Raising creative children is important, not just for your child’s own life, but for the future of society as a whole. As culture, society and technologies change, we need creative adults who can respond to the changes.
Anna Salaman, executive director at Playeum, The Children’s Centre for Creativity, says that is essentially what creativity is. Creativity also allows for an unexpected answer to emerge from that process, and enables you to recognise the value of that new result you weren’t expecting.
While creativity can’t literally “be taught” as a subject in school, what you, as a parent, can do is to provide the best environment for your children to explore and experiment. When your little ones have the freedom to sort out their own values and discover their own interests, that sets them up to flourish as creative adults.
Salaman shares with us the key steps to nurture creativity:
1. Provide what they need
Just as you’ve provided your little one with nutrition and care since he was a baby, you need to provide him with the things he needs to be creative. These include materials (toys, craft materials, or things from the environment to be used), space, time and the resolve to consistently encourage creativity, says Salaman.
Girls and boys are often given different materials. “Classically, boys are given more freedom and risk-taking tools, while girls are more ‘led’ and protected in their learning,” notes Salaman. This, she says, has the potential to shape their attitudes to creative play and making, which is a cause for concern with girls if they are not given opportunities to take risks.
Salaman also points out that rules are often a crucial part of creativity, as “it is the rules that create the boundaries that need to be traversed” — thus resulting in innovation. However, not all rules are there to be broken, and children need to learn which rules should be questioned. “Understand the rules before you challenge it, and it may result in something creative,” Salaman says.
2. Change YOUR attitude
Your attitude is essential. Have you watched your child doodle a picture of a cat, only to point out that cats have two eyes, not three, plus whiskers? “Parents have to hold back their own desire to be seen as a teacher of empirical facts, and instead be more of a facilitator of exploration,” says Salaman.
You could be taking a walk in the park, or going through craft materials in the house — the important thing is for your child to be empowered by their own exploration.
3. It’s okay to be wrong
A large part of encouraging exploration is to know that there is no “right” or “wrong”. “Adults have to watch themselves so that they don’t impose their world view, but instead allow the child to discover their own answer,” explains Salaman. “They may be right, or they may be wrong, but this ‘wrongness’ can lead to further discoveries,” she adds.
Click on to find out what to do if you don’t know how to “play” with your child…
4. Learn to play with your child
Many parents don’t really know how to play. Linda Chew, mum to Seth, 3, shares, “From the time he was a baby, he’d play with those wooden blocks and I honestly had no idea what to do with him while he played.”
Sure, “playing” may not come naturally to everyone. If all else fails, you can “model behaviour”, says Salaman. This means you can play in your own way, alongside your child who is also playing. “What follows can be an exchange of ideas, or at the very least, a camaraderie based on play,” adds Salaman.
Most importantly, you need to allow yourself the potential to change your own preconceptions. “Adults have gone through years of social peer-group pressure and formal education that has fixed them in understanding what a mainstream way of thinking is,” Salaman explains. But children haven’t been through all that, so their minds are far more flexible.
5. Be patient
You need to allow time for the creative process to unfold. The making or creating of something doesn’t have to be resolved in five to 10 minutes, but a child’s curiosity can be revisited repeatedly and at leisure, says Salaman. Pointing out an example in which children aged 5 and 6, were dealing with increasingly complex notions such as environmental sustainability, Salaman adds that the awareness has been created because of opportunities in school, and via the TV and the Internet. “These are notions that only research scientists were dealing with not long ago,” she says. “As parents, we need to be responsive to this paradigm shift and give our children the time and space to creatively explore and translate these rich concepts.”
**Playeum, The Children’s Centre for Creativity, is holding an interactive exhibition for kids aged 1 to 12, titled Hideaways, Creating with Nature. Junior will be able to learn about how creatures build their houses, and what it’s like to be as small as an insect, through hands-on experiences. Admission charges are $20/child, free for an accompanying adult. Playeum is at #01-23Gillman Barracks, Blk 47 Malan Road.