“Our task, regarding creativity, is to help children climb their own mountains, as high as possible. No one can do more.” – Loris Malaguzzi
Children are naturally curious, experimental, and usually all too willing to get their hands in some paint, and as their parents, teachers, and program leaders, we sometimes assume that the best way to encourage a student’s creativity is simply to get out of the way and let them do their thing – but providing support can help them develop their creative capacities more fully. How can we support without stifling? It’s less about how to “teach” creativity and more about crafting an environment in which their ingenuity will take root and flourish. Here are 6 ways you can start that with your family, in your classroom, or in your program today.
#1: Provide a wide variety of materials.
Children’s creativity is significantly shaped by the toys, tools, and materials in their environment. Providing them with a wide array of materials, including drawing, building, and crafting supplies, is key. New technologies like robotics kits and 3-D printers are fun with lots of possibilities, but kids can create so many neat things with simple items like nylons, newspapers, and bird seed. LEGO bricks and popsicle sticks are ideal for construction projects, while felt and fabric are suited for creating outer layers. The broader the range of available materials, the more extensive the opportunities for inventive projects.
# 2: Show examples to spark ideas.
It may seem unlikely, but blank pages, canvases, and screens can be daunting for students, too. Showcasing a few example projects during craft time can help spark imaginations by sharing potential ideas to leap from. While there may initially be some imitation, encouraging children to add their unique style will help transform their work into something distinctly their own.
# 3: Get involved as a collaborator.
Finding a balance in involvement is key in children’s creative projects. Too much or too little intervention from parents and mentors can be counterproductive, but ideally, adults and their students practice collaborating by playing to each of their strengths (i.e. the child can cut and color the paper to their preference, while the adult can support with glue and material additions).
# 4: Embrace all types of making.
Children express their creativity in various forms, from creating games and animations with Scratch to crafting jewelry, soapbox race cars, desserts, or miniature golf courses. Encouraging them to explore different creative outlets, including writing poems or short stories, not only helps them discover their preferred mode of expression but also deepens their understanding of the creative design process.
# 5: Encourage messing around.
Most people believe that imagination is a mental process, but hands-on play has a crucial role in creativity. When children engage with materials like LEGO bricks or crafts, aimless play often transforms into extended projects, sparking new ideas and collaboration.
# 6: Ask them real questions.
Encouraging students to step back and reflect on their projects is important to the creative process, and this can be facilitated by asking insightful questions. “How did you come up with the idea for this project?” and “What’s been most surprising to you?” help the child’s motivation and their creative experiences but can also be helpful if a project doesn’t go to plan and the student needs time and support recalibrating their ideas.
How do you encourage and embrace creativity? Share some ideas with us in the comments!