Friday, December 12, 2014

Encouraging creativity in my children

I am not an expert on creativity in children. I have not done a study. I have not read extensively on this topic.  My children are not creative, competent adults, proof that my methods were sound. I do not think I have all the answers for you and your children because you are not me and your children are not my children. But I can tell you some things I do that seem to help my kids and might help you encourage the young people in your life.

Perhaps most importantly I am creative in their presence. Sometimes this feels like a sacrifice. Sometimes I would rather be creative in solitude and silence (which does happen early in the morning before they get up). Sometimes I wish the little ones would not want to paint, model clay, cut snowflakes, embroider, string beads, or glue popsicle sticks nearby while I do my thing.  They make a mess and interrupt my flow with questions and chatter, though I don't allow big noise or horseplay in our creative space. But the sacrifice is worth it, and it is the life I have chosen. I may make a little less art because of it, but they make much more art, and all their lives I hope they will know that art is good work for grownups to do and associate it with loving companionship.

My older two are actually great company and are more independent in their ongoing projects. As a mom with lots of opinions it would be easy for me to interrupt them with advice, but I have learned to restrain myself.  Ill-timed advice breaks their stride, disrupts their flight pattern and leads to discouragement. If they are left in peace, I find they naturally improve and solve their problems without my input. If they request advice, I speak carefully, trying not to burden them with a right way to do something if there are lots of right ways. If they don't request advice and I think they need it, I try to give it strategically in simple, digestible bits to think about after they have set their project aside.

I take their creative ideas and work seriously, so they do too. I don't think of it as trivial child's play, so neither do they. Their ambitions to write books and make movies are interlocked in my mind and theirs with the writing, drawing, dreaming, brainstorming and organizing of theatrical moments they do every day.  Lucy was taught by my husband to keep a seed book, a note book where she jots down the plot and character ideas that seem always to be coming to her. I try to make sure she has long spaces of quiet to develop some of these ideas into stories. Even as I write my older two are hashing out the plot of a screenplay. I just overheard Lucy tell her brother that they can't do effects because they "don't have the budget for it." I am smiling.

When the weather is warm, they spend a lot of time outside and have always made art objects out of sticks, rocks, leaves, dirt, clay and blackened sticks from the fire-pit. I don't object to the dirt.

We read and listen to great books together, and the plots and characters are integrated into their play. Years ago I overheard a game they were playing that included both Sherlock Holmes and the terrifying Injun Joe from Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer.  I laughed inside but was pleased.

But sometimes their creative light gets dim. When this happens and they tell me they are bored, I usually realize it is because I have been lax in delegating household duties. Chores are great for making kids think of  wonderful creative things they wish they were doing. And too much mess in their own creative spaces smothers their imaginations, though they don't realize it's the mess getting them down, and they don't seem to remember that a clean desk can be a well of creative energy.

The other big suppressor of creativity in our household is the fatigue, grumpiness, and foggy brain that comes from food sensitivities. Whiny complaints about being bored or work being too hard accompanied by flushed cheeks or pallor and black circles under the eyes tell me that once again I need to adjust our eating. Which makes me want to whine, but I do what I have to do. It also makes me wonder how -many difficulties that people have with their children could be improved by different food.

On a different note, an idea I had in yesterday morning's creative time was to make coloring pages that could be downloaded free from this site. I made two yesterday and want to make a few more every week. I will put them up as soon as I figure out how to do it, although my inner perfectionist is muttering that these are not good enough to share (I think that's her looking grimly from behind my pretty tray). I have written two stories with my little angel characters, and I want to illustrate and try to publish them someday. Doing some black and white drawings to share seems like a good way to work on ideas while introducing the characters. (And no, I don't think coloring books hurt kids' creativity. I think they are a fun way to play with color!)


  1. I have a friend in my house who loves to do effects. Maybe they should make movies together :) Love the coloring pages. I'm glad you think they are creative, because we will enjoy these very much :)

  2. Glad you like the coloring pages. I love the thought of your kids using them! We'll see about the effects. I know my boy wants to learn how to do them too. He tried learning Blender, but something happened and it stopped working.