How to encourage your kids to be more creative

Oct 24, 2011 at 10:59 a.m. ET

Kids are born to be creative. You can see it in the songs they make up, in the imaginary friends and stories they create, and even in the games they play when left alone with their toys. But like anything, a child's creativity needs to be nurtured. Here is a three-step strategy to help your child feel inspired.

Little girl playing with clay

In an August article published by LiveScience on, researcher Kyung Hee Kim, a creativity researcher at the College of William and Mary, found that since 1990, a decrease in creativity among children has left them less able to produce unique and unusual ideas. These findings also concluded that kids today are less humorous, less imaginative and even less able to elaborate on ideas.

As parents, we strive to give our children every opportunity for success throughout their lives, and the ability to think creatively and problem-solve is no exception. Elementary school art instructor, Dawn Eatherton, recommends the following three steps as a basis to encourage creativity in children ages 2 through 10.

Step 1: Exposure through play

"I see opening up the world of experimentation through play with different media at an early age is critically important. Playing helps children to gain the fine motor skills [while] doing what most would think are simple tasks, such as manipulating a crayon, controlling a piece of paper, squishing and twisting medium like Play-Doh and squeezing glue bottles," says Eatherton. She explains that experimentation and trial in a safe environment, like home, helps to build confidence. The experience kids take with them to the classroom enables them to enjoy art projects, explore ideas and tackle challenges, rather than get stuck before they begin a project because of a lack of comfort with the tools being used.

Step 2: Teach skills

According to Eatherton, guided art projects provide kids with a challenge that they can solve by utilizing their previous exposure to tools like crayons, paper and glue. These art projects may be thematic, such as an exact picture to replicate, or a step-by-step creation following directions. Art projects are important for fostering creativity, because they show kids that the tools that they learned to use while playing, can also be used to work through a project and create a desired product.

Step 3: Challenge

As children grow older and more confident in their ability to work through creative tasks with ease, introduce new projects that offer new challenges. These creative projects should teach new skills and foster developing interests and aptitudes. Eatherton shares, "This is when I generally start out a project with precise directions, and then midway, or at the end, they add their own touches." This transitions kids from being guided through projects each step of the way, to providing instructions up front and offering the freedom to follow through and be creative at the end. New challenges that build on familiar skills while teaching new ones provides a blend of comfort and confidence as kids learn to work independently -- a valuable tool that will be utilized throughout the course of their lifetime.


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