Creativity has been shown to boost mental and physical health as well as make you more successful. For parents, supporting your children’s development through creativity is critical, but in a world where educational materials increasingly focus on STEM topics, building a culture of creativity isn’t as simple as it sounds. Fortunately, education and psychology professor James C. Kaufman has a few tips on cultivating creativity in kids.
Use rewards sparingly
Parents may be tempted to reward children for creativity, but Kaufman notes that rewarding creativity may actually dissuade creative exploration by framing it as a task, rather than fun. This is not to say you shouldn’t put your child’s artwork on the fridge or praise their crafting, but Kaufman encourages parents to praise specific aspects of their work, like their use of bright colors in a drawing or mastery of two-hand piano playing.
Research has shown that people who are more curious and open to new experiences are more creative. Nurture curiosity in your child by exposing them to new experiences, foods, and activities. For kids, this can mean playing a new game, visiting a local museum, or trying a new art medium.
Support their best ideas
If your child comes up with five different ideas for their book report cover, encouraging their best ones can help fuel their creativity. Rather than dissuading their ideas that might not work out, encourage them to come up with multiple solutions and help them root out the best one. Asking probing questions like “what other animals could you draw in this scene?” and “what imagery words would make the story really come alive?” will help them improve upon their ideas without explicit directions.
Teach them when to not be creative
This one may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes, creativity isn’t the answer. When it comes to unclogging a toilet or learning to type, it’s most productive to follow the status quo. If too much creativity is leading them to be distracted in class or fall behind on assignments, come up with strategies to focus their creative energy. Encourage them to write down thoughts they may have during class, rather than blurt them out loud, so they can come back to them later when it’s more appropriate.