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Encourage kids' creativity

Tracy B. McGinnis is creator of www.caffeinatedpen.comHer work has appeared in dozens of magazines on variety of topics. For more diet and fitness articles, click here.

Creative kids

Kids are naturally creative, engaging in imaginary and artistic play that typically means too many fingerpaintings to fit on your walls. Find out why this creativity is important and what you can do to inspire more of it in your kids.

Communicate correctly

Child psychologist, author and parenting expert Tamar Chansky, PhD, says that encouraging creativity in kids means being flexible, and not expecting perfection or being overly concerned with right and wrong.

"Parents can foster creativity by not using praise about product," says Chansky. For example, instead of saying "That's good," ask your child questions and comment about the process. Use phrases such as:

  • "Neat choice"
  • "What are you thinking of there?"
  • "Wow, you are really working hard on this!"
  • "Your ideas are very exciting"

Chansky also says that kids often make "sweeping conclusions" about things about which they are unhappy, and you need to reassure them that their conclusions aren't correct. Help the child figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. For example, a child may say "I'm bad writing or I'm bad at art." Chansky suggests you counter with, "Not being able to draw things the first time around doesn't make you a bad artist." She suggests you communicate with a frustrated child this way: "I know you want to make those flowers, and they are hard! I bet other artists had to work hard to figure out how to make the petals the way they like them. Do you think they got it on the first -- or even the 10th -- try?"

Getting started

You can do countless crafts and activities with your children to help spark creativity.Using crafts to encourage play and creativity is a great alternative to TV and video games. Pepperell Crafts "Shoebox Kits" offer creative ways for groups of kids to stay engaged. Visit sites like perpperell.com and holgatetoy.com to find toys that help foster creativity in kids. (Mister Rogers chose Holgate to make the Neighborhood Trolley.)
Cathy Diez-Luckie, author of Zap History Boredom: Eight Ways to Captivate your Kids, offers these quick tips:
  • Make costumes
  • Have a puppet show
  • Interview historic people
  • Act out historical events
  • Bring out the maps
  • Make a game of dates
  • Read. Read. Read!
  • Combine art with history
NY-based moms Lisa Fielding and Stefanie Katz-Rothman founded gifthero.com to help other parents find engaging toys for their kids. They also offer some tips on getting creative:
  • Read! [Notice a trend here?]
  • Have a dance party and encourage your children to write their own songs.
  • Paint like Jackson Pollack and cover the grass with large pieces of paper or canvas.
  • Build a fort or go camping at home.
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