How to Encourage Creativity in Children September 16, 2019 11:31

My daughter playing with sidewalk chalk

My kiddo playing with sidewalk chalk

 This might put me at risk for being called a bad mom, but I'll say it anyway: I hate picking up my daughter's art projects from school.  No offense meant to her lovely teachers who have limited time and resources, but I think those resources could be better spent.  

I know that sounds awful.  But the truth is, my kid makes more art than a rabbit makes baby bunnies, she gets a TON of art exposure at home, and "art" projects that involve pasting together pre-cut--by the teacher--shapes and coloring where they are told to be colored does not appeal to me in any way.  I suppose it's better than no art at all, but those types of projects foster a quantity-over-quality mentality that is wasteful and not particularly creative.

Okay, now that I got that out of the way...how DO you encourage creativity in children?  Keeping in mind that kids develop skills at different speeds, and we as parents have varying levels of tolerance for chaos, as an artist I believe there are three primary ways to do it.  Expose them to different art forms, let them use as many real supplies as possible, and let them explore with as little direction as possible. Remember, the idea here is to foster creativity, not to make picture-perfect projects!

Exposing your kids to different art forms will help them see all of the possibilities available to them, get inspired, and find their areas of interest.  A kid who won't sit still long enough to paint or learn to use scissors may love dance, using a camera, or a more sensory art form like modeling clay.  I know classes can be expensive, but there are a lot of other options if you are on a tight budget.  Your neighborhood community center and local library may offer low-cost classes, plays and other projects and performances.  Try going to a craft fair or art walk in your city.  Children's museums and science museums have lots of great hands-on activities to foster creativity.  You can always watch tutorials and performances on YouTube, too!  Our favorites range from slime diy's to clips of kids on America's Got Talent.

child's needle felting project 

Adventures in needle felting with a 5 year old

Next, give them as many real art supplies as possible.  A lot of "kid" art supplies are super frustrating--scissors that don't actually cut, paint brushes with plastic bristles that are hard to control, colored pencils that don't really color--and a child may give up before they even get a chance to explore.  Of course, you have to use your judgement depending on your child's skills and abilities, safety, and your budget.  But you may find that they surprise you when they are given the chance.  My daughter has always had excellent fine motor skills, so I felt comfortable giving her real scissors at a very young age but may not feel the same for all children. 

child's collage project

Mixed media collage using shapes she cut herself, found objects, white glue and learning how to use hot glue

Finally, let them explore on their own as much as possible.  My own rule of thumb is to give my daughter instructions on how to use a new supply safely.  Besides that, she has her own art area in my studio and another one in the house.  She can access all of her supplies at will and do whatever she likes with them as long is she is safe and respectful of the area.  For example, scissors are only for cutting paper, and if she's painting in the dining room she needs to put paper under her painting to keep the table clean.  Kids learn so much more when they are allowed to experiment and make mistakes! 

To help rein in the mess, make a rule that they can only work on one project at a time, and they have to help clean up before they get out a new toy or project.  You could also allow only a handful of supplies at a time if it feels to overwhelming to have everything available all at once.   Sometimes I get lost in my own project in my studio only to look up and find that she has taken over the floor space, so I've had to get more consistent with this rule myself for my own sanity.  

I hope this is helpful and gave you some ideas!  Do you have any thoughts or ideas to add?  Any questions?  Let me know in the comments!