One of my favorite parts about my last jobs was putting together playgroup curriculum for preschool-aged children. I loved coming up with art activities (which often entailed making sample projects) to nurture their child’s creativity and discussing with the staff how they could talk to parents about doing these type of activities with their children.
I have been wanting to share with you a little bit about what I learned and help you to apply it to your own family. Regardless of how crafty or artistic you consider yourself, here are five simple things you as a parent or caregiver can do to nurture your child’s creativity, and I have even included a little printable at the end!
Find new uses for old items
I have found that children are often infinitely better at thinking outside of the proverbial box than we are as adults. To us, a paper towel roll is often just that, but a child it can be so much more. It can be a telescope, a sword, a microphone, or one of 10,000 other things that I can guarantee will not come to my head. Instead of just giving your children pre-designed art kits, give them old objects that would otherwise be tossed and some basic art supplies and let them go to town. See what new toys they can make for themselves or works of art out of old objects.
Ask open-ended questions
One of the biggest imagination killers is when you tell a child, “Oh, honey, what a beautiful doggie you made!” when in fact, that dog that they just drew was actually a dragon. Instead of dictating what your child is making, ask them open-ended question (rather than yes/no questions) such as “Tell me about what you are making” and “Tell me about _____” after they have explained what it is that they made. Ask questions about the materials they are using: “How does it feel?” “What colors are there?” “What does it smell like?”
Do activities that implement multiple senses
Making art is more than just a tactile experience and using your hands. There are sounds and smells and, depending on what you are making, tastes. Involve as many senses as you can into the activities that you do. Instead of just coloring with crayons, finger paint. Make a collage with dead leaves and talk about the sounds the make as you crumple them in your hands. Again, ask lots of open-ended questions along the way!
Give your children permission to explore
I understand that we all have a threshold for how much of a mess we want our children to make, but try to push the boundaries of your own comfort zone to do things with your child that could create a bigger mess than you might normally like. Wear something that you don’t mind getting dirty (for both you and your child), throw some old sheets or towels on the floor or go outside and get messy! If she sees you trying new things and having fun, then she will likely feel more comfortable trying them for herself. Introduce your child to new age-appropriate materials that she might not have yet explored, such as glue, paint, stickers, yarn, buttons. Again, ask lots of questions!
Focus on the process, rather than the end result
Raise your hand if you have ever been making an art project with a child and you have said something like, “Oh, honey, the eyes go up here” or “Let me glue that on for you.” (I have definitely been guilty of this.) As adults, it is so easy for us to get so focused on what something is supposed to look like rather than just allowing our children to explore. Fight the urge to try to “fix” what your child is making and allow them to go to town. If you like, you can always make your own version of what they are making alongside your child. In fact, I highly encourage it!
Talking and asking questions is a great way to help your child learn. I have created a free PDF with 20 sample questions you ask your child to spark their creativity. Just click on the image below to download!
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