Use creative questioning techniques, ones with many potential answers. For example, “What would happen if all dogs suddenly grew wings?” “Can you think of something that would be more fun if it were upside down?” What are some different ways to use a toothbrush?” Long car rides are a great opportunity for this! (Kemple and Nissenberg, 70).
Provide basic art materials, such as blank construction paper, crayons, building blocks, playdough, toys , dolls, popsicle sticks and other recyclable items, which allow fantasy, to flow freely, rather than pre-printed coloring books, or toys with very specific details. Parents often assume complex toys and detailed costumes enhance their child’s pretend project, not realizing that the “action” is taking place mainly inside the child’s head, not in front of him. A Spiderman suit can only be a Spiderman suit, but a plain hat and towel can support playing many different characters. (Meyerhoff).
Encourage your child’s expression of her natural thinking and imagining process. For example, respond to outbursts such as “I know what’s going to happen!” when your child is watching a television program with “What do you think is going to happen?” and follow-up such as “Let’s watch the rest of the program and see if you’re right” rather than “Be quiet!” (USA Today, 12).
Broaden your child’s horizons with additional ideas for role-play and fantasy activities through developmentally appropriate books, with more text and fewer pictures as the child ages, as well as balanced amounts of time watching movies and television programs. (Meyerhoff).
Turn on the music! Provide your child with space and some lengths of silky fabric or crepe paper streamers and encourage them to move to the music in their own way. (Kemple and Nissenberg, 70).
Keep technique secondary to creativity. If desired, artistic instruction can be a wonderful activity for your child, but always consider techniques learned separate from and subservient to their imagination and creativity. (Meyerhoff).
Help your child take ownership of his creative output, by letting him help decide which of his creative products will be displayed in the home. (Amabile).
Expect your child to be creative. This self-fulfilling prophecy strongly influences your child’s behavior. (Murphy)
As our society hovers on the brink of vast change, with so many questions to be answered regarding our economic and environmental well-being, the need for creativity becomes even more crucial. As a parent, you have the blessing of an opportunity to support your child’s natural creativity, as well as your own in the process, to both personal and worldwide benefit.
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Martha Crenshaw is a caring citizen interested in all things creative.
Amabile, Dr. Teresa M., Growing Up Creative: Nurturing a Lifetime of Creativity, Creative Education Foundation, New York, 1989
Kemple, Kristen M. & Nissenberg, Shari A., “Nurturing Creativity in Early Childhood Education: Families Are Part of It,” Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 28, No. 1-313, Fall 2001.
Meyerhoff, Michael K., “Nurturing Imagination & Creativity,” www.encyclopedia.com, Pediatrics for Parents, Inc., 1994.