Children are filled with a sense of wonder, vibrant imaginations, and often a love for adventure and learning. They naturally dream, play, and create. While some of us are able to maintain these characteristics into adulthood, most adults do not consider themselves creative, or at least they don’t believe they are living up to their “creative potential.” While there is research that shows certain people may have a genetic predisposition to being more creative than others, many experts believe that creativity is something we are all capable of and it can be developed and cultivated over time. We need to continue to nurture our creativity throughout life and it doesn’t need to be reserved solely for artistic expression. Creativity and innovation is important in technology, business, education, child-rearing, and so on. There are many obvious ways we can foster creativity in young children. Modeling creativity through making or creating projects of your own, or exposing your children to a variety of rich experiences through nature, music, performing arts, museums, and books, are great places to start. Creating an environment, providing materials, and allowing the time and space for creativity is important, too. Living a creative life is more than just encouraging the occasional craft project, dance party, or science experiment, it’s a lifestyle that is formed through practice and eventually habits are created. We dove into a handful of books on creativity—in both children and adults—to learn a bit more about cultivating creativity. Below, we’re sharing a few of our favorite finds.
Create opportunities for alone time.
“Creative children need opportunities for alone time. It’s not uncommon for children today to be scheduled for every activity in which they could possibly participate, and while this level of participation introduces them to a variety of areas of potential interest, it also allows them very little in the way of free time. Without enough time for their brains to process thoughts and ideas, these over-scheduled children lose out on the opportunity to passively engage in one of the fundamental stages of creativity. Parents should remember to include some down time in their children’s schedules so that they have time to think, explore, tinker, and let ideas incubate.”
-From Raising Creative Kids by Susan Daniels and Daniel B. Peters
“Creativity starts with a penetrating research question, a startling vision for a new work of art, an urgent business challenge, a predicament in your personal life. Mastering this step means you’re always looking for good problems, always seeking new inspiration. You know where you’re going, and yet you’re receptive to questions that emerge unexpectedly.”
-Keith Sawyer’s first of eight steps to cultivate creativity from Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Creativity
Let your child be the teacher.
“Think about letting your child be the guide, director, and teacher, while you try to be a student. Your role is to provide the environment and to watch and learn. Try to forget and put aside all the things running around in your mind—all the lists that need completing, all the distractions of your day, and all of the mess that you might be making. Focus on your child. Watch. Never forget to play (and if you’ve forgotten how, just watch your child).”
-From The Creative Family Manifesto by Amanda Blake Soule
Plan creative expeditions.
“Creative Expeditions are dual adventures that the parent and child plan, look forward to, and take together. A Creative Expedition doesn’t need to be large, but it does need to be festive. The point is to refill our spiritual coffers. When looking for ideas for Creative Expeditions, think whimsy, frivolity, fun. Depending on the age of your children, they may be actively involved in choosing the destination.”
-One of the three basic tools in The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Kids by Julia Cameron and Emma Lively
Focus on values over rules and character over behavior.
“We want to focus on values over rules. When kids follow the rules, they are basically trying to please adults, which is not good for teaching them to think for themselves. If they don’t follow the rules, then they rebel. And you want them to become creative because they are interested in looking at a problem from a new perspective, not because they are rebelling against authority. You can also help kids think about themselves as creative by praising their character, not just their behavior. Instead of saying, ‘Don’t follow the crowd,’ you could actually say something like, ‘You are a non conformist, you are somebody who thinks differently.’ They are much more likely to internalize that as part of their identity and they’ll want to be creative again.”
-Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Rule the World, in an interview with The Atlantic
Creativity is not a linear process.
“Cultivating creativity is one of the most interesting challenges for any teacher. It involves understanding the real dynamics of creative work. Creativity is not a linear process, in which you have to learn all the necessary skills before you get started. It is true that creative work in any field involves a growing mastery of skills and concepts. It is not true that they have to be mastered before the creative work can begin. Focusing on skills in isolation can kill interest in any discipline. Many people have been put off by mathematics for life by endless rote tasks that did nothing to inspire them with the beauty of numbers. Many have spent years grudgingly practicing scales for music examinations only to abandon the instrument altogether once they’ve made the grade. The real driver of creativity is an appetite for discovery and a passion for the work itself. When students are motivated to learn, they naturally acquire the skills they need to get the work done. Their mastery of them grows as their creative ambitions expand. You’ll find evidence of this process in great teaching in every discipline from football to chemistry.”
-From Creative Schools by Ken Robinson
For more on this topic, read our piece on Tips For Building Creativity In Kids, Both Online and Offline.