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Nurture Your Child’s Creativity

“We can’t give people talent, but we can train the eye and the ear and the mind, and we can help our children gain
access to a creative way of seeing. We can also help them gain the concentration, competence, perseverance and optimism necessary to succeed in creative pursuits.” – Laura Markham

Naturally creative or not, parents play a vital role in training the eye, ear and mind of their child. Nurturing creativity not only improves their achievement in academics, but as author of The Creative Family (2008) Amanda Blake Soule explains it creates deeper connection with family members. “You’ll make meaningful connections with your children in large and small ways; your children will more often engage in their own creative discoveries; and your family will embrace new ways to relax, play and grow together.”

Consider the following seven ideas to awaken imagination:

1. Model a creative life. Nurturing your own creative spirit will not only improve the quality of your own life, but according to Soule, “It will also serve as a guide and model to your children on finding their creative selves.” While many avenues exist to explore your artistic side, a good start is an excellent read. Soule recommends The Starving Artist’s Way (2004) by Nava Lubelski, which offers 100 “far-out, appealing and interesting” suggestions.
However you choose to nurture your spirit, Dr. Markham says children must come to understand perfection is not the goal. She asserts, “Children want to emulate their parents and will learn from your example that you don’t have to be perfect at things to give them a go.”

2. Practice gratitude. You may not automatically glimpse the link between gratitude and creativity in bloom, but it’s a strong one. Soule describes it this way: “When we feel grateful, we feel full - full of love, full of inspiration, full of ideas and full of creative spirit.” In The Creative Family are recommended activities to cultivate gratitude in children, such as writing thank-you cards, writing a gratitude alphabet and creating joy jars (decorating a jar as a gift for someone special and filling it with positive messages).

Don’t forget the power of gratitude for your own growth. In Flourish (2011), pioneer of positive psychology Martin Seligman maps out an incredibly simple exercise to raise well-being and lower depression called “The Gratitude Visit.” Simply write a letter to someone (from your past) who said or did something that changed your life for the better. Then set up a meeting with that person, being vague about the purpose to keep it a surprise. Read the letter aloud slowly and discuss your feelings afterward. Simple, yet Seligman says you will feel happier and less depressed within a month.

3. Prioritize unstructured time. Watching television rarely helps the imagination to bloom. Blogger Tracy O’Connor warns, “Television not only encourages children and adults to be passive consumers of entertainment but it can also promote materialism and obesity.” Conversely, unstructured time allows children to engage. Dr. Markham says, “Kids need practice with unstructured time, or they will never learn to manage it.” She suggests parents focus on play and process, not productivity.

Unstructured time does not mean boring or unentertaining time. Do make it fun - the process of creating should be joyful, not necessarily the end product. O’Connor says choose toys promoting creative play, such as Lego bricks and blocks. These are superior choices to toys that only do one thing.

Make basic instruments available at home (hand drums, whistles, maracas, harmonicas, recorders, triangles, shakers) so as Soule writes, “they’ll naturally discover and play with them as they do with their toys.”

4. Expose them to art. Art museums and concerts? Yes. But think of activities close to home as well. “Take your child to an older cousin’s school play or high school art exhibit. Point out art in local coffee shops and take a minute to listen to street musicians before going on your way,” suggests O’Connor.

An alternative to straying from home is hosting Art Night with friends. Soule suggests providing art supplies, magazines and catalogues to make collages, and including both the old and young. She says, “The benefits are tremendous for our little ones, who can create alongside the adults in their lives. And what adult couldn’t use a little inspiration from children?”

5. Head into the kitchen. There are so many opportunities for creative cooking beyond cookies. Soule recommends Fairy Tale Feasts by Jane Yolen (2009) featuring 20 stories, each with at least one recipe (the recipe for “Very French Toast” accompanies the French folktale “Diamonds and Toads”). Another fun option is Georgeanne Brennan’s Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook (2006) filled with silly recipes for Cat in the Hat pudding to Moose Juice. (You’ve got to love that the pages of this cookbook are laminated!)

6. Make supplies accessible. If kids know where to find materials for creating, they will use them. Have an organized storage system, and teach them how to properly take care of art items. Soule recommends buying quality art supplies, such as a few good quality crayons over a box full of hundreds of mediocre ones. “It’s much more satisfying to work on something when the materials you are using actually ‘work’ and assist in what you are doing, rather than hinder and slow you down.”

7. Chill about messes. Don’t fret the mess created by creative kids! Dr. Markham says it’s important to allow them to get messy since “kids who live in households with a focus on neatness are rated as less creative.” Did you get that? A parenting expert is telling us we are doing our kids a disservice (creatively speaking) if we over-emphasize keeping the place tidy!

Children are naturally imaginative, so in addition to these ideas, be mindful of obstacles to creativity, like rules to “stay within the lines.” Dr. Markham recommends reminding kids it is perfectly okay to be artsy. “Make it okay for your child to be out of step with the norms of her peer group, to be unique, to see the world through her own glasses. To develop her individuality, she needs your support against the pressures of popular culture.”

Creativity’s payoff is huge. If improved academic achievement and deeper connection were not reward enough, all of these nurturing experiences are pure fun!

Michele Ranard, M.Ed., has a husband, two sons and a Master’s in Counseling. She is a creative dynamo who blogs as a hobby at

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