In the current situation, many of us are forced to be creative in how we do life. For example, most churches are closing this Sunday but they will live-stream their service and are asking for small groups of people to gather in each other’s homes so they don’t miss the community aspect of church.
Many of you will be creatively experimenting with recipes that use what was left in your pantry or available in the supermarket.
When our lives are predictable and ordered, creativity isn’t valued as much as it should be and can be one of the things we neglect to encourage in our children. This is a perfect time to embrace the opportunity to inspire creativity in our children.
Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner wrote an article in The Creativity Post called, “Ten Suggestions for Raising Creative Kids”. It’s a good article and worth reading in full but here is a summary of nine of Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner’s suggestions for how they relate to us:
1. Answer questions with questions
Children ask lots of questions and as parents, we think it’s our job to give them the answers. It’s also much quicker and more convenient for us to do this. However, we are missing out on learning more about our child and our child is missing out on the opportunity to think for themselves.
This is a particularly good time to answer their questions with questions as they will be asking things that may not have come up before. No matter what age your child is, they will be aware that things are different because of the current virus. When they ask questions about it, use it as an opportunity to explore what they understand and explain the facts. This begins by asking them questions in response to their questions. It also helps you understand how your child is reacting to what he or she is seeing around them at the moment.
For example, if your child is asking, “why are so many people wearing masks?” then ask them why they think it is happening. Dr Michael Carr-Gregg hosted a special blog on SchoolTV.me on how to talk to your children about COVID-19 which you may find helpful when talking with your child but make sure you answer their questions with questions first.
Validate your child’s answers even when they are wrong by saying something like, “I can see why you would think that, have you thought….”. There are no dumb answers so if your child gives you an answer to your question that seems ridiculous ask them more questions about why they might think this is the answer. You will be surprised at what you learn about your child and it will encourage their curiosity and creativity.
2. Find answers together
Children often ask questions that you cannot answer. At the moment, most of the world has questions that can’t be answered without a mythical crystal ball. Don’t be tempted to cover up your ignorance or think that you have to have all the answers for your child.
Rather than guessing and being wrong, use the opportunity to look for answers together. Depending on the age of your child this could take many forms from online searching reputable sites (great teaching opportunity on what to believe) to a trip to the local library.
If the question is something like, “do lamb chops taste good with chocolate or is beef better?” then it could be the perfect opportunity for a kitchen experiment.
3. Teach them to cook
Cooking involves art, science and lots of creativity. Baking is a science and ingredients must be measured quite exactly for something like a cake. Other forms of cooking are more of an art form. For example, creating a risotto or casserole involves lots of taste-testing and adjusting ingredients to everyone’s liking.
Once your children learn the basics of cooking with you then let them experiment. Depending on their age, try not to correct them unless they are endangering themselves. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the first few efforts will lead you back to point three above, where you will have to reward failure, but it is another great learning opportunity. Ask them what they thought went wrong and work out ways to fix it next time they try that recipe.
4. Feed your children a healthy, balanced diet
In the article Ten Suggestions for Raising Creative Kids, the author states: “A healthy mind and body feel better, deliver more energy and think better. Moreover, if you get your children in the habit of eating healthy food from an early age, it will form a life-long habit. They will be far less likely to have weight problems or health problems as they grow older. They will look better, have more energy and smell better. And most importantly, in the context of creativity, they will think better.”
Eating a healthy diet is relatively easy but does require discipline. I’m sure you are all familiar with the healthy eating triangle and even though these have changed shape and proportions over the years, they have always put processed sugar as something that should be avoided. Natural sugars in fruit are much healthier.
Children learn from their parents so look at what you are eating and how you are exercising and use it as an opportunity to model healthy practices to your children. Be creative with your meal plans and involve your children in planning recipes and active times together.
5. Fix things yourself
Bob Evans wrote an article on Clayton Christensen on the Origins of Creativity where he is quoted as saying, “It appears as if, when we are born, our brains are really quite similar, but early experiences in our childhood determine how our brains get wired to be more or less creative. And really creative people have almost always had two experiences as young children: one is, their fathers or mothers had a disposition always to fix things for themselves. So if something went wrong in the house, they would never call the repairman—they’d always take it apart and fix it.”
The article went on to say that innovation almost always fails the first time but that is where the growth mindset comes in: “We haven’t failed yet – let’s try something else.”
In modern times, fixing things is a bigger challenge. Products aren’t made to last a lifetime and anything electrical should never be attempted (unless you are a licensed electrician). However, there are always broken toys, a favourite piece of jewellery with a broken chain or even a shoe that could have a new life with some super glue. Involve your children in any fixing things and encourage their creative minds.
6. Don’t correct immediately. Ask why
Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner uses the example of a child eating soup. For example, if they pick up the bowl and begin slurping the soup then instead of using a spoon. You will tempted to just tell them off but it would be better to ask them why they are slurping the soup. If they say they are in a hurry or very hungry then you’ve opened yourself up to have a conversation about table manners, enjoying food, respecting others and more. If they say they saw it on TV, then maybe it’s a good opportunity to ask about the culture and what he or she learned from the program. Maybe just this once, the whole family could decide to slurp their soup to try something new from another culture!
Instead of telling off your child, the incident has become a good learning opportunity for the whole family.
7. Reward effort more than results
If you are like me, you are always looking at the effort marks rather than the grades on your child’s report card. Even if your child is a genius and receives top grades, it’s still much better to reward the effort more than the final result. Praise them for the hard work they put into getting such a good grade and especially encourage anything in a report card that talks about their character and effort.
If they are disappointed in their results and the efforts are less than encouraging, talk about it with them. “Why do you think you did poorly?” “Why do you think you find it hard to study for that subject?” “What can you do to improve your efforts in or attitude toward that subject?”
“Creativity and knowledge come from learning, making an effort to understand things and trying various solutions to solve problems. By motivating children to make the effort to learn, to study and to solve problems, you give them valuable skills for life and encourage them to use their minds,” Mr Baumgartner said.
8. Open-use toys
Have you seen an expensive Christmas present put to one side while the young child plays with the box? That’s because a box is an open-use toy but not all the expensive toys that come in them are. Even something like Lego ® can be an open or closed-use toy. A big box of Lego ® bits and pieces will open the mind up for true creativity but a Lego ® kit box only allows children to make the pictured item on the front of the box. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t purchase the kit for your child but try and keep a good balance of open-use toys whenever you have the opportunity.
Don’t limit toys to what you find in the shops. The best toys are ones that are improvised or created at home. The College Pinterest page is full of ideas for backyard toys and experiences you can make and enjoy as a family. With the upcoming holidays and more hours spent at home, take time to look at the Board with your children and see what inspires them. The GCC Pinterest Board is called: Holiday ideas, games and crafts and we have collected ideas for all ages to enjoy.
9. Solving relationship problems
There really is no such thing as a perfect family or perfect friendships. Children may overhear us fight about a disagreement but then never learn when the problem is solved. It is good to avoid arguing in front of our children but almost impossible not to sometimes. If your children witness an argument, make sure they also witness the solution. Model good ways to disagree with each other with respect and ensure they witness the problem-solving process.
Friendship problems are sometimes one of the biggest challenges our children face but they are a good opportunity for creativity and problem-solving. We spend a lot of time at Glasshouse Christian College talking about what good friendships look like and how to be a good friend. In this video, Abbey and Ruby talk about ‘Friendship Fires;” what they look like and how to put them out.
I hope that you will see the coming challenges as opportunities to help your children become more creative.
Mike Curtis, Principal