A huge component of child-friendly parenting is fostering creativity. This can be a tough area for parents who prefer (and even thrive on) a neat and clean environment with minimal messes and disorder. But when you’re a kid, nothing speaks your language as much as having the freedom to create and build and explore.
I often reflect on why and how a person can become mess-adverse. Part of it is due to what happens when we grow up—we are better able to pick up after ourselves and to value a tidy space. But another part of it seems that it could be related to the extent to which a person had creative freedom as a child.
And the kind of creative freedom I am thinking of is not just the opportunity to be trained in the arts. Training and creative freedom have their differences. In some ways, training is the opposite of creative freedom because there’s much focus on form and technique. Fitting into an acceptable mold. Following patterns. Learning the fingerings (any pianists out there?). Performance graces.
Creative freedom is about building with blocks when you want to and drawing a picture at-will and being curious about how things work. Doing those sorts of things isn’t limited to the set times that have been designated for it. In child-friendly parenting, creative expression often ends up being spontaneous, and any effort to build, make, or do something is encouraged within reason.
For those of us who understand the benefits of routine and schedules, spontaneity can sometimes feel like it’s working against our objectives to keep things predictable and smooth-running. But one of the greatest gifts we can give our children while they are still children is to give them the freedom to be creative when and how they choose. All within reason, of course.
Practicality and accessibility are two things that can help us determine the extent to which our children have the creative freedom that they need and enjoy.
- Is it practical? Keep things simple. It’s the only way that survival is ours as parents. Some examples of everyday ways to encourage creativity (and free-play) in our children is with molding clay (multiple colors, different types of accompanying tools), drawing supplies (paper, pencils, markers, crayons—glue and scissors might be in a request-only spot), and building mechanisms (blocks, race car tracks, train tracks, action figures/dolls, miniature play houses, puzzles, and role playing sets like kitchens and workshops). Children gravitate towards these sorts of things because they invite creativity and the use of their imagination.
- Is it accessible? Not everything needs to be in reach all the time, but in general, things that foster creative expression and free play should be within reach and easy to get to. If things are stored up high or away from reach, then (for our own benefit) it helps to make it relatively easy to retrieve these things for our children. It’s a common occurrence to store things away only to end up finding that it’s a hassle to have to get to it the next time our children request it. If it makes sense to have things already in reach for our children, then do that. But if things are out of their reach (for whatever reason), then we can make things easy on ourselves by making it easy for us to get to.
What are some ways that you encourage creativity with your children?