Children's Creativity

Ideas for encouraging children's creativity and examples of children's creativity in action.

5 Ways to Encourage Your Kids’ Creativity Today

5 Ways to Encourage Your Kids Creativity Today -- Easy-to-implement ideas you can do right now or any time!Fostering creativity, arguably the most important skill for the next generation, begins at home.

Here are 5 Ways You Can Encourage Your Kids’ Creativity Today:

1.  Set out paper that is much smaller than usual or much larger than usual. And pair it with a pencil or some paints.

2. Cut a hole through the middle of a piece of paper, and invite your child to do a hole challenge drawing by including a cup of markers next to it. Or a couple sheets of hole reinforcement stickers.

3. Ask a question that invites or challenges them to try a favorite activity in a new way. Building, for example.

Can you build a house with cards?

How would you build a fort with newspaper?

How tall do you think you could make a tower with playdough? With marshmallows?

4. Send them on a Make and Do Scavenger Hunt.

5. Put a drawing prompt on the chalkboard (or piece of paper/cardboard etc) and see how they respond.

Heather Cahoon, Children’s Book Illustrator, on Cultivating Creativity (+ a Giveaway!)

Heather-cahoonHeather Cahoon, mom to a houseful, is a children's book illustrator and author. She shares family play and art ideas on her blog, wordplayhouse, and sells her own designs in her shop, you make do. Here she talks a bit her home as a "workshop of creativity" and her ideas on cultivating creativity in children. 

***Note: Readers will have a chance to win some of Heather’s party printables and play kits at the end of this interview.***

JEAN:  What in your life has led you to illustrating and creating children's books? 

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Guest Post: Self-Efficacy and Children’s Creativity

I am excited to share a series of guest posts with you by other Artful Parents and teachers while I step back from the blog a bit this month! I hope you enjoy the new perspectives, different ideas, and fresh energy that each brings to this space. And I encourage you to leave a comment to continue the discussion, add your own viewpoint, or simply say thanks!

Guest Post from Emily Meldrum

Childrens Self-EfficacyHello Artful Parent Readers! I am so excited to be in this space today. I am an avid reader of The Artful Parent, and love the beauty and simplicity of this blog, and Jean's approach to parenthood.

At the beginning of a new year (and throughout the year), I try to make parenting goals. As a parent, I am constantly trying to improve myself and parenting skill set. It helps me when I record my parenting philosophies, and make an intentional effort to work towards these ideals.

Two ideas that guide my parenting decisions right now are:

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Inspiration goes both ways…

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I love to see these two girls of mine interacting. They play the funniest made-up games and give the sweetest hugs (and know how to push each other's buttons, but we won't go into that…). They also inspire each other, whether in play or art. Usually it's Daphne who is learning from and emulating Maia, but the inspiration goes both ways.

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Daphne has been obsessed with scissors lately (thanks, Marin!) and has been spending a lot of time cutting bits of construction paper over the last few days. (Note: I periodically show her how to hold the scissors most effectively, but then she goes back to holding them any which way.)

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Maia has caught the paper cutting bug and has been cutting little bits of paper alongside her sister.

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And then using all her colorful paper bits to make collages.

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I love how she glued her paper shapes to the white paper then went to find a large piece of black posterboard to continue the piece.

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And here she drew a spiral then began filling it in by creating a pattern within the lines.

Daphne started doing some collaging as well, because Maia was, but soon went back to her very important work of learning how to cut. I think I'll try letting her cut playdough snakes today…

How about your kids? Do they inspire each other artistically? Or, if you have an only, does he seem inspired by the art that his friends make?

Nurture or Nature: Are we born creative?

JeansPics_06-2011_Pic1078 Okay friends. Come in and have a seat. I'm passing a plate of brownies again (do you like yours fudgy? these are fudgy). I also have a big bowl of fresh cherries. Mmm. Oh, and while we're at it, we'll just pretend I have air conditioning and that it's nice and cool in here. We're going to catch up a bit first (how've you been doing?) and then dive into another discussion about creativity (here's the first one, in case you missed it). Because I have another quote that I'd like to ponder and discuss with you.

Creativity is a characteristic given to all human beings at birth. – Abraham Maslow

What do you think? True or false? Is our creativity more about the genes we were born with or more about the environment in which we are raised? Or some of both?

I'll go first, but I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers. I may change what I think after hearing what all of you have to say.

I think it's true that everyone is born with the potential to be creative. I think it's part of being human. But I also think that creativity is a delicate flame that needs to be nurtured and fanned in order for it to grow and be realized. So my answer is nature and nurture.

This is something I think about a lot (and one of the reasons I do a lot of what I do).

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When you read about the upbringings of creative people, of artists and writers and musicians, you see some who were raised in incredibly creative environments. Picasso was especially encouraged by his father, also an artist, from a young age. His father provided art materials and guidance and praise. And Mozart’s story is legendary for the encouragement and attention his father gave his musical education from a very young age. (For the sake of simplicity I'm keeping this list to those who are creative in the arts even though I believe that people can be creative in any number of areas.)

BUT, you also see artists and other people who are creative despite their upbringing—despite all odds, sometimes. Frida Kahlo spent her childhood (and lifetime) in pain due to polio and later a serious accident. Andy Warhol’s childhood was plagued by poverty, shyness, and childhood illness. Michael Jackson was physically and emotionally abused as a child. I'm sure the list could go on and on.

So I have to conclude that it's not just environment. That creativity is inherent and can survive through adversity. Maybe it doesn't always, but it can. Or maybe it's that creativity can be jumpstarted by adversity as well as by the gentle encouragement of a nurturing, creative environment. I think it shows how resilient people are, and how resilient and universal the creative urge is. It’s the urge to live, really—the urge to be. And I think that creativity can be healing as well.

Okay, your turn. Are we born creative or raised creative? Answer from personal experience, from instinct, from reading, whatever…

Every child is an artist

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I'm sure you've heard this first quote. I've seen it everywhere and in almost every art or creativity-related book I've read:

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. – Pablo Picasso (Spanish cubist painter, 1881-1973)

This second quote is one I just came across, but it says the same thing in a different way:

The creative adult is the child who has survived. – Ursula K. LeGuin (American poet and author, born 1923)

So what do you think? Is this true from your experience? If you feel creative, do you think it's because you were able to hold on to some childlike aspect of yourself? If you don't feel creative, can you remember feeling creative as a child?

Creativity lessons from a blogging conference

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I went to the Type-A Parent Conference this weekend to learn about blogging. I came away with lessons on art and creativity.

You say, what?

Amidst sessions on web design, statistics, and social media, there were a couple of magical hours by a new-to-me author, Patti Digh. She talked about writing, creativity, and claiming our own voices. About celebrating the arc of our own lives and about living and writing out of intention rather than circumstance.

Patti said, "The story of your life is what you create everyday." I love that. Love the idea of creating not only in the realm of paints and canvas, crayons and paper, but also in the realm of everyday life.

I learned a lot about blogging, don't get me wrong. This was my first blog conference and I learned an incredible amount, both from the classes and from the other bloggers. I've been writing The Artful Parent for almost four years now, but I guess I've been blogging with my head in the sand. SEO? Brand campaigns? Videoblogging? I came away inspired and motivated to make some changes with my blog (don't worry — nothing drastic).

But mostly? I came away wishing I could get Patti Digh to move into our non-existent spare bedroom. To share her wisdom and approach to life and creativity with me every day. And since I didn't think she'd go for that, I bought her book, Creative is a Verb. She has other books, and I'm sure I'll read them, too, but I thought I'd start with the one that makes my heart sing.

I'm off to read; I'll keep you posted.

Messes and flops: my answer

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Our chocolate volcano cake with whipped cream snow and strawberry hot lava (as envisioned by Maia)

Okay, my friends, we’ve had a week of illness here but Daphne’s much better now and Maia’s fever has finally gone down for the most part. I have a few minutes to write and join the conversation that Kristin started with her e-mail and that many of you contributed to when I posted her letter here.

I’d like to say that my life is perfect, that I really have it all together (ha!), that our house is always spic and span and worthy of a magazine photo shoot, and that all our art projects go smoothly and just as I had envisioned. But you and I both know that is not true. I am far from perfect, the dishes pile up in the sink and on the counter, I like to bake scones and anything involving chocolate much more than I like to cook daily nutritious meals.

And messes? We’ve got those. I don’t suppose I’ve told you that I’ve never successfully taught Maia to clean up after herself when she paints and creates? The kid is almost 6. Preschool teachers have their students cleaning up at age 3. What’s my problem?

But I don’t want to turn this into a big confessional. I could write long and hard about my failures and shortcomings as a human being and parent, but do you really want to hear it?

You know I’m as human as the next person. Right?! Because I am. This isn’t about that, though, is it? This is about how I choose to portray our life and our art on my blog. The Artful Parent is an edited version of my life. Not that it’s not true. Just that I’ve put on my fresh t-shirt (you know, the one without the spit up and sticky finger marks), combed my hair, and tidied up the house a bit for visitors. For you. Because, like many of us, I was taught to put my best foot forward. Because I really want you to like me (maybe I’m a tad insecure). And because I don’t want to see those messes myself (if I pretend they’re not there, maybe they’ll go away).

As for art, we definitely have our share of “flops.” They usually happen when I have something specific in mind and Maia, being an independent thinker, has something else in mind, is not in the mood, or perhaps I’ve set up a project that she is not developmentally ready for. I like to think of these as learning experiences rather than flops, although I don’t always see them as such at the time. And more often than anything, they are reminders to me to return to the process and the potential of the material and where my kids are right then. It’s usually followed by some space on my part as I let my kids engage in more child-led art rather than to try to be the "teacher" with all the answers. I might set out a couple of art materials to explore as they see fit rather than to direct a big multi-step project.

We do a lot of art in our house. I can’t blog about it all. And so I often choose to share the projects that are the most successful, the most beautiful, the most fun, and the ones that provide the best learning experiences.

I share the projects that I think your children might enjoy doing. I get super excited about the idea of families doing art together. This keeps me going. I get a kick out of the idea that I might share about an art activity we did on my blog and that you might be inspired to do it with your kids. So I try to write about the good ones. That’s not to say that I never write about when things don’t go as I had expected or as I thought they should. I do sometimes. And when I do I learn so much from you – from this wonderful community of parents and teachers. Perhaps I could more often. But my free time to write seems so limited right now (I’m writing this in the grocery store parking lot. By hand, because I don’t have a laptop. Much of my book was written the same way.) that I’d really rather focus on the successes than the flops.

So yes, I have messes and flops. I have times when I don’t clean up after an art project for days because I just can’t face it. I have days when I cry at the littlest things. Days when I think, “who am I to think I can write a book?!” And a book for parents, no less.

I feel good about my ability to do lots of things. I can cook lasagna and sew clothes for my family. I’m a hard worker and was always good at my various jobs. I was an A student throughout school.

None of this prepared me for parenting.

Nothing is as humbling as raising a child. When Maia was born, I couldn’t believe they were going to let me take her home from the birth center. Couldn't they tell I didn't know a thing? Things haven’t changed a whole lot. I’m a little more confident about my ability to wing it, but I sure don’t know everything there is to know about parenting. I’d like to say that I’m at least one step ahead of my children as a parent, but really, I’m more often two steps behind. I continue to learn so much on this parenting journey and it continues to be so incredibly humbling.

And through the mess and craziness (and sometimes the tears) of our days, it helps me to have a place where I can focus on the joy and the creativity and the art that we try to fill our lives with. My blog gives me a place where I can focus on what I love, perhaps on what I’m good at, and what I want to see more of in the world.

I can try to be more conscious of how I portray our life and art on the blog, try to be more real, but at the same time, I can't promise that I’ll change it a whole lot.

Kristin, thank you so much for your heartfelt letter and for voicing what many others were perhaps thinking as well. Everyone else, thank you for your comments and for adding to the discussion. It’s been so interesting to hear the different viewpoints.

With love,

Jean