Saturday April 21 is World Creativity and Innovation Day, a globally-recognised celebration supported by the UN. This weekend, then, provides the perfect opportunity to stop and think about how you can foster your child’s imagination. Creativity is an essential skill, after all.
The more your child exercises their creative “muscle” as they grow up, the more likely it is that they will become teens and then adults who are self-reliant, self-expressive, confident, healthy, and curious innovators and problem solvers.
Here are some tips you can follow to help your child flourish in this area:
- Lead by example. Children need to see their parents and other caregivers enjoying their own creative outlets, whether it’s journaling, painting, playing music, writing, knitting, dancing or other pursuits.
- Suggest creative experiments at home. Look for things your child is naturally interested in, such as super heroes, sports, or the natural world, and help them engage in creative projects which tie in. They could draw pictures, write a story, put on a play, make up a dance, build a model, or otherwise use their imagination to spend time on a project that relates to their interests.
- Encourage your child to be self-reliant and self-confident. For kids to continue to express themselves creatively, they need to trust in their own abilities, and be able to rely on themselves. Support your child to stand up for themselves in regards to their creativity and individuality. They should feel free to make their own choices when it comes to how they express their imagination, whether they want to colour the sun blue, or have a tea party with a group of imaginary friends.
- Take away pressure about results. It’s important for children to see creative outlets as fun, personal time that is just for them. You don’t want them to feel like they have to adhere to the expectations of others, or be trying to achieve anything other than enjoyment, flow, and self-expression during these imaginative times.
- Foster a creative environment at home. Give children plenty of tools to use to express their imagination, such as books, paints, crayons, craft materials, dress-up items, puppets and more, and let them choose what kind of outlets they want to pursue. Don’t try to direct their play too much either. By removing set instructions on how to complete a task, children have more room to create naturally.
As an author, book reviewer, and long-time bookworm, I also think reading to children from a young age, and encouraging them to read themselves, is incredibly important.
Stories show kids how the imagination can take them to all sorts of other worlds, no matter where their physical body is, or how they’re feeling.
Stories can make us feel better when we’re anxious, stressed, angry, frustrated or otherwise struggling; and they can lift us even higher on the good days. They also help us to connect with one other.
I wrote my new picture book, Cloud Conductor, specifically to help children realise they have the power within themselves to deal with tough situations.
Cloud Conductor is about a little girl, Frankie, who is active and busy until illness means she can’t do most of the things she loves. However, even when she’s sick in bed, she can still watch the clouds outside, and “conduct” them to make stories appear.
I hope the book introduces kids to the idea that, through their imagination, they can boost their mood, deal with illness and trauma, escape negative emotions, and increase their ability to empathise.
The book, which releases May 1, can be used to prompt discussions about utilising the imagination to deal with challenging times, and/or supporting friends and family members who are going through them.
Cloud Conductor can be ordered online at Wombat Books and other stores, or via your local bookshop.
Kellie Byrnes can be found online at www.KellieByrnes.com, on Twitter at @KellieJByrnes, and on Facebook at KellieByrnesAuthor.