5 ways to nurture your little one's creativity

Dr Wendy Liew has tips on how parents can raise a child.

Our single-minded focus on studies may be discouraging your child’s creativity, especially since the brain develops at its fastest pace in the first few years of life. Because parents want their children to focus on achieving high scores, they’re inclined to emphasise junior’s reasoning and problem-solving abilities during this key period.

Paediatrician with interest in pediatric neurology, Dr Wendy Liew notes that good nutrition and parental stimulation both play crucial roles in encouraging creativity at an early age.

She says, “Your child’s diet lays the foundation for well-rounded development, while stimulation strengthens the connections within your child’s brain to encourage cognitive, emotional and communication skills. This enables your child to have better problem-solving abilities, memory, verbal fluency and creativity”.

Why is creativity important?

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From young, children have a natural curiosity to figure out how the world works. It is an eagerness to explore, learn new things and discover. Curiosity is key as it helps children develop a healthy imagination while stimulating creativity and at the same time.

According to Dr Liew, fostering creativity not only helps your child develop mentally and socially, but emotionally too. In fact, children who are encouraged to think creatively generally exhibit higher self-esteem and motivation; are better problem solvers and adapt better to changes. These kids also tend to be more confident.

Creative experiences not only help your child express their feelings and learn communicative skills, but also enable them to develop, practise and improve hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

Creativity can even help develop your child’s cognitive skills ― their ability to think, understand, remember, imagine and work out what might happen next. It involves imagination, communication, physical development, and will enhance their future literacy skills. For example, working with art materials can help improve your child’s fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, whilst engaging in creative play can help your little one learn new vocabulary and associate pictures with words.

Dr Liew shares, “The experiences that children have during their first few years of life can significantly enhance the development of their creativity. Creative experiences not only help your child express their feelings and learn communicative skills, but also enable them to develop and improve hand-eye coordination and motor skills. It further fosters mental growth in children by providing them with opportunities to problem solve and try out ideas.

Nutrition tip!

Start the day with a nutritious and well-balanced meal that incorporates all the food groups, including milk. Supplement your child’s diet with milk formula, which contains important nutrients like DHA, vitamins, minerals and prebiotics. Starting your child’s day with a nutritious, well-balanced meal helps your child concentrate better and learn to their full potential, especially at the start of their creative journey.

How parents can inspire creativity

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Is creativity a learned skill or an innate talent? Many people assume that creativity is an inborn talent that their children are born with. The truth is, creativity is more skill than inborn talent, one that parents can help stimulate.

Dr Liew says, “As the brain develops at its fastest pace in the first few years of life, there is scientific evidence that providing the right nutrition and parental stimulation during this time, will help form the foundation of your child’s capacity to learn. Therefore, the first few years of life is a window of opportunity to provide these vital elements to enable a child to allow their brains to develop to their fullest potential.”

So, don’t worry if your child doesn’t seem to be creative! Like every other skill, some kids will be have more natural talent than others. With the right environment and training, parents can easily help their child increase their creativity.

Get your child to help in the food preparation process ― this doesn’t just let them explore their creativity, it’ll stimulate their interest in health.

How to inspire creativity at home

During the early years, your child spends more time at home than any other place. As it’s still the predominant source of most experiences, ensuring that his environment is creative is important in nurturing your child’s creative abilities.

Whether it’s drawing, painting, playing with stickers or make believe, all children love being creative.

1. Introduce creativity with simple activities like making breakfast Get your child to help in the food preparation process ― this doesn’t just let them explore their creativity, it’ll stimulate their interest in health. That pancake with fruit smiley can make the meal a lot more appetising and enticing for your child!

2. Let your little one be inspired by their natural surroundings With a little imagination, they can transform flowers, leaves, twigs into works of art. It’s also a great way to bond with your child! Make the most of local sights by organising weekend visits to Singapore Zoo or the Botanic Gardens to expose your child to our tropical flora, verdant landscape and array of animals.

3. Encourage them to read for pleasure Limit TV and screen time to make room for other creative activities like reading, which stimulates the mind, as well as improves memory and concentration. Start young by bringing them to bookstores like Kinokuniya and Littered With Books. You can also encourage your child to act out stories with puppets to boost creativity and engagement. Not just a wonderful way to make lasting connections for you and your child, it’ll help them develop communication skills at a faster rate.

4. Allow kids the freedom to explore their ideas What your child learns and discover during the process, although challenging at first, is vital to their development, Dr Liew notes. In fact, external constraints, like making them colour within the lines, can curb thinking! Children learn by exploring their environment, but make sure these happen in a safe place. Tag team with your other half while doing weekly chores, so that your little one can explore and interact with other children in safe play areas.

5. Give children the opportunity to make their own decisions Dr Liew recommends that you encourage your mini-me to make their own choices. Try starting with simple choices like what they would like to eat for dinner or activities they would like to do during the weekend.

Children learn by exploring their environment, but make sure these happen in a safe place.

She adds, “Parents can provide their children with opportunities for creative play through exposure to different experiences. Activities such as drawing, painting, photography, music, role playing, imaginative play and working with different textures like play dough, clay, paper and glue can further build your child’s creativity.”

How nutrition can support your child’s creative journey

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“Proper nutrition plays an essential part in your child’s development. For example, deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals have been shown to affect cognitive abilities and mental concentration. In the first few years of life, as the brain consumes more than 50 per cent of the energy that is absorbed by the body from food, inadequate nutrition can therefore affect brain functions. Proper nutrition is necessary to help facilitate your child’s journey towards creativity,” says Dr Liew.

Creativity requires a great deal of energy, so it’s important that your children have a nutrient-rich diet. DHA, found in milk formula and seafood sources like salmon and sardines, is an important building block for the brain and eye development. Together with other nutrients such as vitamin B, iron, zinc and iodine, help support your child’s overall development during their creative journey. This combination of nutrients is integral to your little one’s ability to learn continuously and also shapes and enhances your child’s cognitive, motor, emotional and communication skills.

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Photos: iStock

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