Nurturing Creativity & Individuality
With the right encouragement, children can be incredibly creative. They look at things through innocent eyes, untainted by the perceptions of those around them. But like any ability, creativity needs to be nurtured and encouraged for it to blossom. Parents can do a lot to help their children by giving them the freedom and the tools they need to express their creative talents.
Let's take a look at some things can you do to help your child's creativity flourish!
Encourage your child to express their own uniqueness
It a world where everyone is trying to be like someone else, dare to be different, and dare to encourage your children to do the same! The leaders of the world are not those who copy others. Help your children to think outside the box and be inventive, to use their imagination in ways that are different and exciting.
Allow them some say in the color and type of clothes they can wear. Perhaps role-play, pretending to be different mythical creatures such as a dragon or fairy or gnome in the garden. Read about these creatures with your children and encourage them to imagine what they would do if they were in the body of these magnificent creatures!
Encourage "Wild & Whacky" time!
Let's face it - we all need it but hardly ever give ourselves permission to do it. What better and more important time to be wild and whacky than to set an example to your child. Maybe it can be running into the garden with the dogs and having a good old howling session while you turn the sprinklers on. How about pretending to be Indians and having a pow-wow? Hula hooping? Pretending to be different animals and making animals sounds? Wild hairstyles with wash-out dye colors and crazy outfits? Not only is it fun, but there will be lots of laughter involved... which is also very important!
Set aside time for fun and creative projects
Have a selection of art supplies such as pencils and paper in a variety of colors. Don't forget fun additions such as colorful glitter. How about sidewalk chalk (the washable kind!!)? Bubble-blowing competitions? Provide a notepad for creative writing. Expose your child to all sorts of creative activities and encourage self-expression, seeing what they naturally gravitate too. Perhaps it is drawing, or perhaps writing. Or they may enjoy solving puzzles.
As they grow older, include different activities such as scrap-booking, collections of items such as stamps or fantasy cards or baseball cards. Beads with instructional books for making necklaces and bracelets is a wonderful activity; encourage your children to create their own designs.
Pay close attention to the subjects that make their eyes sparkle and generate the most excitement. Also, never rush a child to finish their projects. This is their time and there is no need to set deadlines and time frames on fun projects, or chastise your child for not completing something they are working on.
Encourage individual creative time
It is much easier to be creative when the spirit moves us. Encourage your child to initiate personal creative time by building a special "creative box" filled with pens and pencils and paper and puzzles, and other things your child enjoys playing with. Build the box together and let them decide what goes into it. If some of the things in the box are messy, provide a large dinner tray with sides that can contain the mess and set the rule that all messy ingredients need to stay "inside the tray." Also keep a "mess blanket" handy.
If there are elements that you want to supervise, then let your child know that when it is time to "glue things together" or "sprinkle the glitter," they can come and get you so you can both do it together.
Kids need guidance and practice on how they will manage their unstructured time. With your help, and with a balance of creative fun time, reading time, and outdoor time, watch them flourish.
Start a fruit & veggie garden
Growing vegetables and fruits is a fun and easy project for children - and best of all, they get to eat the foods they grow! It can be as simple as purchasing a couple of pots for indoors, or separating out a small section of the garden just for them if you have the space.
Besides being a great reason to go out and get dirty, many children love the experience of planting seeds, watching them sprout, and then eating what they themselves have grown. It is also a wonderful way for them to connect with nature and healthy, natural foods. When the "fruits" of their labor appear, children are filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment!
Some veggies grow quickly, such as beets, carrots, and tomatoes, while other take longer. Consider purchasing seeds for the fruits and veggies you child enjoys - cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and strawberries are wonderful choices. How about a pumpkin patch, where you can not only make a pumpkin pie or soup, but also carve the pumpkin for Halloween?
Don't be a neat freak
Sometimes it is ok to make a mess! Constantly chastising your children because they left their toys out, or did not wash their dirty hands, or left a mess in the kitchen or bedroom or living room can actually stifle their ability to experience the freedom they need to be creative. Give your children permission to have fun time where when it comes to mess, anything goes! Afterwards, there will be time to do a bit of clean-up together with a fun incentive.
Most of us hate cleaning up - adults and kids alike. Having a large toy box is a great way to make cleaning up a quick and painless experience. At the end of every day, go on a fun dash with your child to see how fast you can collect allll the mess and shove it into the toy box! (fun treats will definitely help). I personally hate cleaning up (and doing laundry!) and go on my own mad dash to clean up as fast as possible every evening.
Encourage your child to read - especially fantasy books
One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children is the gift of books. Some of my most fondest memories are of lying cuddled up in bed with my furry toys reading stories of wizards and dragons and unicorns. From a very young age, I was encouraged to read - it was a ritual every evening when I went to bed. I would quickly absorb myself into the exciting scenes and feel like I was part of another world.
This book-focused upbringing helped me naturally and quickly progress to more advanced reading, and by the time I was 12 years old I had read most of the classics and was a read-a-holic.
As they get older, encourage your children to read the classics. Not only will their vocabulary and reading abilities skyrocket, but such books expose your children to deeper and richer emotional experiences, and a broader understanding of life and human nature.
Brainstorming through boredom
When kids complain they are bored, it is the perfect time to encourage them to figure out what they want to do with their time. Hint: Sitting in front of a TV is not the answer. Encourage your child to think about things they are passionate about, and go from there. Perhaps there is something your child would like that you know requires responsibility and dedication, such as have a pet or taking up a hobby. Instead of simply saying no, or saying yes and not involving your child in the process at all, encourage them to be an active participant. For example, a pet is a big responsibility and your child has a lot of homework to do. What kind of pet? How will they take care of this pet? What are the unique needs of the pet? What is your child willing to do to show you that they will take this responsibility seriously?
If a family member, relative, or friend does something nice for your children, encourage them to go the extra mile when it comes to gratitude. Ask them to consider what they could create as a thank you gift, and offer lots of praise and admiration for such a thoughtful gesture. The same goes for special occasions - your child may surprise you with some exciting and unique ideas for mom or dad gifts. Offer to help them and make it a fun and exciting project you can work on together. The most precious gifts are always the ones that come straight from the heart ♥
Always Encourage Individuality
Education is not just a product of what we learn in school. It is so much more than that. Life's experience is the most important form of education. Every experience we have prepares us for other experiences.
Formal education has a tendency to cause tunnel vision in that it provides a rigid framework for us to learn in and encourages specific mindsets dependent on the teachers that teach, the curriculum that is studied, and the religion that may or may not be part of that curriculum. As a parent, one of the most important teachings we can offer our children is to always, always, always encourage them to think for themselves, and to have a questioning mind about the world around them.
When it comes to our children, do NOT try and force children to fit into your preconceived notions or ideas of how they should be. We are all unique and special creatures, and some children will be more academically inclined than others. Some will gravitate towards creativity, whereas other will be more intellectually focused. Some may be the social butterfly of the neighborhood whereas others will be more introverted. As parents, it is our job to respect our children, share what we have learned, provide guidance, and encourage them to become independent adults who think for themselves.
Of course we need to set rules and provide discipline, but this should be part and parcel of a loving, supporting, and nurturing environment.
Religion & Spirituality
When it comes to the subject of religion, this can be a challenge for some parents. As adults, we often follow the teachings of our parents and our teachers. Sometimes, we ourselves do not stop to consider whether their belief systems are really the same belief systems that fit who we truly are.
Unless they went to religious school, the majority of adults know very little about their religion and its roots. They just "go with the flow" and never question it. Our parents were Catholics, or Protestants, or Buddhists, or Muslims, and we simply follow right along in their footsteps.
Parents raise their children with a specific religion and can become quite militant about instilling their religious beliefs in children at a time when they are old enough to begin making the choice themselves.
When our children reach the teenage years, they become much more inquiring about subjects such as religion, and why their friends believe one thing but they are taught to believe another. We seem to forget that our children are under no obligation as young adults to follow our religion. Raising children with an open mind to respect and have a healthy curiosity for ALL religious faiths and cultures, and helping them be best prepared to ultimately choose their own path based on what is right for them (not their parents) is a great service we can provide to them.
We should never expect our children to automatically follow the religion we have embraced, or have the same viewpoints that we have, because they are not our clones. They are the trailblazers in this incredible evolving consciousness we are all a part of. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is to help them realize the truly limitless nature of their potential. It is called "allowing and encouraging them to think for themselves" and slowly releasing our need to control.
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