Want to be a happy mama and papa? Want to know the key to having a great summer?
Raise children who are creative. Of course, creativity has to be combined with self-discipline. If you have a creative child who has no self-discipline, then you have raised “the child from hell.” After all, it is creative to paint on the walls, color the dog with nail polish and shoot colored ink onto the ceiling with a water pistol. Self-discipline and creativity are not related and are independent variables. Self-disciplined children can be either creative or not. And creative children can be self-disciplined or not. As a parent, aim for both!
Lucky is the parent who has a creative child. Why? Because truly creative children are self-stimulating. They are motivated to accomplish on their own. Creativity is a DOING concept. No one can be creative while watching a football game or watching TV. Creative children don’t whine, “What can I do” and “What can I watch?”
Encouraging Creativity in Early Toddlerhood
Creativity is strongly related to inquisitiveness. Toddlerhood is the most important time for parents to encourage their child’s curiosity. During these foundation years, the brain is very malleable and its growth is completely dependent on environmental givens and expectations. Amazingly, the brain is physically changed by what takes place during infancy and toddlerhood.
Ages two to six are the ages of industry and initiative. Wise parents encourage their children to explore the environment. Unhappily, I often see a toddlers exploring the environment in airport waiting areas or in the church narthex, not bothering anybody, and I see a parent discourage the child by saying, saying “come here” when the child isn’t going any place anyway, I feel sorry for both the child and the parent. Let the kid go. Let them explore. As long as they are not intruding on another’s space or tranquility, relax!
During toddlerhood wise parents excite their children by showing enthusiasm about exploring and understanding the world: “What makes that go around?” And, “Wow, when that gets hot, it bubbles.” Toddlers love learning how to work the buttons on the DVD player and the TV. They want to know how high they can stack pebbles; how cream mixes with coffee when it is stirred. Wise parents are forever saying, “Wow, look at that! How does that work?”
Discipline, as I said in the beginning, is an essential element for happiness with the curious child. Only discipline leads to a joyful exploring of the environment that is fun for both parent and child. It’s only enjoyable to have toddlers explore in the waiting room or narthex if they will come when called; only fun to have a children watch how coffee mixes with cream if they respect the adult’s wishes that they not grab the cup. I was recently in a home in which the kids were designing the Snake River Drainage Basin all over the kitchen floor. I asked the young mom about the watery mess the kids were making in front of refrigerator and stove, and she laughed, saying, “Well, the kitchen floor is made to be wet. And it works because they clean it up as soon as I ask!”
Encouraging Creativity in Early Childhood
The easiest “no brainer” way to encourage creativity in early childhood is to turn off the TV. But that’s almost impossible for young parents who, themselves, grew up with TV in their formative years. It is probably sufficient to say to say that all children should spend more time doing something at home than watching something. The following is partial list that could be endless, of how parents have encouraged creativity in early childhood:
Use a thrift shop as your toy store, and buy clocks and all sorts of mechanical stuff to take apart; clothes for dress-up; and old jewelry boxes to store and collect important stuff. Start your child’s collection of old postcards, salt and pepper shakers, and padlocks.
Make a white wall covered with plastic for dry marker drawings. There are special paints available now that can turn walls and other surfaces into whiteboards and even chalkboards. Ideally every home is built with a few secret places for kids to hide and put their treasures. If yours wasn't, then make some with the creative use of furniture. Make a "stage" for your little actors and actresses with a box filled with costumes and accessories from your local thrift store. Making and playing with puppets can also be a fun way for kids to engage in dramatic, self-expressive play. Every home would be better off with a built in stage than a built in media center....
In addition to reading stories to your children, make up stories- round robin fashion. A fun sorytelling game is the "7-Line Story". Take turns telling stories one line at a time in a specific structure: "Once upon a time..." "And every day..." "Until one day..." "And because of this..." "And because of this..." "Until finally..." "And ever since that day..."
Make sure that, in Mary Poppins style, every job has an element of fun. In early childhood, there should always be three elements to washing dishes, making beds, and cleaning the bathroom: 1) you, 2) the kid and 3) fun! When the child is six or seven, you take two steps backwards, and the child is left with the job and fun. My son, coming home from college, while doing the dishes, remarked, “Dad, when I do the dishes, I still hear the bugs scream!” That's because when he was little, I would make a big deal of washing the bugs from the dirty dishes down into the sink and turning on the garbage disposal. Of course the sound effects were what made this memorable.
Encouraging Creativity in Childhood
Childhood is the time when the entrepreneurs and inventors of the future really start to bloom. Parents encourage this by showing excitement around their child’s areas of strength. These are the years of exposure to the wonders of the world. Exposure to museums, art shows, plays, dinner theaters, science, and cultural events. Whatever the child is exposed to, it is most effective when the parent is excited about the experience, too. Whatever activity the parents experience with joy, in the company of their children, the children will take up with relish, and after a time, usually become self-absorbed in it without parental input.
My own mom interested my brother and me in darkrooms, guppy breeding, butterfly collecting, and writing by being excited about all these activities for a short time, before turning the darkroom, aquariums, butter-fly nets, and manuscript submissions over to us. Her motto was, “Try it, you’ll probably like it!” And her love coupled with her excited curiosity about the world has lasted us for three quarters of a century.
In summary, if you show excitement about how things work, do things with your children, and become excited about what you discover together, you will probably raise a self-motivated, curious and creative child. And, you'll enjoy the summer to boot!
Copyright by Foster W. Cline, MD. All rights reserved.
Foster W. Cline, MD