For the longest time, I associated creativity with artistic expression. I couldn’t draw or sing, so I believed that I wasn’t creative. Have you ever felt this way?
In the last few years, particularly as it relates to the podcast and everything that goes into it, I am tapping into new creativity that I didn’t even know existed. Creativity doesn’t need to be boxed into artistic expression. Innovation is creative. Scientific discovery is creative. Problem-solving is creative. Everything you read, see, and hear was created.
I really believe we were created by the ultimate Creator, to create! I was listening to a podcast the other day about abundance. And it was so interesting, Cathy Heller was being interviewed – she’s the host of the Don’t Keep Your Day Job podcast. She was talking about how when most people think of abundance, they immediately go to money and an abundance of wealth.
She shared that in actuality, the most valuable type of abundance you can seek, is an abundance of creativity. It’s endless. And creativity serves humanity so deeply in so many ways – business, education, parenting – can I get an amen for how creative we have to be as moms?! And it might seem obvious, but I know there are some of you out there who are like I was, and you’re like, oh I’m not creative.
So how did we get this way? I think of my kids now – they’re 4 and 5. They would never say to me, “I’m not creative.” They’re creating all day long. They’re inventing imaginary worlds, they’re painting and drawing on any surface available, they making up songs and singing, they’re always raising hypothetical situations – they’re creating endlessly. So where do we lose this along the way? And how can we help foster it in our children so maybe they don’t lose that – so they stay aware of the power they hold to create – so creativity becomes a practice and a lifestyle for them?
So here are 3 ways we can foster our children’s creativity:
1. Encourage their questions
I read a stat that says the average child asks an average of 23 questions in an hour. And it just made me laugh because that’s what it feels like! I know when my fuse is short or I’m trying to focus on something else, I can get irritated by the constant barrage of questions. But I know how important those questions are, so I take a deep breath and engage.
All creativity starts with a question – a research question, curiosity to explore a new expression of art, a recurring business challenge, or a situation in your personal life. I want my kids to be questioning things. Getting in the habit of wondering “what if…? Could we do this another way? How does that work?” – it can all lead to creativity.
Kids ask all kinds of questions, right? The ones where they’re using their imagination in a way that helps them think of things that might be possible – those gold for creativity!
So as out there as they might sound, we want to take them seriously. My little one asked me the other day if she could live on the sun. We talked about it for 15 minutes, and she eventually came to the wise conclusion, that she could not, in fact, live on the sun!
But how many of you can think of something that seemed impossible for our grandparents’ generation, that is very much possible now because someone asked what might have seemed like a ridiculous question and had the creativity to think outside the box and change the course of history?
2. Let them be bored
When my kids say they’re bored, I immediately feel pressured to solve it. Does that ever happen to you? It takes a lot for me to resist giving them something to do. But I have to remind myself that unstructured time is actually a gift I’m offering my kids if I don’t jump in to give them all this stuff to do.
Unstructured time challenges kids to engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create. Like anything else, my kids need practice with unstructured time, or they will never learn to manage it. They’ll never learn how to simply be, instead of always doing – which is a pattern that I’m working to break now as an adult. Less doing, more being!
So now, when my little one tells me she’s bored, I take a beat and I try to respond with something like, “That’s so awesome! If you’re feeling bored that means you have nothing you have to be doing right now and you can try whatever you want that feels exciting for you! Maybe you could create something new or go outside and explore something! What do you think?!”
Her boredom might be a gift that leads her to discover her passions which are going to bring purpose to her life, and they are available to her even as a 4-year-old.
3. Focus on values over rules
Rules are really limiting, right? When we focus on rules, we’re not encouraging any sort of independent thought or creativity. What we’re doing is saying this is the way, don’t think about it, don’t question it – just do it! When kids follow the rules, they’re usually trying to please adults, which is not conducive for teaching them to think for themselves.
Yes, we need boundaries, and we need to keep our kids safe. I’m not advocating we let our children do whatever they want with no rules. But we can be intentional about the rules we’re instituting – is there space to offer a different means to the end we’re after?
A house full of rules holds our kids back in the sense that they don’t learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they get straight A’s and make the team and earn the awards by following all the rules, we find that maybe their practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.
They learn how to do all the things, but they rarely create anything original. They focus their energy on learning, but what becomes of all that knowledge? They’re conforming to rules instead of inventing their own – they keep their original ideas to themselves in order to fit into the neat little box that gets them where we’re telling them they need to go!
We can encourage our children to pursue excellence and success — while also encouraging them to find “joy in work.” We can offer them the freedom to sort out their own values and discover their own interests. And that sets them up to flourish as creative adults!
In what ways are you exploring your own creativity while encouraging you kids to explore theirs? Let me know in the comments below!