How to nurture creativity in children

I love lists. It is a matter of much amusement to those who know me well. I love them a lot, too much maybe. I would be lost without them. I have enjoyed reading my fellow local aritst, Amelia’s lists on her blog recently (see here and here) and I feel its time to indulge the Monica in me with a bloggy list of my own.

I was musing yesterday on my experience of nurturing my children to express and love creativity. This was prompted by watching them bounce in from nursery, go straight to their table and start cutting and sticking gorgeous collages like this one made by Toby yesterday evening.

I realised that one of the reasons they take so easily to being this way is that I leave materials and glue in a place they can reach if they want to This led me to wondering what other things we can do to nurture imagination and creativity. It reminded me of some lovely friends who have told me that my blog has really helped them have a go at creative stuff with their kids, even though they don’t feel so creative themselves. So…time for a list!

I am going to start this list and I would love to you to add to it. I will eventually put it as a separate link on the blog so that people who visit can jump straight to it. This list is just from my experience. Feel free to add your experiences, book or web site recommendations in the comments – I would love to learn more too!

How to nurture creativity in children

1. Accept that children are our teachers. They have no inhibitions, no fear of doing it wrong. They work from their left, instinctive, brains so naturally, the part we have to switch off to get rid of the voice that says we are no good at art / creativity / making.  They think wacky, make wacky – they are way out of the box. In fact there is no box to speak of (unless and until society puts it there). I have to confess to a moment of teeny tiny jealousy a few months ago when Isabella was in my studio making her own mosaic alongside me and I saw what she was making and the unself-conscious manner in which she was doing it. What a lesson.

2. Model creativity. Have a go. It doesn’t matter what the end product is like, its the process that matters. Let your children see you join in, letting go, getting messy and having fun making and creating. And if you don’t already, pick up a creative hobby of your own so that they see you and learn that making and creating is a satisfying part of life (in whatever form that takes).

3. Leave the stuff of making in easy reach. I have toyed with this one for a while. Truth is, because of the age my little ones, I am not going to leave paint and gloopy glue in easy reach – much as I want to encourage creative expression! Instead, I have created a table and creative corner with their pencils, glue, paper, card, stickers and such like. Its still messy. Things get taken out and spilled onto the floor (so we learn to tidy – topic for another list maybe?!). But its worth it and it works. I also leave things like finger knitting, balls of wool, scarves or threading around when they haven’t played with them in a while.

3. Respond positively to the fantastical and magical – whether it is creativity being expressed visually, in words or play, don’t put it down as silly. Its fun, its their world, its gorgeous – not very grown up, true – but just so special. Our two are regularly making up the most bizarre names for themselves, us and others in their pretend play. You should hear what we get called! And tempting though it is to guide their art making to what we think looks right / perfect, we need to learn to sit on our hands and watch the nose be placed where an eyebrow should be and the picture of granny getting six legs!

4. Save things that you would normally throw away to use for making. Before throwing something away, I always ponder “What can we use this for?” (see the broken whisk that became a flower here!). I save milk bottle tops (the shiny ones) and plastic lids (turned into caterpillars with pipe cleaners) and the usual suspects (loo rolls etc..!). Putting them in separate containers so you can manage the piles of stuff helps (as it does for the tidy ups afterwards!).

5. Notice things in your environment and talk about them with your children– the colour in the sky, lines on the buildings, texture. Art and creativity is about learning to see,  which children are very good atNoticing and talking about what we see can become a common currency in the language of our families that encourages the artistic eye.

6. Have Family Make Times. We haven’t done this a lot but the few times we have done it stand out as really warm memories for me. We have sat round the table with a pile of play dough and made stuff. We have cut out cardboard stars and glittered them for a Christmas display (with our friends Charlotte and Rob – and I do remember Rob saying he had not made anything since he was a boy and had really enjoyed it!). We have covered the table with lining paper and had family drawing time. The key is in your attitude. You are not helping the children do art and crafts, you are doing it alongside them.Great, great fun and happy memories made.

7. Praise and show off their creative work. Avoid general “that’s lovely” praise and use descriptive praise instead. “I love the way you have put those colours together”. “You have concentrated really hard to draw those lines in that way” etc… I did a post here about the children’s art gallery in our home and I find its a lovely way to honour their creativity too.

I am going to stop at number 7 on the list (which is quite good for me!) and hand over to you now…

12 Responses to “How to nurture creativity in children”

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  1. Jules says:

    I love this post…it all looks so much fun! Creativity is fun. Keep doing it! I love your love of lists 🙂 Think its rubbed off on me quite a lot!

    Ju x

  2. Anonymous says:

    hui

    i am saashley in the phoenix arizona and found your blog to be interesting.

    children do take well to doing what comes natural and that is to express themseves creatively. it is also true that if there is not too much fanfare to getting down to the work of creating they will do so readily. adults also.

    in my groups which i call art parts i have found that watching the creative process is inspiring. i am a mosaicst working with lots of different tessarae but mostly ceramic tile and glass. currently i am doing a series of flower pots since spring is on the way.

    keep up the good work and let's keep in touch.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I always give my Grandchildren a Visual dairy (sketch book) of their own. When I am drawing (which is every day)they see me and they always say- where's my Visual Dairy? We take them everywhere, to the park to the Dr's waiting rooms to the library, everywhere they always have one on them, just in case they get the urge to draw. I suppose they have always see me doing it and do not think it is unusual.

    Jacqui
    Flicker is 4mosaics

    P.S. I can not seem to leave a message on here unless I put Anonymous and also this does not accept any links so if you want to see the Felt mosaic photo on my flickr site just google 4mosaics and it should come up…look in the my Mosaic file for students and others and you will see a girl with her Mum holding a heart mosaic.

  4. Cindy @theglasschick says:

    We're teaching children to think outside the box when they color an apple purple or draw lollipops hanging from trees. This skill will bring them success when they start problem solving. Doing it in the context of their family will most likely ensure that they also teach it to their children.

    The result is definitely worth the messes they make along the way. Another thing they learn is how to clean up their messes!

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is a wonderful blog for parents of children, but also for others without. Don't let your creative self die with your innocence. Keep making stuff/fun for yourself and others!

  6. Paula - Nelson Mosaics says:

    I've been doing a mosaic mural/sign with young teens for the past few months – there's a link to pictures here…. http://www.flickr.com/photos/12834779@N03/sets/72157617781051563/
    I've really enjoyed working with them and find it amazing how many ways you can approach the same thing. I'm also doing mosaic stepping stones with young children, and love the results of the younger imaginations – thanks for all your tips and ideas.

  7. Dana Barbieri says:

    What a great post Concetta. We do many of the same things as your family. The kids hang their art where they want and we have many days of playing as a family with modeling clay.

    My son loves to take photos. Inside and outside. He also has his own sketchbook and I also have lots of stuff available for them to make collages. We also use things from our recycling bin. My son is always thinking up ideas for dress up and gift giving. He has a great imagination and I love it!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Great Thread!
    My 5 year old son BEGS me to help me with my glass mosaic work. I watch him carefully, but he loves to run the breaker pliers, and help me set the glass.
    He helped me out at christmas time with a tempered glass piece that I picked out that we could do together.
    I let him pick out the colors of the snowmans hat and scarf. He loved it.

  9. Amelia says:

    Hi Concetta,

    thanks for the links. I love a good list (as you know!) this is great. I can't think of much more to add. In my work with children and art I enjoy providing the raw materials and a specific idea or theme (even with examples) and then ask them to go, go, go with their own interpretation or design on it.

    I ran a workshop recently doing flags for a Tour de Europe theme and instead of getting them to colour or copy flags, they had the materials and had to design their own – it is always so inspiring to see what they come up with when they can free-flow!

    Amelia.x

  10. Concetta says:

    Thanks all for your great suggestions and comments. Sorry, but I don't have facility to reply to each comment. Love the Visual Diary Jacqui, and the felt mosaics are just great – gonna give those a try for sure. Cindy, your site is so clear and inspiring. Paula, the school project is amazing – my experience so far has been mostly with little ones, must be a lot of fun when they are more able to get stuck in. Thanks again for the kind comments and encouragement. PS Jacqui, I checked the settings and you should be able to post your name and web link – not sure why it wouldn't let you???

  11. It's a Mummys Life says:

    This is such a great blog. I really try to nurture creativity in my 2 year old. We do a lot of painting, drawing and sticking, but it can be tricky as my other daughter is 13 months and so clearly she gets a bit too messy and starts to eat everything! So we tend to 'do creative' at her nap times. I love your ideas about saving things and getting some boxes to keep them in, I really love the idea of the creative corner too. Thanks so much for all the ideas. Really great

  12. PhotoPuddle says:

    Great list. I love doing crafty stuff with my duaghter. She's only 21 months old but she's always begging to do colouring and playdough. And she loves glue! The craft box I have for her is already huge. Am always picking up crafty bits in shops when I see them and like you I see every food container we have as a possible craft activity!

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