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How I'm raising my sons to be creative innovators

I’m Kimberly Coleman, a NYC wife and mom of two school-aged sons. I have worked as a lifestyle writer for the last nine years.

There are certain experiences that have changed my parenting worldview. Listening to Seth Godin, one of my favorite thinkers, at Maker Faire NY 2012 was one of those times.

In his "Art and Science and Making Things" talk, the bestselling author and entrepreneur spoke about the importance of innovation. I walked away with a renewed commitment to raise my two sons to be creative "makers." In doing so, I have adapted two primary guidelines in regard to their after-school play that I find to be helpful.

1. It is not about our sons doing things "right"

Learning to follow instructions is important. However, it is equally important for our sons to have room to improvise and to challenge conventional systems. True innovation only happens when kids are allowed to do things that have never been done before.

For example, my sons enjoy playing with toys that come in kits. Each set normally includes the exact instruction regarding how to make the desired final product. However, we often put aside the directions and let the boys create their own constructions out of the available pieces. Last night, my youngest son asked if we could create our own people out of some building bricks and have them battle each other. (He is a better builder than I am, so I lost!)

2. Failure is an option

Schools put a lot of pressure on kids to succeed. The reality though is that many kids learn much more when it takes them multiple attempts to get something right. Think about it... how many artists, scientists and other true innovators reached their achievements without some trial and error?

We had an example of this type of trial and error earlier this week. My sons and I had the opportunity to review the Hot Wheels Workshop Airbrush Auto Designer. Like many boys, my sons like cars so they were excited about using the set's personal airbrush station to customize a Hot Wheels car. Everything was going along well as they used the airbrush pens to paint the car. The botched part came when it was time to use the stencil tool to create a pattern on the car.

They tried to stencil a lighter (yellow) color over the darker (blue) paint color, so you could barely see the pattern. Their disappointment quickly faded when I mentioned that they could use a damp cloth to wipe the car clean and start over again. As Winston S. Churchill said, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts."

Remember, it's OK to let our sons explore. They will do things wrong and see what does and does not work. They might even break some things in the process. Ultimately, I want my sons to be creative. I want them to curious "makers" who are constantly trying new and interesting things. I want that for your sons too. Now, what can our sons make next?

Disclosure: This post is part of a collaboration between Hot Wheels and SheKnows.

Photo credit: Andrew Rich/E+/Getty Images
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