Creativity is a uniquely human capacity. Some animals have the ability to change, adapt or be resourceful and computers can learn, process and ‘understand’ huge amounts of information. But neither can claim the innate human ability and motivation to create something new, innovative, or beautiful. I love that creativity is often described as a ‘phenomenon whereby something somehow new and somehow valuable is formed.’
As machines learn from us and take over more and more of the menial and routine tasks in our workplace and lives, creativity is becoming a necessary life skill that we all need. And unlike our grandparent’s generation, our children need to develop their creativity to live, work and thrive in the future. So, how do we encourage creativity in our little ones?
Fortunately, there are some simple ways to develop this phenomenon – here are my top five:
1. Start with a blank slate
Here, I’m referring to toys. We all give our little one’s toys branded in their favourite Disney characters or that are designed for a specific purpose. But you’ve probably noticed that your little one is usually more interested in the box the toys came in than the toy itself. This is their inherent drive to create something. Offer your little one open ended toys – like plain building blocks that can be used to build a tower, a truck, a castle or a zoo. Click here to read more about co-founder Lara Schoenfeld’s top toys for toddlers.
2. It’s the journey, not the destination
If you really want to encourage your little one’s creativity, don’t focus so much on the end product in an activity. Maybe you want your little one to paint their animal mask a certain colour, when they are really more interested in painting the palm of their hand. Don’t try to direct them back to painting the mask but instead invite them to make hand or fingerprints using their paint-covered hand. Talk about the different shapes you can make using the prints. You can even join in and paint your own hand! While there are plenty of instances when you want your little one to follow convention, developing creativity is one time you can bend the rules.
3. Ask questions – a lot
Your toddler probably loves asking ‘why’ but now it’s your turn to ask questions. Be curious about what your little one is doing, what they are thinking and what their little game is about. When you ask questions, you are not only encouraging their language skills and giving them the tools to express their mind, you are also allowing them to explore their creativity and gently establish those magical connections between what is and what could be.
4. Inspire imaginary play
Imaginary play, also called ‘make believe’ play, is an incredibly powerful way to foster creativity in your little one. When a toddler is dressed up as a pirate or ‘baking’ cupcakes in their bakery – they are immersed in their creativity and using whatever is at their disposal to bring the scenario to life or make (you) believe it is real. Encourage imaginary play as often as you can – you will be giving your little one the freedom to turn their creativity into reality – a skill that will last well into adulthood.
5. Let your little one be bored
As parents, we don’t often allow our children to get bored. We schedule their little lives with extra murals and activities to the point that they are almost always engaged in an activity of some sort. But boredom is a great motivator. Think about when we are bored…while it might look like grumpiness or restlessness initially – eventually, we will find something to do. The same is true for little ones. If their enjoyment or engagement always comes from the outside, they never have the chance to explore their feelings, resources, connections with other children, or even their toys to create something meaningful. Give your little one the gift of boredom and watch the phenomenon whereby something, somehow new and valuable, is created.
At Play Sense, our play-based curriculum is expertly developed to give your little one critical ‘super skills’ such as creativity, collaboration, problem solving, executive function and self-regulation. We use 6 different types of play, including our all-important imaginary play, to optimise toddler development in small groups with a nurturing teacher. Find a play school near you and watch your little one’s creativity flourish!