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Nurturing Creativity and Imagination through Art

Every child is born with imagination and creativity. At times, parents nurture children's imaginations and play a part in their creative thoughts and acts. Other times, we might (deliberately or unknowingly) stifle children's imaginations, perhaps concerned that children don't understand what's real and not real yet.

Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Imagination is the door to possibilities. It is where creativity, ingenuity, and thinking outside the box begin for child development. Imaginative and creative play is how children learn about the world. During imaginative play, children manipulate materials, express themselves verbally and non-verbally, plan (intentionally or unintentionally), act, interact, react, and try different roles. Great opportunities for learning are possible when children participate in creative play with dolls, vehicles, blocks, rocks, cardboard, or boxes. Employing creative thinking while manipulating play dough, creating recipes by mixing dirt and water, working with art materials, splashing in puddles, or pretending to fly can further child development.

Imagination fosters cognitive and social development. Everyone wants to raise children who reach their highest intellectual and social/emotional potential. In early childhood education, critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving abilities are goals for children's development. Imagining, trying new ways of doing things, and experimenting will develop their critical thinking and also foster their creative problem solving. Furthermore, imagination builds social-emotional development by allowing children to contemplate different resolutions, thus boosting children's confidence, which can be used in interactions with others. Imagination and creativity are also skills that our children will need when they join the workforce in the future.

Creativity for Kids: Tips for Nurturing Creative Minds

Below are tips and suggestions for nurturing your child's imagination and creativity:

  • Spend time outdoors.The benefits of nature for child development are endless. Because nature is ever changing, it provides countless opportunities for discovery, creativity, and problem solving. The natural world inspires children to think, question, make suppositions, and develop creative minds. Children can draw in sand, make design with twigs, build forts with branches, or simply lie on the ground and look up at the sky

  • Invent scenarios. When your child invents a scenario, he/she tries on lots of different roles and organizes his/her thoughts while developing social and verbal skills. Encourage your child to play house, doctor, zoo, farm, space station, school, or store. Join in the imaginative play by taking on a role yourself. Play with stuffed toys or puppets (make simple puppets by putting your hand in a sock). Let your child lead your playtime together. If your child wants to be a superhero, think of the power your child might want as his own superpower. Consider having your child create a new superhero!

  • Verbal activities. From rhymes to riddles, silly sounds to phonics, games such as "I Spy" or making up lyrics to common tunes, verbal interactive activities can inspire and nurture creative minds. Simultaneously, these activities build vocabulary and help your child learn phonics. These games are also a perfect and fun way to spend time in car rides.

  • Encourage art activities. Art is creative expression that nurtures imagination, and not a lesson in following directions. Through painting, sculpture, collage, clay moulding, drawing or any other medium, art is a way for children to work through emotions, make decisions, and express their ideas. Manipulating art materials provides a sense of freedom yet also encourages focus and concentration. Art activities also develop fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination. Furthermore, art activities build confidence because children gain a sense of mastery over materials resulting in a new creation.

  • Share literacy activities. Make reading time memorable and discuss other possible scenarios or endings for the story by using your child's imagination. Make up stories with your child, at times with her as the main character and other times propose moral dilemmas. Take turns making up a continuing story.

  • Ask open-ended and thought-provoking questions. Asking questions that provoke imagination and creative thinking is an effective way to invite your child to express ideas and share visions, while giving him/her the message that his/her ideas are important. "What do you think would happen if….?" "What's the difference between a dog and a cat?" "What are some other ways to do this?"

  • Limit screen time (television, movies, computer, tablet, smart phone, handhelds, video games, etc.). Nurturing imagination and parenting in the digital age can be tough. Focusing on a screen is a passive way of learning for children. An alternative would be to encourage children to create something new and different. Engaging children in a kinesthetic manner using their entire bodies and their five senses also can open their minds.

  • Remember to allow for down time. Unstructured, unscheduled time allows children opportunities to imagine and create.

Creative expression in the arts is as natural and developmentally necessary for children as fresh air and sunshine are. Through the arts, children learn the fundamental process of discovering and imagining, originating and problem solving, thinking and creating. And as a parent, you are your child’s most important teacher. The conversations between you and your child during the activity will also help your child develop thinking skills that will last his or her lifetime.

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