When I had children I never expected them to be anything like me. Weird, huh? I come from a family where you will find individuals who are passionate both about science and art. My sister is a surgeon and a gifted poetess and my brother is both an electrical engineer and an amazing musician. Before becoming a Lutheran Pastor, my father was a Civil Engineer and was also an actor in his younger days. My mother is now a Lutheran Pastor and blogger but once worked in the medical field. My husband is a web developer as well as a gifted musician. I am an actor who has a dual degree in Kinesiology. So you can see why I felt that there was a 50/50 chance that my kids could want to become an aeronautical engineer or a painter.
One thing I always wanted to make sure I did was pay attention to my children’s individual gifts, talents and passions and make sure that I encourage their dreams not my own. Of course as parents we want our kids to be successful and financially stable in whatever they do but we also want them to be happy with what they do. Growing up my dad used to say that if you found 5% of joy in what you did you were lucky. This might have been true a generation ago when people worked at the same jobs for 30 years and they accepted that work was well…work. Times have changed in the scheme of career. People change jobs faster and more people are becoming entrepreneurs (although before industrialism many people were entrepreneurs). I believe we live in a time where creatives have a real chance to make a living (maybe just a humble one) with what they do. However, I will say that a creative must have some idea of marketing and business savvy to go along with their talent to carve out a career.
After ten years of mothering I still feel like every day I am starting at square one because every day brings new parenting challenges. The learning curve for parenting is pretty steep. Can I get an Amen? But by sharing our experiences and tid bits of advice I think we can help each other out or at least keep the road from looking so daunting.
When your child is first born we spend a lot of time giving them special attention. We notice every change, every milestone, every new skill. We encourage it, we wait for it, we are patient because they are still learning. As we build this skill of observing our children we need to hold on to it tightly. In these stages we rarely build opinions or conclusions for our children. We enjoy the process and wonderment of watching our little ones discover their hands and feet (I love this stage), take their first steps, or ride a bike for the first time. While they are building their skills we are building the foundation for fostering our child’s individual creativity.
So how to we take these skills and use it to Foster Creativity in our Children?
Get to know Your Child
I know that sounds obvious but it’s so foundational that we can over look the nuances of our children because of the business of life. Our time can be taken up by work, taking care of multiple children, family responsibilities, and finding time with our spouse. It can zap our attention and time. We need to go back to the head space we were in when our children were little and continue to observe them. Listen to what our kids talk about, pay attention to what makes their eyes light up, observe what they do in their spare time.
What Video Games Taught Me about My Son
My son loves to play video games. I mean he LOVES to play video games. I used to play them when I was younger but feel like they are a time sucker now. To tell you the truth I was a little upset when my husband introduced him to video games. But I’ll tell you something. My son is a very kind and sweet child. He doesn’t like to fight and he has a smile on his face 99.9% of the time. Seriously. He is my little sunshine. However, if we have a friend over my son can get a little shy. But one thing he will always do is invite you to play video games with him. This is an arena where my son begins to come out of his shell, I can tell he feels confident by the way his voice gets loud and clear when he tells me about a high score he got. This is his social realm. He doesn’t like to play alone but with friends or his sisters.
What does all this mean? Well I learned that my son likes to be around people working towards a common goal. He is energized by it and it gives him confidence. He loves to rally people together to have fun and do something together. He loves it! He gets hype about it!
Even though I limit his time on the games I realize that these characteristics could play out in other ways as he gets older. He may be a leader of a team, his spiritual gift might be encouragement, he may even invent a new video game. I know one thing for sure, that beautiful dimpled smile will build morale for those around him in the future.
Did I mention my son just turned 6?
Now that I’ve observed him I’ve learned things about his character and personality. Of course we learn about our kids when they are babies but certainly we see certain traits get amplified when they get older. I knew my son was a glass is half full type of guy since before he could walk! At this age I would say keep observing your child. Don’t put conclusive pressure on them. Remember what we talked about earlier about the skill of wonderment and discovery? Continue to keep that spirit when observing your child. If you start to determine that because you observed that your child is studious or loves science he/she will become a doctor and then force them into medical clubs and so forth it can actually have negative effects. Be patient you will know in time what creative direction they will go in.
Get to Know Yourself
Studying personality types, and going through personal development studies myself helped me understand how different people need different things to thrive in life. I love studying personality types! The more I do I realize that no one fits into a single box, however learning about types can give you a starting point for understanding your child.
My second daughter is the most quiet child of the bunch. My husband and I love to tell stories about how we never had to put her to sleep because she would always put herself to sleep when she had enough activity for the day. When she was ready for her nap, she wouldn’t even tell anyone where she was going. She would find her blanket and go find a quiet spot and fall asleep. She could fall asleep anywhere and we have the pictures (future bribery) to prove it! Because I had learned about my needs as an introvert I recognized that she was most likely an introvert too from her behavior. I was able to identify her times of irritability as a need to rest and be alone for a bit. Her older sister is quite the extrovert and sometimes would tire her out with a lot more activity and talking. So I started this thing where she could ask for a little “alone time” when she was getting a little cray cray with her attitude. It really helped! And guess what? When she was alone I noticed her taking her quiet time to draw and create stories. She will take so much care in creating her pictures and she really enjoys the process of it. She loves to incorporate different cultures and her friends in her stories. Once I told her that I love drawing because you can create any world you want. The sky is the limit. She really held on to that. I think drawing is where she finds her creativity. But if I hadn’t recognized her need to be alone and forced her to act extroverted and stay busy doing something else she may have taken longer to discover her love for art.
She is now 7 years old as I type this.
Spending time getting to know yourself can show you how you are different and similar to your child. When you know the differences you can make room for your child to be themselves. When you see the similarities you have a chance to be compassionate and understanding. You can guide your child through potential pitfalls that you’ve experienced.
Give Them a Safe Place
This is sooo important! We all need a safe place to grow and make mistakes without feeling like the hammer of death is going to come down on us if we mess up. Children are still learning and discovering who they are, what is right or wrong, what are their interests and how to maneuver life at school. They need a place to learn, ask questions and experience consequences that guide them down the right path.
One motto I have adopted is:
“Let them make a mess, but the kids have to help clean it up”
This thinking has helped my neat freak personality enormously and provided an opportunity to teach responsibility.
Children do things because they enjoy the process more than the outcome. Have you ever noticed that little kids will spend time painting and painting but when they are finished they may never take a second look at the final product? If you follow this blog you know that I have a ton of craft tutorials on here. However, I’m always picking projects in which the final product will be practical some how. As adults we sometimes lose the joy of doing something for the sake of doing it. Kids need a safe place to make messes while painting, building, crafting, playing. Playing builds their imagination muscles, and strong imagination muscles create strong problem solving muscles, innovating muscles, and original idea muscles. In other words just like playing teaches lion cubs how to fight later in life, playing helps humans become better thinkers who bring radical solutions to problems.
Helping them know they have a safe place at home will build their confidence and allow them to have a place to retreat to when the world hurts them. A safe place allows us to help shape positive character before negative influences attempt to do the shaping. The idea of a safe place can easily flow into a discussion on why it’s important for children to feel love at home so they don’t look for it in all the wrong places but we will leave that for another discussion!
It Takes a Village
There will come a time when you will need to find others to guide your children in their creativity. I’m not necessarily talking about teachers at school although there are wonderful teachers out there but rather someone who can guide their individual talent such as a piano teacher or dance teacher. Their interests and talents might lie outside of our parental expertise and it can be daunting and humbling to start that journey in finding someone else to guide your child. Sometimes you may feel that you need to put your kid in activities as soon as you see the Jones put their kid in an extra curricular activity. I personally feel it’s good to wait a little bit and allow their natural interests to blossom. Don’t feel pressured to start building their little resumes with after school activities to quickly. There will be PLENTY of time for being a chauffeur in the future!
Do your research and get referrals for clubs, programs, etc for your kids. Now that you’ve spent time observing your child you will have a better idea of what kinds of programs, learning techniques and philosophies work best for your child and your family.
When I started looking for programs for our kids I was surprised at how much classes and programs cost. If you don’t have a big budget there are less expensive ways to get your kids involved:
- Check out your local YMCA and ask about their discount programs
- Investigate your community parks programs
- Get a membership to a children museum or zoo. It will pay for itself in a few visits
- Many local cities have community boards for free programs for kids
- Consider paying a college student majoring in something your kids might be interested in an affordable rate to teach once a week
- There are tons of activities you can find on Pinterest or creative blogs to do with your kids
- See if your church has any artistic ministries for your child’s age group.
Broaden Their Horizons
Because my parents are from other countries (India and Jamaica) I’ve had the privilege of traveling to other countries and seeing how they live. Later in college I studied abroad in Europe and had a chance to travel to Ireland, Germany, Spain, and England. My family was not rich by any means so I am truly truly grateful for these experiences that my parents sacrificed for. Traveling has really opened up my mind to different possibilities. I’ve been able to see the good and bad aspects of each culture and some how incorporate those things into my life. I love how in India people bend over backwards to show hospitality. In Jamaica people are so joyful with the little they have (Plus the weather is beautiful!). In Europe I loved how they would take time out of the day to enjoy their family or a good meal with friends. There are other things that you can do with your kids if traveling abroad is not possible. You can:
- Get books from the library about different cultures
- Take your kids to age appropriate theater or musical performances
- Get out in nature! Going for a hike or a walk around the neighborhood is totally free!
- Take a drive out to a different neighborhood and explore local stores and parks
Encourage your Kids to Discuss Their Thoughts With You
Getting in touch with your feelings is not something that you should wait to do until something crazy happens in your life that forces you to evaluate and process your feelings. Encourage them to share their opinions about a movie the family watched or a book they read. It shows you care about what’s going on in their heads and their lives. As they grow, understanding and articulating their feelings and thoughts will make them better leaders and team players. Asking your kids how they feel helps them:
- To learn to quickly articulate abstract thoughts
- Learn its okay and healthy to communicate how they feel about something
- Speak up if they feel something is wrong
- Eventually give them conflict resolution skills
- Deal with anger in a healthy manner rather than becoming violent or passive aggressive
Encourage your kids to talk with you without criticizing them. Allow them to even share ideas about solving a problem and guide them to a real solution. Studies show that when Jazz musicians are improvising they are in a state that allows creativity without self criticism. This is what artists might call “flowing”. Amazing creativity happens when this happens.
Reduce the Use of TV and Electronic Devices
This generation has the luxury of iphones, nintendo DS, X boxes, and entertainment on demand. It’s so tempting to allow these devices to babysit our kids so we can get a few hours of work done. But I would encourage you to train your kids early to entertain themselves with unstructured play. I don’t have any hard evidence for this but I believe that TV and electronic games suck creativity and imagination away from young kids.
“Why try to build my own racing track and model cars when I can just hit a button and play a racing game on my device?”
I notice that when my kids play too many video games they are more hyper, more irritable, less grateful and fight a lot. Now please don’t think I’m saying to cut out these things permanently, I like a good movie as much as (or more) than the next gal, I’m just sayin’ those things aren’t as necessary as we think.
Remember the old days where we had to create our own entertainment? Who remembers creating forts in the living room? Or pretending you were on an adventure through the enchanted forest (which was really just your back yard) after school? Remember playing with your dolls or G.I. Joes and saving the whole world with your best friends? Or even those all out friendly family wars over a monopoly game?
Maybe it might take a few minutes of you getting down on your hands and knees and teaching your kids how to play like we did in the good old days. Don’t expect them to know how to be creative without electronics if that’s what they’ve been used to. Plus they will get a kick out of watching mommy or daddy playing with their toys! Which leads me to…
Be Creative With Your Kids
I try to include the kids when I’m making a craft or shooting a video whenever possible. When I can bring them to a film premiere they always leave excited with their own movie script ideas. I try to make sure they meet the other actors and director and have opportunities to ask questions. It helps them see that it’s totally possible to achieve their dreams. I love it!
Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a creative person. That’s okay. We all have something we are passionate about. Maybe it’s fishing, baking, baseball cards, or collecting coins. Whatever it is find a way to include your children. They can do and understand more than we think. Including them at an early age is another way to create a bond between parent and child. What a great way to spend quality teaching time with your child. As they grow they will feel connected and comfortable around you. In the end even if they don’t find they are interested in what you are interested in at least through that bond they will feel open to communicating their thoughts, fears, struggles and victories with you.
Lastly and most importantly…
Pray for Wisdom
Pray that God will guide you in your parenting. Pray that His Holy Spirit will give you wisdom as a parent to notice and nurture your children’s gifts and talents. I’ve prayed this prayer since my children were infants and He has been most gracious to answer me. I still have to trust Him when worry arises that I’m not doing enough for my kids or putting them in enough activities. I have to trust that they will blossom in His time not mine.
If you made it this far I want to say thank you! Please share some of your thoughts on Fostering Creativity in your child as well as prayer requests in this area.