By Carol M. Edwards
Creativity and curiosity are innate qualities in children. From the first moments of life, babies are continually observing, feeling, tasting, listening and testing their environment. As they grow into toddlers and children, each experience and interaction is new and exciting. Enthusiasm to try new things is high. Their views are unbiased and fresh. Their perspectives come without judgments or prejudices. Their ceiling of creativity and flexibility in thinking has yet to be set. Nurturing these innate abilities from an early age will set your child up for a lifetime of creative and imaginative thinking.
Share your child’s joy and enthusiasm.
Children learn by modeling the actions and reactions of others. In the first couple years of a child’s life, adults tend to share the child’s exhilaration of discovery to a greater degree. When an animated two-year-old runs up, bursting with excitement, and points to a butterfly, as adults, our reaction generally matches their tone. “Oh, a butterfly! It is so pretty! Let’s follow it.” As children mature, our reaction tends to be more subdued. “Yup, I see the butterfly.” We might not even look up from what we are doing when we respond. Following our example, the child will learn that what they are discovering is not interesting or important. Of course, you are not going to respond in the same manner to a two-year-old as you would an eight-year-old and a fifteen-year-old. It is your level of interest, your willingness to stop what you are doing and turn your attention to the child that makes the difference.
Allow time for creativity and imagination.
Like any activity, planning and commitment is essential to success. Make creative activities part of your routine. If you can start when a child is young, routine activities are easier to adapt to. For older children, time may be a need for them to adjust to your change in their current routine or introduction of new activities. Start slowly, adding arts and craft or activities that require creativity and imagination. In addition, remember that creativity and imagination can come at the spur of a moment. Your child does not need every minute of their day planned. Unrestricted and unplanned play time is an important part of every child’s day.
Turn it off.
Technology rules out lives. Television, computers, mobile phone and games are fun and great in moderation yet leave little to the imagination. Make time for creativity and imagination. Start periods of time in your house where no electronics are allowed. Your child may resist at first, even refuse, but eventually the child will fill that time with games and activities. Model your commitment by joining your child in these electronic “black-outs” and join in their fun.
Do not be a dictator.
In the past, I have been guilty of trying to control every aspect of an activity. Statements such as, “We are all going to sit here until this activity is done so quit your whining,” or “Do it this way,” does so little for the creative process. Plan activities and projects with your children and mix it up. Avoid elaborate, drawn out activities. Exploring nature in your backyard or making goofy faces on paper plates are easy and quick activities that will fit in between required activities such as dinner, homework and sports. Allow the child to stop when they have had enough.
Pay attention to developmental age.
The attention span of a two-year-old is about ten minutes or less. Planning a thirty minute activity will fail. Your child has their own level of ability to focus. One issue with the attention span of children today is that it is getting shorter than children in the past. Pay attention to the length of your child’s attention span. With each activity or project, encourage the child to stay a minute longer. Even if they choose not to stay, over time their span will increase. Many times, if you continue the activity, your child will return and join you ready to create again.
Let go of perfection.
The final result is less important than the process. You may have a project you printed from the internet, intent on making it as directed, and your child strays from those directions. Allow their flexibility and creativity. Many times I have sat with my daughter for a craft project and she has suddenly says, “I have a good idea,” and goes her own way. This is the creative process in action. Let go of the control and see where that creative process takes them. Bite your lip when you see your child struggling and want to intervene. Sit back and let them experience the frustration and the reward of their creations.
Talk, talk, talk.
Enrich the creative process by talking to your child and yourself. Yes, talk out loud to yourself. Allow your child to hear the thought process going through your head as you work on an activity or project. Talk out problems you are trying to solve. Ask for your child’s input in your process. Encourage them to ask questions. Name objects, shapes and colors. Ask your child what they are doing, why they chose what they did and how they did it that way. When talking with your child avoid “baby talk.” Talk as you would in adult normal conversation. Don’t assume the child will not understand something they ask about. Many times when children ask questions, adults will answer children by saying, “You wouldn’t understand.” Let them decide if they understand or not.
Vary your child’s activities and experiences.
Expose your children to a variety of adventures, situations, and materials. Many activities require creativity and imagination however the same activity over and over deprives your child of the endless array of enriching experiences. Are you at a loss about what to do? Check out the internet, your local library, the events page of the newspaper, your child’s school and the resource at the end of this article.
Creativity and Imagination are not skills you teach your child however they are skills you can nurture and strengthen. It is a situation of “use it or lose it.” Think about the development of your child’s creativity and imagination as you do their physical development. Feed them and they will flourish.
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See Also Parenting Articles by Dr. Randy Cale at www.TerrificParenting.com