Young children are naturally creative and I see that creativity in their art, music, dance, conversations, questioning and especially in their make-believe imaginative stories. I have been nurturing our five-year-old son Cameron's creativity by providing lots of opportunities and experiences from which creative ventures can spark and grow into being. Here are a few of the activities I've shared with Cameron which you might like to try in your home.
Music and song
Musical instruments have opened up a world of sound and fun for Cameron. I've introduced a collection of different instruments, just a few at a time. I began with very simple instruments like a tambourine, triangle, harmonica, bells, drum, castanets, maracas, xylophone, and even a cardboard box, a pot and wooden spoon. I found when we played with his special musical instrument box, I inspired the budding musician in Cameron and had so much fun too. We add songs, dance, actions to songs which provides an unlimited source of creative opportunities. Recording our music and playing it back is really exciting too and at times hilarious as you can imagine! Over the years I’ve introduced more sophisticated instruments so for his 3rd birthday he received a toddler size guitar and a small keyboard and of course ...he loved them both! We’ve also taken him to piano lessons in a small group once a week and last Christmas he had his first piano recital. It was simply too cute!
Arts and crafts projects
I love drawing, colouring, pasting, cutting and painting and now, so does Cameron. I've found that arts and crafts projects have been wonderful ways to encourage his creativity. I've built a few Imagination and Creation Stations for Cameron to enjoy. In the garage we have the Painting Station with easel, old clothes and painting materials. In the family room cupboard we have the 'less messy' Projects Station with a variety of art and craft supplies. So, when it's creative time we can go to a special place, imagine and create. In the family room, Cameron has a small table with plastic on the floor so neither of us 'worry' about mess and interrupt the creative flow! He has access to boxes and containers filled with age appropriate art supplies including coloured and plain paper, old magazines, pencils, crayons, markers, play dough, stickers, scissors and paste. As Cameron is only 3, I continue to introduce different art supplies, one at a time and I help him learn how to use them. Generally, I stay with Cameron for most of his arts and craft time and experience his artistic creations as they unfold. I love taking photos as it's an easy-to-store keepsake of his creations and development.
Sometimes we enjoy creative activities that are less messy and don't need special supplies. For example I use lots of questions to get his imagination and creativity going.
Cameron naturally asks a lot of questions throughout the day and so do I. One of my favourite ways to fire up his imagination is making up creative questions. While reading from one of his story books, I look for fun questions. Every page has a wealth of questions just waiting to be asked like "what do you think the cat is thinking?", "if you were the sun where would you go when it's dark?", "why does that house have a pointy roof", "why is that girl sad?" or "if the boy was going on a holiday where would he like to go?" Cameron's answers are wonderful. I love seeing his ideas appear and listen to him sharing them. More recently I've found that he is more interested story-telling rather than simply reading books.
Every night, just before sleep, Cameron and I tell stories. He loves it when I ask "what story tonight?" He usually suggests an animal or a topic and we begin. I start the story and then ask Cameron a question inviting him to suggest the next part of the story and then I add something and on it goes. We keep taking turns until the story naturally comes to an end - usually with me skilfully weaving how the main character in the story - the animal or child - get into bed ready for sleep. Sometimes he likes us to repeat the same stories night after night with only little changes and developments. At other times whole new stories and inspirations appear! It's so much fun as I never know what will come! As Cameron gets older I'd like to continue create opportunities for him to tell me more of the story until he can tell his own whole story from the inception of the idea to its conclusion. I'll also buy him a journal so he can write his own words, stories, poems or songs.
I'd like to end by sharing what I've discovered while researching how to inspire creativity in children. I found some interesting information that has alerted me to things I need to 'watch out for' so as not to stifle Cameron's creativity. Upon reflection and my own experiences, they seem like great things to keep in mind. When completing activities to inspire creativity:
- I make it all about enjoying process and not the quality of the product. I comment on the colours he's used, his efforts and ask questions like "are you having fun drawing/painting/cutting?"
- I invite Cameron to tell me about what he's created as I can get it terribly wrong using my own interpretation of his art. I find that asking questions opens up even more opportunities for his imagination as he explains his art and his creative processes.
- I can help Cameron become reflective and self-validating by asking him how he feels about his own processes and his own work, rather than him only relying my external praise, and
- finally, although it is really tempting for me to put the ears in the right place, add a neck where there is none, colour the purple carrot, orange for the sake of 'teaching reality', I refrain and allow the creativity to come out in the form it comes out. I make this Ok by telling myself that I can create teaching opportunities some another time and most importantly...purple carrots look and taste delicious in the world of imagination! Actually, I know this is hard to believe, but recently I came across purple carrots – they are all natural, nutty and delicious. How funny is that!