Don't wait until you notice that spark beginning to dim — you can easily support kids today.
- Parker Barry
Are kids naturally imaginative? Have a little chat with a 2-year-old, and you’ll probably get a glimpse into a pretty impressive imagination. As kids get older, different factors come into play that may dampen their imaginations: peer pressure, media influences or lack of time, just to name a few. Still, parents can take some steps to create an environment that breeds imaginative play and creativity.
- 1. Give them the tools. Designate a creation station and stock it with supplies. Use whatever space you may have — a closet, an armoire or dresser, a kitchen cabinet — and fill it with different papers, tape, scissors, glue, crayons, markers, pens, beads, yarn, string, etc. Stash “trash treasures” there, too, like empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, egg cartons and small cardboard boxes. You’ll be amazed at what kids can create. Set up another area as a dress-up space and fill it with hats, scarves and accessories. Though character costumes are certainly a fun addition, don’t limit the dress-up trunk to existing characters. Let kids create their own.
- 2. Praise process over product. Rather than complimenting kids on what they’ve created, acknowledge their effort and imagination. Instead of saying “What a beautiful picture!” tell them you really like the way they used different shades of blue to color the sky. If kids are just looking to create a beautiful end piece, they’re less likely to take risks and be creative.
- 3. Give them time. The creative process requires “flow,” and getting into a state of flow takes time. Set aside big chunks of time for kids to get creative or play imaginatively. If you must interrupt that time for another commitment, provide a place to keep the project that it is safe and can be returned to later.
- 4. Embrace the mess. This is where those creativity stations for storing the supplies come in handy. Creating can be messy work. You can’t avoid the messiness if you want to inspire imagination, but you can try to contain it in designated areas. Disasters will happen, but even through cleaning up and fixing those mishaps and mistakes creativity can blossom.