“Are butterflies made of butter?”. “Why can’t animals talk?”. “Why do I have a belly button?” Questions, questions, questions, all day long! Children are naturally filled with curiosity, a built-in quality that helps them to make sense of the world around them, to absorb knowledge like a sponge, and to develop billions of new brain connections as they learn and grow. As parents, it’s our job to nurture this curiosity, and one of the most effective ways to do this is to encourage creativity. But what is creativity? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something’. And creativity isn’t limited to the arts – it’s also a vital aspect of the sciences, and indeed of almost everything humans make or do. Children in particular learn best by doing, and that’s why hands-on activities that stimulate the imagination are so good for kids. By spending time as a family exploring new ways of being creative, you’ll not only enhance your little ones’ brain power and problem-solving abilities, but also inspire them to develop fascinating new interests and valuable skills. Creative children grow up into creative adults who are flexible, intelligent and resourceful. How can you boost your children’s creativity, encourage inquisitive thinking and fire up their imaginations? Here are 9 easy ideas: 1. Provide creative spaces at home. Children don’t need much room to express themselves. A good way to encourage kids to expand their creative horizons at home is to set aside a special space where they can make as much mess as they like – a corner of the kitchen for painting and crafts, for example, or a quiet area with cushions plus a low table for drawing, reading, homework, puzzles and board games. 2. Give them the right tools. Kids are so good at imaginative play that they don’t need a host of expensive materials. Children can make toys out of virtually anything! Throw a few blankets over a table, for example, and they’ll spend happy hours playing in their new tent, or fort, or whatever inventive use they’ve found for their cosy new space. However, you can help foster creativity by providing a few basic resources: art materials such as paint, paper, crayons, glue and modelling clay; blocks and construction sets; recycled boxes and plastic for crafts; dressing-ups; puppets; board games and puzzles; scrapbooks; and a family noticeboard for displaying works of art. Most important of all: give them your ideas! 3. Show by example. When you’re teaching your children new skills – how to ride a bicycle, make a cake or build a sandcastle, for example – show them rather than tell them how. Also, strive to become a role model for the kids by developing your own creative interests, passions and hobbies. 4. Make music together! Music is a wonderful form of creative expression that is highly beneficial to children’s intellectual growth. If you don’t own any musical instruments, show your kids how to make them using recycled materials, and encourage them to compose their own tunes and lyrics. Singing together as a family is another great way to spend quality time together and to show kids how – quite literally – to work together in harmony. 5. Cook with the kids. Cooking is another highly creative, interactive activity that children adore. By encouraging your kids to help you prepare meals from an early age, you’ll not only pass on vital kitchen skills, but also inspire in them a love of healthy food in all its delicious combinations. Click here to read more tips for cooking with children. 6. Play word and acting games. Imaginative word games help to develop language and communication skills in children. A word game can be as simple as a few rounds of ‘I Spy’ in the car or a quick general knowledge quiz at the dinner table, or it can be a more involved activity incorporating physical movement, such as charades, or skipping and clapping rhymes, or creating and acting out a short play as a family. 7. Encourage a love of the arts. Opening your children’s eyes to the magnificent creative achievements of humankind will fill their little ‘brain tanks’ with inspiring and challenging ideas. There are many ways to expose kids to the arts without spending a fortune – for example, you can take them along to free classical concerts in the park, or to art galleries and museums, or to weekend matinees at the theatre. Discuss art, music, dance, theatre, poetry and history’s amazing inventions with your little ones – and show them examples you find on the Internet. 8. Get creative outdoors! Mother Nature, in all her glory, offers so much creative inspiration for kids. A few ideas for family activities in the fresh air:
- Take the kids on a nature walk, and ask them to collect leaves, flowers, shells, pebbles and other ‘curiosities’. Then set up a mini-museum in your home that can be added to over the years.
- Organise a family camping trip and challenge your little ones to come up with creative solutions for fire-making, tent-pitching and cooking – and don’t forget the fire-side songs and stories when evening falls!
- Organise a treasure hunt through the park, and invite the kids to help you write some of the clues.
- Teach your children how to grow plants! For expert tips on encouraging kids to get busy in the garden, click here.