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KIDS / Oct ‘2017

Five ways to nurture your child’s creativity

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KIDS / OCT ‘2017

Five ways to nurture your child’s creativity

The genes may have a part to play, but there is so much more that parents can do to nurture creativity in their children.

Words Ivan Fernandez

In the first place, why bother?

Because a creative life is a fulfilling life. Helping your child develop her creative abilities is a ‘gift that keeps on giving’; sustaining her through every stage in life; providing countless hours of enjoyment and helping bolster self-confidence.

Creativity is also a key ingredient in everyday problem-solving and in building successful careers.

So here are five ways to nurture your child’s creativity:

1.  Example is the only thing that matters: Some parents are frustrated that their carefully choreographed attempts – to instil artistic temperament or a creative approach to problem-solving in their children – do not get them the desired results. But are these parents actually pursuing creative activities themselves? When your child sees you giving time and focus to a creative endeavour, she is subconsciously conditioned to value creative activities. It need not be the very same thing that your child does, but the fact that you read voraciously, or play a musical instrument, or paint or dance or sing or explore the night sky tells your child that there is something intrinsically rewarding in such pursuits.

2. Every child is creative: Your child may not have perfect pitch, but she may be able to solve complex puzzles faster than you can. Your child may not be able to draw or paint like others in her grade, but she may be able to write a short story that is riveting. She may not dance gracefully, but she may be a ‘master chef’ in the kitchen. As Sir Ken Robinson put it: “The question is not – how creative are you, but how are you creative?” Take the time and the effort to find and celebrate the unique creative strengths of your child.

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3. Allow play and experimentation: That means not feeling uneasy about unstructured time. It means not having every hour of the day and week nailed to a hard schedule. It means allowing for leisurely detours, even if it takes more time than you envisaged. As J. R. R. Tolkien put it: “Not all those who wander are lost”. More importantly, teach your child that contradictions are alright. Uncertainty is fine. Divergent views can stimulate, rather than frustrate. That is the fertile ground needed for play and experimentation to thrive.

4. Reward fresh thinking: Applaud your child’s effort and do not fret over failures. That way, you allow your child to take risks and go beyond the conventional. Fresh thinking is really about the questions. So remind yourself that you do not always have all the answers. It is perfectly alright if at times, you answer your child’s question with another question. Perhaps, you might even want to spend some time with your child searching for those answers. Get into the habit of setting creative challenges for your children. Set constraints (for example, doing something faster than before, with less resources and no blueprint). That is a foolproof way to stimulate the creative juices.

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5. Appreciate creativity and get creative together: Talk to your child about creative people and creative works. Listen to a piece of music together, spend a day at the museum or gallery together, spend a quiet hour at the library together. Expand the canvas of aesthetic appreciation well beyond the ‘arts’ – to the sciences, sports, gardening, cooking, teaching, learning, (or for older children – even software programming, engineering design, urban planning, law, business models, advertising, fund raising, politics); literally every possible human endeavour. Build in opportunities for creative expression. Creative talents are not reserved for that school play or church choir only. There can be family occasions – birthdays and anniversaries – that provide the perfect context for an impromptu family concert. There can be no-occasion afternoons and weekends when you spend a few hours on a do-it-yourself project around the house with your child. The trick is to recognise and respond to those quiet ‘decisive moments’ in the time you have with your child. They come upon you without much fanfare, but if seized, can not only nourish creativity in your child, but also strengthen the bond you have with your child.

 

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A final word of caution: Be careful not to be overbearing. In their anxiety to make their child the next creative genius or worse still, the next ‘star’, parents can often subject their child to unreasonable amounts of pressure in relation to creative pursuits. Often, this is the classic case of unfulfilled dreams of the adult morphing into relentless pressure on the child.

Remember, with anything creative, the journey is as important as the destination. The surest way to scare away your children from creative pursuits is to drive them with over-ambitious goals, without allowing them the space to find themselves as they enjoy the creative process.

For more information, head to Ivan’s website www.ivanfernandez.org

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Based in Sydney, Ivan is an industry consultant by profession, a die-hard classical music fan, a violinist, painter and writer. Ivan has just published his book on life lessons from artists past and present, titled 'How Art Can Change Your Life'