How You Can Encourage Your Child to be Creative Even When YOU Are Not

I’m posting on a Tuesday this week as part of today’s Ultimate Blog Swap!  You’ll find me posting about one of my other passions – cooking- over at Mostly Food and Crafts.  I’ll cover both the food and the crafts by sharing one of my favorite pasta recipes, Butterfly Noodles, and some fun insect activities to go with it.   And I’m so happy to share with you this wonderful post from Kelly of the blog Wisdom Begun, as well as a fantastic discount for the ebook Art Not Craft!  Read on to get all the goodness!

Children are naturally creative. They love to touch and build and make and re-make. Their hands and minds can come up with some of the most unique artwork I have ever seen. I enjoy watching my children as they color a picture because essentially that picture represents how THEY see things.

Unfortunately I am NOT on the creative side. I  am more logical and tend to work better with a set structure. I also tend to dread any type of craft-time because the mess involved alone gets my skin crawling.

However, my inadequacies and dread of the extra work is not something important enough to keep my kids from learning through art. And so I have come up with a few ideas that I like to keep in the back of my mind when allowing my children to explore their creative sides.

1. Keep messy crafts outside as much as possible. Unfortunately, craft and art time with children involves glue and glitter and paint and paper. This can give even the best-intentioned parent, but especially those non-creative types, a desire to run the other way instead of encouraging active learning. Letting children do their art work outside has the benefit of not only keeping the mess outside, but also letting them learn from nature as they work.

2. Have clothes set aside for these times that you do not mind getting ruined.  Despite the fact that much of the finger paint I buy for my children is labeled as “washable,” we still seem to have trouble keeping the clothes from getting too dirty to wear again. I like to prevent this by setting aside old or stained clothes just for the purpose of wearing when it is craft time. A large smock or one of daddy’s undershirts also works very well for this purpose.

3. Ask them what they want to do!  As the parent, it is not always necessary to plan every activity. When it comes to encouraging our children to use their imagination, sometimes the best way is to just let them decide what they want to do. My children’s desires have ranged from building pyramid replicas from play dough while we are learning about ancient Egypt to practicing hand-eye coordination while cutting out stars.

4. Do the crafts with them!  Adults tend to forget that they too can learn along with their little ones. It can be very therapeutic to mold clay with our children or to paint a large birthday banner. Making beaded jewelry and building moats in a sand box can be just plain fun and even relaxing.

5. Break up the activities.  Don’t always just color or just paint. Branch out from your family’s normal art activities and learn new things together as a family. Instead of directing your children as to what they need to do to make something, why not ask them to teach you how to do something. You may just find your new hobby in the process.

Regardless of whether you are or are not creative yourself, you can still encourage your child’s creativity with these few tips. You will have less of a headache and your children will appreciate your efforts. While learning is sometimes messy, it is worth it in the end and you will be glad you stuck through it.

Are YOU a creative type? Do you enjoy doing hands-on activities with your children? What tips would you have to give parents who are not creative?

Photo credit: Jeff Prieb.

Kelly writes at Wisdom Begun, a blog that is designed to encourage women to be as efficient as possible in the home. She is married to her best friend and is a mother to five (and one or two waiting for her in Africa). She keeps busy through homeschooling, learning graphic and web design in her spare time, and filling out paperwork for the adoption process. Kelly is also a life-time learner, researching topics as she is able to satisfy her curiosity. She loves to share what she learns in posts on Wisdom Begun in order to help others.

If Kelly’s post has put you in a creative mood, check out Christie Burnett’s ebook, Art Not Craft, a fantastic creative art resource.  And through the end of this month, Christie is offering a discount of $3 when you use the code ‘KIDS’. Click here to visit Childhood 101 and learn more about Art Not Craft. 

Also, check out yesterday’s post to get my free ebook Creativity Matters  It’s a  short read about the importance of creativity for our kids, why it may be threatened, and how to get it back. 

{Visit Life…Your Way to see all of the Ultimate Blog Swap participants!}

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13 Comments

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13 Responses to How You Can Encourage Your Child to be Creative Even When YOU Are Not

  1. Children-level creativity, I think, should be well within most adults’ ability to grasp. It’s basically just playing. We used to have a craft-seminar with local families once a week where a different parent took on a craft. I did a short video (kids as actors) and a stringed puppet on my days, others did hats, hand puppets, drawing, that kind of thing. If adults want to lead the kids, just think of any interest that the adult has and do something related (simplified as required of course). Of course the easiest is if the children, as most children can, just take resources and experiment with them on their own. Lead the activities maybe only 10% or 20%, leaving the rest for child-directed play.

    • notjustcute

      True. It seems it should be within our grasp as we all were children once, but everyone has a different comfort level. For some the challenge is the mess, for others it’s confidence, and for a few it’s a lack of play in their own childhood. But for all of us, it’s great to have the reminder, as you said, that it’s basically just playing. And that’s something we could all benefit from having a little more of in our lives.

  2. Great points! Children can gain confidence and successful moments during art. The key is that there is no right or wrong. Some adults are not as comfortable with mess, but it is worth it in the end. You can also sign up your child for a local art class. “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso

  3. Great Post! You make some good points, I think if you can keep the art “unstructured” as much as possible without a “correct” way, let the child lead the activity, and allow them to make a mess you will really foster their creativity!

  4. I am the creative type, and I love a mess. The tip I would pass on is that creativity doesn’t just come in the form of art. Building legos, cooking without a recipe, finding a unique solution to a problem are all very creative processes.

    My son is not drawn to artistic projects, so I encourage him in different ways. I make sure to use the word creative when he chooses a unique food combination or when his idea for solving a sibling rivalry problem is especially helpful.

    This is a great post!

    • notjustcute

      A great reminder, Jill. (And I’m with you. If anything, I tend to err on making TOO much of a mess!)

  5. Kari

    I am a preschool teacher who loves having fun with creative projects. You would be surprise how many preschool teachers are not very creative so I have plenty of experience with teaching others how to be creative. One thing I have found to be fun is to go the spice aisle and find unique textures that can be used when mixed into paint or play dough and have fun with it!!!

    • notjustcute

      Great suggestion, Kari. Fun textures and scents! Thanks for taking the time to share your ideas and experience.

  6. “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child” Pablo Picasso. One of my favourite quotes and I share it with the parents whose children I care for and teach all the time. I sometimes don’t feel like we give much credit to the child artist but their work can be amazing. One thing it has taken me years to learn is sometimes kids like repetition even when it comes to art. I used to believe it was my job as a teacher to come up with something new everyday for the children to do in the art corner. Then through talking to the children and asking them what they wanted to do I realized they liked to revisit processes and ideas. I don’t know why this was such a miraculous discovery children love to hear the same story, song over again why can it not apply to art. My biggest piece of advice is let your children play, play is a child’s work and while they work they are building theories and understandings about the world around them. Great post thanks!

  7. It was so much fun reading everybody’s posts and this article!!! We too feel that creativity is everywhere, not just in art projects. There are lots of great story games and thinking games to play that make no mess at all and push children to think creatively… but then, it looks like we’re preaching to the choir. :)

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