the no-push method for developing creativity
Looking at what helps children become more creative makes us aware of what we need to do to increase our own creativity. Fostering creativity in children also demands a lot of creativity on our part.
I have often felt like I was orchestrating a piece of music as I watched and listened to children while looking for ways to help them find real confidence that they could be creative and to feel successful with their creative endeavors.
When I taught kindergarten I was amazed at how many children were already critical of their creative abilities. We live in a culture where only the best is good enough. It's easy to see why children are inclined to give up before they start on a creative project. I think both children and adults tend to think people are born talented. We are often unaware of the struggles that the poet, painter or actor must go through in order to become a master of their craft. We also lose sight of the fact that for centuries people created products that were enjoyed for what they were rather than compared to what was considered to be the best.
It's not easy to encourage your child while still being realistic about their ability. They don't have to be very old before they can tell when you are giving false praise. It's better to emphasize the things that are going well for your child and the ways he or she is improving. When children are frustrated with their efforts, be sympathetic, let them know that everyone has difficulties and that even adults need time and practice to learn how to do new things.
Today we hear the disappointment in the voice of the sports announcer when a skater or swimmer comes in second. Only first place is considered a success. Often children equate being able to finish a project quickly with being good at it. Speed becomes the measure of success. So we are dealing with quite a challenge in keeping our children enthusiastic and willing to take the risk of learning new creative skills. We need to find ways to emphasize the joy of doing a creative activity and to help them see that improving skills in any creative endeavor is a life long process. The number one way to do this is to model it to them in the projects we do. If we can let go of perfectionism and just enjoy our own creative process children will notice and feel more comfortable trying new things.
We also need to give children many opportunities to be creative without concern for the product. Look for process-oriented toys and projects for your children. Fingerpaints, Legos or clay can be great fun and develop skills without making your child feel that a certain result is expected. When you are helping your children make a specific object, like a puppet or a place mat, keep things open-ended and leave room for their own creative touches.
A good way to teach this is to have your child pick a favorite story he or she has written, then help him or her see how to make the story clearer and to correct the spelling. This story can then be made into a little handmade book. Don't be surprised if at first your child basically just adds to the story when it comes to revising. Just encourage their newfound enjoyment in writing. Older children will refine the process and can do a wonderful job of creating books using the computer. And don't forget the value of reading. Good writers are readers and the love of books will give your child many imaginative ideas for writing.
This brings me to the subject of how important it is that children be given time to use their imagination in what seems to us to be non-productive ways. Children need to spend hours pretending. Older children need time to daydream. They get precious little between television and planned activities. Arrange for downtime when nothing has to be accomplished, but be sure the computer or TV is not entertaining your child instead. Creativity flourishes when children entertain themselves. You may have to cut back the outside entertainment gradually. Some children will resist. Just experiment with what works in your family. You know your children best.
Be sure to enjoy being creative alongside of your children. Often the best creative projects for children are ones that you love as well.
Exploring Women's Creativity © 1999 Judy Anne Breneman
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