Creativity produces much more than a unique work of art or an original idea. A child’s ability to think creatively promotes self-expression, emotional health, mental growth and an appreciation for diversity -- all skills and traits that are vital to a child’s overall development and well-being. Provide kids with plenty of opportunities for child-directed play and encourage youngsters to approach, view and think about things in new and unusual ways to turn ordinary activities into ones that spark creativity.
Role, imaginative and dramatic play encourage children to use their imagination, see through the perspectives of others and explore their feelings, promoting creativity. Take the kids out in the backyard and pretend to be pirates, hunting for treasure. Provide costumes, pots and spoons for banging or other simple playthings and encourage children to play freely with them in an unstructured activity. Inspire kids to share or work out feelings with puppet play, or act out ordinary events, but switch roles so that the kids are the parents and the parents pretend to be the children.
Just as creativity inspires art, art activities can also inspire creative thinking skills. Instead of engaging kids in structured art activities with well-defined objectives, allow kids to be spontaneous and decide how the activities will go. Provide kids with open-ended materials that can be used in a variety of ways. Pair jars of tempera paint, for example, with different types of paper, an array of brushes, wet and dry sponges, feathers and other possible tools or embellishments, and allow children to decide what artworks to make with the supplies you’ve offered. Karen might use a few sturdy leaves, for instance, as a tool for applying the paint to poster board, while Craig might decide to use the paint as an adhesive to glue the leaves onto tissue paper. Encouraging children to be spontaneous and self-directive in these ways promotes creativity in children of all ages.
Play imaginative games with kids that encourage them to think outside the box, see life from a different point of view and express their feelings through movement and actions. A classic game of charades challenges children to represent and interpret different people, places and things in new and unique ways. Another idea is to arrange players in a circle, give everyone an animal cracker or shaped fruit snack and then challenge kids to “become” that animal or object for two minutes after consuming it, adopting its behaviors, features and characteristics. Or, read a story aloud and encourage children to act it out as you go along, which will also reinforce comprehension skills.
Creative questioning encourages children to think about things in new and unusual ways. Look at a picture book together and ask children open-ended questions, such as “What are the people doing in this picture?” or “How do you think it would feel to be that butterfly?” to facilitate creative thinking skills. Play a guessing game by instructing children to close their eyes and identify different items by smell, taste or feel. Or, involve kids in a recipe creation project that requires them to consider changes. If you’re making cookies, for example, ask kids, “what can we add to make the cookies taste sweeter?” or “What would give the cookies a different color?”