Raising a creative, imaginative child
Look around you. Some of the people you admire the most are creative and imaginative, whether it is artists like M. F. Husain or maestros like A.R. Rahman or directors like Steven Spielberg. How did they get to be so creative? Where do they come up with those new concepts that dazzle the world?
Is it luck? Do you have to be born with it? Those are questions that have not been answered yet. But there are many ways in which Indian parents can help foster creativity and imagination in your child.
However, we are going to start the tips by listing what Indian parents should NOT do as these are the ones none of us think of.
Do NOT push for the one right answer
We as Indian parents have a right answer fixation.
What is the right answer fixation? - It is the belief that there is only one right answer, and that is based on what we, as an adult think.
For example, when your child shows you a square shape with wings, that they have drawn and says that it is a plane, often our typical reaction is to say "No, baby, planes are not square". But that answer is based on our limited imagination. By imposing our limitations on children, we quell their imagination.
Think about it. Could a Marconi have created the radio or Eiffel that beloved tower in Paris, if they had used only what was already known instead of trying to redefine boundaries of human achievement?
Unfortunately, a majority of India's schools practice this wrong notion even for young children. They teach children the one right answer instead of the process of finding the answers. But thankfully many schools are arising that are changing this way of thinking.
Do NOT enforce conformity
Creative people are often individualists who do not fear to go where no one has ever been before. They try things. Sometimes they fail. But when they succeed, they succeed enormously.
For example, if your child wants to eat tomato sauce with their icecream, don't say NO immediately. Convince them to try it on a smaller portion and if they like the test sample, give them tomato sauce with their icecream.
This also teaches children that some rules can be broken. It will teach them that they can imagine and do something, and succeed at it even when the people around them say NO. Some of the world's most successful businesses have been built by individuals who did not listen to the NOs they were hearing around them.
Both of the above tips will help Indian parents create a non-judgemental, non-critical atmosphere where children can be creative, different and take some risks, especially around people who will support them no matter what.
Here are some tips on what parents should do.....
Books, books, books...
- Expose your child to as many different books, stories and tales as possible.
- Nursery rhymes, fairy tales, history, mythology are all great for children
- Get reference books that have a lot of pictures rather than only words. Being able to visualize something spurs imagination.
Let them draw....
- Most children love to draw
- Try to give young children simple colouring material and paper or a slate and let them express themselves.
- Always ask them what it is they have drawn and accept it for what it is
Get unstructured toys and sets
- Many toys these days come with detailed instructions that define even how children should experience them. This often restricts the child's ability to indulge in flights of fancy.
- For example, it is better to buy a bucket of Lego pieces rather than Lego spacecraft kits or Lego car kits. With a bucket of Legos, children can create infinite objects while the kits may force them to assemble what the picture shows.
- In another example, instead of buying more and more Barbie accessories, encourage your child to use what is around the house to accessorize Barbie. Some pretty creative uses will be found for things around the house.
Allow free play
- Children must be given time during the day to play as they please.
- Free play, allows the child to choose what they want to do and how to do it.
- Often parents try to cram a number of extra-curricular activities each day - arts and craft classes, sports coaching etc., This makes the day very structured allowing the child little time to think on their own and create imaginary games.
TV (if used well) can be a great tool
- There are many good shows on TV - travel, wildlife, nature and also pure entertainment. These will provide a tremendous fillip to the child's experiences and imagination.
- To ensure that children obtain only the positives from television, limit TV viewing time and limit exposure to advertising.
Exposure to a variety of experiences
- Exposure to a variety of experiences is important for a child to understand the diversity of human life and the endless possibilities.
- One way to achieve this is through travel. It does not have to be foreign countries or even to faraway locations. Even if you just go out for a walk, you will find many things to talk with your child, irrespective of their age.
- Books are a important contributor to exposure also
- Also let kids participate in various every day experiences - cooking, gardening etc.,
Encourage experimentation and risk
- Kids should be encouraged to experiment and take acceptable risks (as long as no harm occurs to the child or anyone else).
- When children decide to try something, adults tend to look at the downsides of it - "You could get hurt", "It will not work", "You could become sick".
- For example, many parents immediately run and stop children who are playing in the sand. They counsel the child about the dangers of germs, worms, sand getting into hair etc., But playing with sand offers the child a tactile experience that is not obtained elsewhere.
- The role of parents should be to monitor and ensure that no harm will befall the child. Parents should not always step in and try to prevent failure.
Encourage role play
- Children often indulge in role playing where they pretend to be someone else. Encourage this.
- When children are doing this, they will often assign you a role. Also participate in this wholeheartedly. If you refuse, it may discourage them.
Help children find solutions
- Helping children solve problems is a wonderful way of encouraging creativity. And these problems do not have to be realistic.
- They could be as wild as "Can we drive to London?" or "Can we have a pet elephant?"
- Parents can help children find answers themselves through questions, clues etc., which parents can pose to children
- While this may sound contrary to the first tip (Do NOT push for the right answer), it is not. This is about the child finding an answer that they have thought through and are comfortable with rather than accepting what the adult perceives to be the right answer.
- Play various kinds of music to children - from vocal to instrumental, different languages, classical to rock
- Encourage any attempt to make music, though this can sometimes get on your nerves.
There is always a very fine line between allowing imagination to flourish and indiscipline & anarchy. Even parents find this hard to understand. It is important that a few, firm, well-understood rules be set, explained to children and then followed consistently. For example, you will want to say "No drawing on the walls, no banging on kitchen vessels" etc.,
This is also an important part of the learning process for any child. While we do want to enforce conformity everywhere, children also have to realize that there are rules and norms regarding safety, social interactions, hygiene etc., that must be followed.
A good mix of rules and non-critical, positive encouragement are essential for the child to have a good experience. If one or the other increases too much, the results become undesirable resulting in an unimaginative child or an indisciplined child.
I agree with you, the article is really great. It is good to know that you have decided to be with your daughters and go ahead with a planned activity, I remember this was a similar routine which my mom used during my vacations in my school days, I was never allowed to attend any special art class or music classes, during the vacations ( we didnâ€™t had summer camps that time, at least in my place) but I was allowed only to take rest be at home visit relatives, and do what ever I want at home, including her stitching, craft, gardening, some what cooking lessons, and today I really feel that was the best way to spend a vacation.
For my son who is just 3.5 yrs, I can never manage a long leave from office to be with him in his vacations so he needs to go to a summer camp + day care set up. So this is what I generally do.
1. Suddenly go for plant shopping after my office and his school and get some good plants, give one to him. As I put them in the pot I tell him you should take care of this and he gets so excited in helping me do things many times I take up his suggestions to put one plant in one pot (that makes him feel good and he gets confident in taking decision.
2. I take off from office and make him skip school out of a sudden for 1-3 days (max) then both of us suddenly will plan up something for the day. The most recent one was â€“ â€œRenovating a roomâ€. Initially he had no idea of what this was and was kind of a little bored, then as I started making the room colorful with his toys he gradually got to know that this room has shifted from papaâ€™s room to his room. He was so happy and I could see that all the new type of games and songs (with absolute absurd lyrics) and a typical jungle dance.
Infact he yesterday night, I saw him beating up his inflated sea horse very badly, when asked what for he said the toy was not coloring in spite of giving him so many colors, initially I thought to scolding him as he may leak the toy but then I restricted thinking he is now creating games and one day this toy will leak so why not today :).
When I cannot afford anything this big ( renovating room and all) I re-arrange the furniture atleast and keep him involved with the ideas of where to put what.
Few days back I found some old speakers so I took them, asked him to get his piano and drum set and connected them and asked him to play he was so surprised to the loud sound.. I guess he will learn something, He has a very big bucket of various types of toys ( including legoâ€™s, I throw away the book as soon as I get them) and he is free to do what ever he wants , I generally see him riding an plane of a bus top. But thatâ€™s ok ;).
I taught him origami so now he knows the outline of his little fingers can actually become a flower, and I made a nice bouquet of such lilies (carved out his finger outlines) and made him gift it to his teacher on teacherâ€™s day.
What I personally feel is let your kid be free let them do what ever they want, just make sure they donâ€™t do any thing destructive, and when ever they do something riding a plan on a bus top, encourage them say a wow or a good, in short increase their encouragement.
To add into your list try out origami, matchstick crafts, ( they all are cheap and absolute wonderful ).
Long post :)
I read this article with great interest. With kids tired after a lot of studies, summer vacations must be fun for them. Besides visiting families and relatives and sending them to various summer camps which start mushrooming during this time, we at home decided that this year we will let our daughters, 10 and 7, just be thmeselves. No structured activities for them except swimming. I also made a list of things which we can all do together (I plan to ask my daughters to add to this list!) that includes having more plants in the balcony, draw a lot of charts, learn to embroider/new stitches, stick their pictures and craftwork on walls, listen to some instrumental music for a change from all these new loud songs. I would love to have suggestions from other mamas as to what more activities can we do alongwith our children to make holidays more fun.