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Nurturing Creativity: It’s Every Parent’s Job

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Development & Learning

Creativity is something not ordinarily taught in school. Schools tend to focus on getting the right answer, doing well on a test, and achieving decent grades. But creative people rule the universe. If you want your child to reach success in life, you want her to be creative.

Think for a moment of the most influential people you know. All of the people on a Time Magazine list of the 100 most influential people in history got there because they created something. Poets, scientists, philosophers, artists. The list is packed with creative people. Not one person on the list made it because they did well in school – in fact, many of these people did extraordinarily poorly in school! If your child is going to make her mark, she is going to have to be creative. And she won’t learn how from her ordinary teachers.

Creativity is something for parents to encourage. It’s something that happens at home or in a child’s free time. What can you do to encourage your child to be creative? Here are some tips:

1. Keep play open-ended. Most of the time, play should be unstructured, so that there’s no one right or wrong way to do things. Even the rules of games can be tweaked if your creative child thinks of a new way to make them fun.

 2. Buy things that can be played with in more than one way. Certainly there’s a place on the shelf for puzzles and such. But if you have a choice between a toy that does nothing on its own and a toy that does everything while your child just watches or pushes buttons, choose the toy that does nothing.

 3. Avoid making judgments. Did you know that even praise can stifle creativity if a child feels her work has to be “good enough” for you? Instead of telling a child how good her accomplishment is, tell her what, specifically, you like about it or ask her a question about how she made the decisions she made. Instead of saying, “Wow, that’s a great drawing!” say “I really like the colors you chose!” or “Tell me about this part right here…”

4. Permit multiple answers. Remember that creative people see things differently. If you get an answer that surprises you, ask about it instead of just saying, “That’s wrong!” Your child says that two plus three equals six? Say “Tell me more about that.”

5. Encourage curiosity. Being curious is the path to innovation. Don’t stifle it! If you are worried about your child’s curiosity getting him into trouble, teach good judgment along with a sense of discovery. Model how to be careful and curious at the same time.

 6. Make time for doing nothing at all. New ideas come when the mind is at ease. Make certain your child has some time every day just to think, chill out, putter around, and even to be bored. Being overscheduled is the enemy of ideas.

 7. Be creative yourself. Make being curious, being interested, and trying new things part of what you and your family do. A little eccentricity is good for you! Remember what you used to like to do when you were younger or what you plan to do “when you have time”? Do some of that right now!

Creativity is essential to an interesting life. In the long run, it’s more important than having the right answer to all the questions. Help your child nurture her creative side and see what blossoms!

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.