May 14, 2013

6 Ways to Squash Creativity in Kids

Most parents will agree that kids love doing crafts, but do you know that art and crafts are actually good for your kids?  Engaging in crafts develops spatial skills, increases brain hand-eye coordination, influences a child's understanding of color, texture and design, and of course fosters creativity, which can in turn change a life. To get the maximum benefit from crafts, children should be given a "creative time" every day.  A time to create, color, invent and play with different mediums which you could call "craft-time".

A couple of things to think about as you begin to consider craft-time for your kids.
1. Create a craft cupboard, drawer or craft box that is easily accessible to your child(ren).
2. You want craft supplies accessible because craft-time should be a daily activity.  Your kid(s) should be able to get {age appropriate} craft supplies out and create without too much input from you.
3. You want your kids to create without you because the more they create independently, the more creative they will become.  Doing pre-made crafts or finding cute craft ideas to do WITH your kids is a wonderful idea, but should NOT be the only way you "do" crafts in your home. 

Want to help your kids become more creative?  Here are six things to avoid...

1. Being a "Helicopter Parent"
As parents, we feel convinced and convicted that we need to be very "hands on" with our kids, however, too much of a good thing during craft time can squash the creative spirit.  Creativity is about risk-taking and exploration.  Sometimes, as a mom, I am more concerned with my children "doing it right" than the process of trial and error.  

So what if they don't hold the pencil the right way, who cares if they are not fitting the pieces together in a way that "makes sense" to us?  Children see the world in a different way than we do, without all of the rules, restrictions and {dare I say it} inhibitions that have already diminished our creativity as adults.  Let them be children!  Let them do it their way.  Allow them the room {and uninterrupted time} to take risks with their art supplies, and explore how different colors or textures work together. 

2. Giving them "Constructive Criticism" 
There are times for correction and evaluation, and art time is not one of those.   If your older child was creating something for a class project and they were being a little "too creative", maybe you can interject a gentle opinion, but for an every day at-home project, there is simply no reason to criticize.  The more evaluation we offer, whether positive or negative, the more likely a child will learn to never be satisfied with their accomplishments.  Follow the old adage: "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all".

3. Giving them rewards
Using excessive rewards, either verbal or even a "gold star", can diminish the child's intrinsic pleasure of creative activity.  Just like criticism, excessive praise or prizes for creativity actually creates an environment that squashes the creative urge because it makes it more about what other people think and less about what is happening inside the individual.  In a sense it robs the child of the joy of creating.  

When your little one brings their latest masterpiece to you and says "LOOK WHAT I DID!" Instead of saying "I am so proud of YOU!" or "It's PERFECT!" Say: "Wow! You must be so proud of what you made!  What do you like about it?"  or "Amazing!  Tell me about it! How does it make you feel?"  Which gives them affirmation without making it about you.

4. Using Comparison or Competition to motivate
When children are being compared to other children or are put in a win-lose situation, where one child is successful and the other is not, it destroys the artistic process that all children progress along at their own speed.    We each have our own process toward creativity, perhaps one person may be farther along in the process, and if they are derailed because they "lose", it may permanently handicap their creativity in the long run. 

5.  Restricting Choices
One danger of doing "pre-made" craft projects is that it limits the potential of creativity.  Creativity is messy and larger than life.  It is defined by exploration, experimentation, curiosity and passion.  It cannot fit inside a coloring book or within a cute box with craft ideas on it.  Not that those things can't prime the pump for creativity (like a book full of craft ideas), but if every craft time with your kids is a per-fabricated craft that is limited in scope and material, then you need to get {and think} "out-of-the-box".

6. Putting Pressure for Perfection
Like criticism, praise, comparison and competition, pressure for perfection can suck the life out of the most creative child.  Establishing unreasonably high expectations for anything can instill an aversion to that particular subject or activity.  Especially when it comes to creative pursuits like writing, crafts, drawing/painting, or musical instruments, putting unreasonable pressure on your children to be "perfect", to perform and conform to specific guidelines is not only outside most kids' developmental capabilities, it also destroys the creative urge, and along with it exploration, experimentation, curiosity and passion.

Some experts even argue that homes should be relatively free of "rules" to free the creative spirit.  I believe {and have read enough about parenting to feel confident} that setting boundaries and guidelines will create a safe environment to be creative without having your kids coloring on the walls, floors and themselves. 

The following are the "rules" I created for my kids in regards to our craft cupboard.   This list provides a context of personal responsibility, and creates safety for creativity.

1. If you take it out, you put it away.
2. Don't compare or compete
3. Take care of the craft supplies
4.  Use your imagination
5. Share
6. Be creative
7. Cover the table when using glue, clay or paint.
8. Try something new
9. If you make the mess, you clean it up
10. Have fun!

Here is the graphic I made below which hangs inside our craft cupboard.

What about you?  Do you have tricks that get your kids creative without "forcing" the issue?

1 comment:

  1. I a lot of "It's so nice...You know how it could be better..." Constructive criticism, was a major backfire...I just stopped creating.


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