Some people are creative…they’re just born that way. Some can sit down at a piano and write a song, others can stand at an easel and paint a beautiful picture. Other people need a little push to explore their creativity.

This week we celebrate National Swap Ideas Day. This holiday is all about sharing creative or helpful ideas with someone else and trading them for their thoughts. Have you ever thought about whether or not your child is a creative individual? Are there ways to encourage creativity if it doesn’t appear intrinsic?

All about the questions

When you look at the word itself, creativity is really about imagination and questioning. Is there a way to make something out of nothing? Is there a way to possibly make a castle out of magnetic tiles? Can you draw a picture of your family? All of these questions are put forth as an attempt to spur a little creativity and ingenuity.

Some kids are intrinsically creative. They can sit down at a table with the materials in front of them and create away. Like Bonnie from Toy Story 4. Woody placed a bunch of materials from the trash on her table when she was at kindergarten orientation and she created her very own new toy, Forky. The items were simply placed in front of her and she created away.

But what if your child doesn’t know what to do with the materials in front of them? What if they aren’t inherently creative?

Ways to encourage creativity

Today I thought I would provide you with some different ways that you can help encourage your child to explore their creativity.

1. Question

Like I stated before, it’s all about the questions. One way to encourage creativity is to ask open ended questions. Make your child think a bit about what you are asking them to do. Have a bunch of feathers, glue, construction paper and markers? Why not suggest making a bird?

You can ask your child, “Do you think we can make a bird out of this stuff?”. If they respond with “I can’t do it” or “I don’t know how”, keep asking questions to help them along. You can ask what a bird looks like. Start there. Can they draw a bird? Then ask what they can do with the feathers. Asking rather than telling allows them to start thinking about the process in a more introspective way. Ask and give them time to reflect.

2. Provide Opportunities

It’s hard. Sometimes we just want to get things done quickly and move on. But if you have time, try providing your child with some opportunities to be creative. As I referenced above, set the scene for creativity.

Have a big old box that something was delivered in? Why not turn it into a bus? Cut out some holes and give them markers and other arts and craft materials and see how they decorate it. Or simply give them the box and see what they do with it. You may be surprised when that box suddenly becomes a rocket ship that takes your daughter into outer space.

3. Encourage them to get messy

This is probably my husband’s least favorite thing about me, but I let my kids get MESSY. Yes I clean them up in the end, but getting messy and using everyday things to create new ideas and activities can be both extremely rewarding for a child and a learning opportunity.

Give your child some finger paint and a little space and see what they create. Yes, you can do it in a controlled environment, such as the bathtub. Most paints are washable and come right out. So, see if they can create an underwater scene in your bathtub. They’ll have a blast and you’ll be happy to know that the cleanup will be easy.

4. Give them time and space

Yes, creativity can spark at any moment in time, but if you’re trying to encourage the process, make sure that you give your child enough time and space to complete it. Don’t ask them to draw you a picture of your family and then cut them off 5 minutes later just as they are starting to get into the drawing.

Give them enough time to process what you have asked them and then being to think about what they want to create. Unlike the movies, creative moments don’t just ‘happen’ to most of us in a 2-minute montage. Children need time to process things and then do. So, when you’re trying to encourage creativity, make sure that you’re giving them ample time to participate in the activity.

5. Be there for the assist

Depending on your child’s age, they may need you to help them bring their inventions to life. If they don’t yet know how to use scissors, you may need to help them. Or maybe you can help hold something in place for them while they get another object.

Just remember that you are there to assist, not take over. It can be very easy for us to jump in and just do it for them…but the whole point is to let them explore THEIR creativity, not yours. So don’t fix for them, unless they ask. And even then, maybe you can ask them how they think it should be fixed before you simply do it.

6. Remember it’s about the process

Being creative is not about the end result. It’s about working through the process of getting from point A to point B. Did they have fun doing it? Is it something they would like to do again? Yes, often the end is a wonderful creation or masterpiece, but the simple act of participating in making something is what creativity it all about.

The encouragement should not be about being able to display something at the end. Rather, you should be encouraging your child to participate in the process of being creative. Of course, go ahead and display whatever they have made, tell your partner “Look at what Joey made, isn’t that amazing?”, and provide them with loads of verbal and physical positive reinforcement. Afterall, we want them to participate again, right?

I want to remind you that being creative is not only about artwork or music. There are ways of being creative in problem solving, athletics and even every day tasks such as folding laundry. Creativity is everywhere and really does live within all of us. Some of us just need a little push to help express it. 😉