Embracing + Raising Creative Thinkers 

Girl with Face Paint

So many of the brave, smart, historical people we profile in Honest History are exceptional in their own right, but it’s easy to imagine they all have one characteristic in common: creative thinking. Which is also to say an acute ability for problem solving, curiosity, hard work, inventiveness, adaptiveness. So, not just the form of expression but the mindset behind it.

Creativity is values based, it’s a great enthusiasm for exploring, it’s discovering new perspectives. And especially now when the world is begging us to be flexible and face the uncertain, emotional resilience is much needed. (In us, and our children.) As we look toward the reality of being our children’s only teacher for the near future, please don’t take this as adding to the plate. In fact, in many ways, it can be a call to do less. It isn’t about being extra crafty, or artistic even. (So don’t let your own fear of limitations get in the way!) But it does take a certain attitude to afford opportunities for your children to adopt a growth mindset and sit with a problem long enough to tinker themselves into the answer.

Encouraging ingenuity in your children takes a few tenants, and believe us when we say they are doable:

Be unstructured and unhurried. Allow the time and space (ample doses of both, most often together) for children to dabble and immerse themselves in a creative process. Try not to restrict, hinder, or set limits. Allow for access to materials and a consistent workplace that children know can be somewhat destroyed en route to constructing and creating. 

Refrain from engaging (too much). Children need to feel free to express their ideas—without worry that you may change their course of action or, you know, rain on their parade. Think of yourself as a behind-the-scenes director, not an out-in-front facilitator. Let them discover and play independently, which builds self-reliance, focus, perseverance. Granting kids the room to be autonomous in their decisions affords them much-needed independence. Paintbrush and supplies

Allow for failure. When cultivating creativity, there isn’t one right way to do all the creative things. Allow kids to color outside the proverbial lines, and see where their journey takes them. This may be multiple revisions or a foray into something entirely new, but that’s the point. (One of our favorite children’s books is The Most Magnificent Thing, an anthem to the spark of creativity, frustrating redos, and an ultimate finished product that is, though not the initial vision, just right.)

Be bored. And be bored some more. (Don’t be afraid of boredom—it’s good for all of us!) Yes, kids will whine about nothing to do, but then they’ll get over it and get into something really creative, stretching their imaginations as they go. Kids need to rely on their own intuition and ingenuity, while developing self-confidence to tackle problems head on.    

Embrace the mess. Creativity is messy, the physical spaces needed to create and the emotions that occur along the way. Remember, creativity is not linear, and it’s not necessarily a product—rather it is often the bi-product of a trial-and-error process that will flex and grow those creative muscles. 

Hands with PaintQuick tip: Make a maker box! Grab a shoebox, or any empty cardboard box, and add various materials. Index card, rubber bands, colored pencils, a hole puncher, age-appropriate scissors, paper scraps, paper clips, cloth scraps, etc, etc—you are basically creating a cabinet of curiosities for children. Hand it to them when you hear the bored creep into their voices and send them on their merry, messy way.