most, importantly, the 6Cs are critical for new learning. According to Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff’s book,… Read More

When I started kindergarten, the focus of our learning was on reading, writing and arithmetic (The 3 Rs). But times have changed quite a bit and children entering kindergarten today have a different set of requirements. There is a lot of focus on social and emotional development and early science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. But most, importantly, the 6Cs are critical for new learning. According to Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff’s book, Becoming Brilliant, What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, the 6Cs provide children with the foundation for new learning. A firm grasp on these skills will help your child start kindergarten ready to learn and thrive! Let’s take a closer look at the 6Cs that Hirsh-Pasek calls “essential skills children need to become successful adults.”

The 6Cs

The 6Cs consist of collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence. Creative innovation, the fifth skill on the list can often be overlooked because we often assume that children are innately creative and it is not a skill that needs to be taught. While some children are more creative than others, it is still a still that can be cultivated.

Focusing on creativity.

Some studies suggest that we reach our peak of creativity when we are around six years old, then as we start school, we begin to lose our sense of creativity as conformity takes over. The goal with young children is to continue to teach your child creativity and keep it alive.

Children typically start to develop a sense of imagination which contributes to creativity around age three when they enter Jean Piaget’s “preoperational” stage of development. This is characterized by the ability to use symbols to represent their thoughts, such as drawing a picture of a monster or turn a sock into a puppet. This is an important stage, because with this sense of imagination, comes creativity. Children start to build forts and Leprechaun traps and draw pictures and make arts and crafts. Leaves found in nature become creatures when glued onto paper, dolls become “people” when arranged in a playhouse and toy trains have personalities.

Why it is important to teach your child creativity.

Why is it so important to cultivate this sense of creativity? Creativity has been found to help develop confidence. Creative people are more willing to engage in trial and error and processes that can sometimes include failure. It is important to experience trial and error and possible failure to learn and grow and build self-confidence. Creative people are better problem solvers because they are used to thinking things through from different perspectives and coming up with solutions. A study published in Scientific American even found that creative people often live longer lives, tend to be more positive people, are healthier and tend to have lower stress. This is not a skill that we want to peak at age six!

How to Teach Your Child Creativity

  1. Provide your child with an array of items with which to create, such as arts and crafts, colored paper, glitter, crayons, paints, pom-poms, clay, markers, stickers, and popsicle sticks. Help your child “create” things and praise her for being creative in the process.
  2. Give your child experiences to practice creativity such as visiting parks, museums, art classes, and nature walks.
  3. Cook together. Pull up a chair beside you in the kitchen and allow your child to invent food combinations. Give him some ingredients and let him come up with a snack to share. Try peanut butter, raisins, crackers, apple slices and marshmallows and see how creative he can be.
  4. Tell stories. While riding in the car or at bedtime, tell your child a story that you invent, then encourage her to tell you a story that she invents. Encourage her to create characters, a simple plot and an ending to the story.
  5. Allow your child to re-write games by making his own rules. Encourage him to explain the new rules to you, then play the game together. Maybe Candyland is played backwards, or a card game is played by color instead of number.
  6. Ask questions that require creative answers, such as “What if cats fly and birds walk?” “How would we get to school if we didn’t have a car today?”
  7. Get messy. Provide the materials and encourage your child to play with playdough, water tables, drive dump trucks through mud, and finger paint. These activities all encourage creativity.

Most importantly, don’t forget to read lots of books, and ask your child how they think the story will end before you get to the end of the book. Books encourage imagination and creativity and by asking your child to come up with the ending (or an alternate ending) you are encouraging even more creativity. This is a skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives!