This should be your worst nightmare:
If you tuned into the Academy Awards this past Sunday eve, you most likely gave pause to Michelle Obama’s address regarding the “vitally important work of Hollywood” and its role in the lives of young people. She asserted, “Every day, through engagement in the arts, our children learn to open their imagination, to dream just a little bigger.” There’s no doubt as to the truth in her words. Movies have the ability to spark our imagination, and act as beautiful escapes. However, the First Lady was hinting (if not outright saying) that beyond plopping down in front of the television or a jumbo-sized movie theater screen, “engagement in the arts,” needs to be just that–engaged.
In fact, one member of Hollywood royalty sitting in the audience was once a boy whose mother helped him create his first horror film by boiling 30 cans of cherries in a pressure cooker so he could capture the goop on camera as it oozed down their kitchen cabinets.
See, creativity is a skill– one that can be learned and honed. Kids are naturally creative, born with unlimited potential and ability to question and wonder, and just like the mom with her pressure cooker, parents are conduits to that untapped imagination.
Here are just a few ways you can encourage and foster creativity in your child:
1. Encourage the creative skill of abstraction. Children often see beyond ‘traditional’ uses for objects, and creativity actually becomes easier when looking at things in the abstract. It’s how they can see a whole town in what you see as a stack of blocks. So keep abstract elements around the house. These include: building blocks, Legos, Erector sets, fabrics, and beyond. Let your child build a secret cave out of old blankets. They may grow up to be the next Frank Gehry.
2. Some studies have shown that setting limits actually enhances creativity. It’s called “controlled freedom.” Instead of telling your child to “go play,” grab some paper, colored pencils, and suggest: draw ten pictures using only these pencils. At first the child might draw what is directly in front of them, or top of mind. The house. Mom. Dad. But as they are forced to stretch their imagination to come up with ten pictures, the pictures will grow more unique and imaginative.
3. Break the routine of habitual living. We know making your bed and brushing your teeth are important habits to teach and to keep, but they also enforce static patterns of habitual living. Once a week encourage your child to make their bed in a creative way. Pillows don’t have to just go by the headboard. Blankets can be folded anyway they see fit. Breaking the mold leads to innovation. Innovation leads to creativity.
4. Reading. This is a big one. We know we live in a technological age. The above cartoon should make you question the benefits of technology. According to Parenting Magazine, 90% of parents with children under the age of 2 allow them to use electronic media. This isn’t always a negative. Studies have shown that children are learning logic and physics sooner (yes, ahh, it’s true), but they are also tying their shoelaces later. Now reading won’t teach your kids the bunny ears guide to shoelace tying, but reading gives the imagination room to grow. Encouraging children to create their own visuals will help them create the abstract visual needed when it comes to tying their shoes.
5. Get that kid outside! We’ve seen too many parents using their smart phones and iPads to keep their kids happy, even when they’re in the great outdoors. Nature can be one of the most nurturing sources for creativity. Don’t touch a caterpillar on a screen, let the fuzzy guy roll around in your child’s palm. Military camouflage was designed after watching animals in their natural environments.
Oh, that little boy with the boiled cherries? (Definitely a form of abstraction). His name was Steven Spielberg.–Arianna Schioldager