Kids, Craft and a Culture of Creativity: A Contest

or, earthchick loves alliteration

With all the blogland goodness I myself have been the recipient of these last few months, it’s time and past time I had a little contest myself. I’ve actually been wanting to do this one for awhile, and now the time is just right. So here goes.

Doing my little crafts and trying to claim, nurture, and use my creativity sustains me in ways I can hardly name. It keeps me sane. It is a form of resistance – my little attempt at revolution against mass-produced ready-made everything, and my small effort at a slow and relished life. Also, it’s fun!

I believe that as children we are innately creative, artistic, crafty, curious, expressive. Over time, through the forces of prevailing cultural norms and institutions, we get some of it drummed out of us. We spend our energies trying to fit in, keep up, get ahead. Consumerism and conformity supercede craft, art, imagination. I want my children to find another way, join the resistance, value the things they themselves create. So I believe that one of my primary tasks as a mother is to encourage and nurture the natural creativity, curiosity, and imagination of my children. In some ways this has come naturally to me. Tiny Dancer likes to dance, so I dance with him. Little Buddha likes to help in the kitchen, so I give him little jobs to do. In other ways, it has struck me as more difficult than I had anticipated. Nurturing my little artists means, among other things: being patient, letting them make mistakes, allowing messes, paying attention, thinking outside my own little boxes.

I have learned an enormous amount about craft and creativity from the web of craftbloggers out there. My own creativity has certainly been nurtured and sustained by my participation in the craftblog community, and I have learned an awful lot about encouraging the creativity of my children, some of which I will share in upcoming posts. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the entire craftblog community, and no one more so than SouleMama.

I don’t know how I first stumbled onto her site last year, though I’m sure I surfed in from someone else’s blog – that’s how I’ve found most of the blogs I read. Amanda’s blog is inspirational in every way – phenomenal photography, wonderful writing, extraordinary crafts (sewing, quilting, embroidery, knitting, you name it). But what inspires me most of all is her approach to family and to child-rearing. I am blown away by the little people she is raising, and the sorts of things they create and do. She and SoulePapa are doing one heck of a job at affirming, encouraging, and nurturing their children’s native creativity and individual gifts. That’s the kind of mama I want to be.

So when Amanda revealed last fall that she had just finished writing a book, The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections, I went a little gaga. Began stalking Amazon, watching for a release date. And now, at long last … well, it’s still six months away.

(You’re wondering when I’m going to get to the contest part, right?)

I want to share in the anticipation with people. Also, I need something to tide me over till the book is released (you can check out the table of contents and sample pages here). What I need is from you, dear readers. I need your ideas. Your advice. Your links to great resources.

So here’s the contest:
Leave a comment between now and midnight on Monday, October 8th, with one idea you have about nurturing children’s creativity. How do you build a culture of creativity and imagination in the home? How do you resist convention? What do you think hinders imagination, and how do you deal with that? What rituals and rhythms do you think help nourish the artistic souls of children and families? I do not assume that only parents have good answers to these questions. If you don’t have kids yourself, I still want your ideas. Did your own parents do anything in particular to support your creative pursuits? What do you do to feed your own creative self? Where do you find inspiration for the creative life?

Leave me a comment with one of your best thoughts. Next Tuesday, I will draw one name, at random, as the winner.

The prize? I will preorder for you your very own copy of The Creative Family. (Judging from the table of contents, this book would be inspirational even for someone without children, or it would also make a lovely baby shower gift.)

And just so you’re not sitting around empty-handed for six months, I’ll also throw in a couple of other goodies for the prize-winner:
– one skein of Malabrigo, in Indigo (a sort of blue-purple). A treat to knit with, as many of you can attest. One skein (225 yds) of worsted weight merino yarn is plenty to make a long skinny scarf, a great hat, a Calorimetry or two, a pair of wristwarmers, or a little shrug (like the One Skein Wonder). If you’d like to see how this particular color knits up, check out Lolly’s fab sweater.

(prize is one skein; picture shows two)

– a set of custom stitch markers made by yours truly, in your choice of color. You can see some examples of my new little craft here. If you’re not a knitter, I could try my hand at a pair of earrings instead (if you don’t mind taking that risk!). If you’re not a knitter and not a woman (hi, Chris!), well, I guess we’ll have to work something out.

There it is. My little contest, with hopes that I don’t sound too much like a soulemama-stalker (though her blog is most definitely stalk-worthy). I look forward to reading your ideas. Let the games begin!

49 thoughts on “Kids, Craft and a Culture of Creativity: A Contest

  1. Wow! Great contest (and I love her blog and want her book too!)
    My biggest thought in this category – is however you want to express creativity in your house (art, dance, music, etc, etc) do it with your children! Try new things with them. Paint with them, even if you don’t think you are a good painter! Draw with them, even if your best drawing is of a stick person! Dance with them – free dancing, just feeling the music and go. Sing with them! And if you mess up? Laugh about it with your kids. Show them how to explore, create, and to not be afraid of mistakes.
    They will enjoy doing it with you and you will be teaching them by example to not be afraid of trying something new and not to be afraid of failure – and what great fears to not have in all areas of our lives!
    Sometimes I catch myself saying to my kids “oh, I can’t do that!” but I try to say, well, I haven’t done this much before but I would love t try it again with you.
    I’m not sure if that’s what you are looking for, but it’s immediately what jumped into my mind!

  2. What a nice idea for a contest! I remember when I was a kid, my parents were not about setting us up to do creative stuff. It just happened (they may tell me I’m wrong about this), my brother and I would use whatever we had to hand to fulfill the ideas and plans/stories we wanted to create. When I say anything, I mean ANYthing, what many people would consider trash, would have another use to me. I think that could have something to do with my ability to see many uses for things (and my thrifty nature – LOL). No rules helps too (well, except for the ‘no drawing on the walls’ type-stuff).

  3. This may not be entirely what you have in mind, but I found that this video really hits a lot of the points that you are talking about (but in the context of school, not home). The idea is that creativity is a kind of intelligence that is just as valuable as the more traditional intelligence.

    It sounds like you are pursuing more the artsy kind of creativity, which is terrific, but there is a more engineering-y kind of creativity as well (I’m not all that artsy, though I would like to be more so.) When I was a kid, I would sometimes play with legos for 8 hours a day – probably the best toy I ever had. As I got older, I got little battery powered motors and made all kinds of working, moving, rolling things. I have those same legos in boxes for R&C when they are old enough not to eat them.

  4. When I was a kid, I wasn’t given a lot of toys however the ones I was were carefully selected (educational). My favorite toy was the etch-a-sketch because it was portable, you created pictures (and eye hand movement) and the picture would go sway but that was okay. My parents focused on the surrounding environment and recycling found objects to be weekend projects. For example, turning a pinecone into a birdfeeder with peanut butter and then we would watch which birds came to eat from it and thus engage with nature.

    Ultimately, I think creativity involves exploring what your children are instinctively intrigued by (artistic, engineering, cooking, writing) and also what you find interesting (so that the you engage fully) and building the creativity from there. I think when the child is interested and you deonstrate that interest that can take wherever you are going to some amazing places.

  5. My kids are older (both teenagers now) but one thing I’ve always been adamant about is letting them dress how they want. Letting a kid express themselves is very important in releasing their own creative energy. I’ve encouraged them both to decorate themselves and their room how THEY want to (with necessary limitations mind you.. not too much bare skin, no tattoos or piercings *yet* either). They wear crazy colors, accessories, funky shoes, hair colors etc. I think this has fostered a sense of individuality in both of them that is the seed of creativity and expression. If they’re free with their physical appearance and expression, they’re more likely to be free in their creativity and arts. They’re both different, and my son is a lot more conservative than my daughter, but my daughter is a budding artist and my son is an accomplished musician. So I think I succeeded. 🙂

  6. I started out as a preschool teacher, then a nanny. As part of my resume, I included an essay on why I wanted to work with children. I didn’t believe it was as important for the parents to want to leave their kids with me as it was for them to want to leave me with their kids.

    My goal in education was to get kids to love learning, before they learned to hate school work. I believed that love of information and a healthy surplus of curiousity would go a long way towards combating the lack of enthusiasm I saw regarding education.

    The most important things I ever learned are the following;

    1. Look at things from their level. Get down on the ground. Roll in the grass. Watch caterpillars. Catch lightening bugs. *Pretend* When you look at the world through their eyes you realize you are learning just as much from them as they are from you. That is an incredibly powerful gift.

    2. Let them deduce answers on their own. When they ask you, “Why?”, respond with, “Why do YOU think?”. Some answers will be correct, some will just be plain silly- but its OK to be silly sometimes. It encourages problem solving, it fosters out-side-the-box creativity and it lets them know that its okay to be an adult and not have the answers.

    3. Lead the way. Its great to look at a kid and say (quite honestly), “I don’t know.” Then follow through. Grab an encyclopedia and look it up. Keep it open for discussion. Too many parents think they have to have the answers to EVERYTHING. **Ask as many questions as you answer.**

    4. Let your childs work be perfectly imperfect. When I was an educator, parents used to take art from their children. Do it **this** way. No, like **this**. Accept early on that they are not extensions of you, but individuals in their own right. Circles don’t have to be perfect, letters are meant to be wobbly when you are learning to write, and rainbows are beautiful even if the colors are not in “rainbow order” simply because your child made it. Let their creative best be good enough.

    5. Leave room for whimsy. Not everything needs a black and white explanation. You don’t need to know about jet streams to understand that a breeze feels good on your sunny day. Don’t over think, somethings are wonderful in their own right simply by existing.

  7. Great contest! My kids are polar opposites. My oldest has autism and was never into pretend play. My youngest will live all day in her own little play world if I let her. We’ve been working hard on getting my son to get into some pretend play. It is starting to work! He now can pretend to be a few different animals and he loves to put some of my scrap yarn on his head and pretend to be a girl he knows with long hair.

    Another thing we ALL love to do is DANCE! We dance to all different kinds of music and it is fun to see how they interpret the music with their movements.

  8. I have no idea whatsoever how to foster creativity in my kids who apparently already have plenty of their own. I was in Joann’s with my youngest and when he spotted the yarn, he asked if that’s what socks are made of and can I make him a pair with penguins on them (in progress). When the back to school package came from Land’s End, my 8 year old, a veteran of Disney character undies,looked at the white briefs, commented that they look like diapers and asked can we color them with the swirlies (they did tie dye at camp). This is a project for when I am brave enough, but I did go out and get the dyes and a tie-dye book. My middle son is the ultimate conformist who would rather be burned at the stake than go to school in an outfit that doesn’t look exactly like his classmates’. So I don’t know. I just try to go with the flow.

  9. Creativity isn’t just for crafts and objects. We sing. Like all the time.

    Its like being in one of those odd operetta’s with no spoken language — and the kids started it off! It was their idea. And some mornings we’ll just sing the whole time — from getting dressed (and it sure stops me yelling at them to get their shoes on, doing it Wagner-stylee!) to what they want on their toast, to piling out of the house.

    We also play with language. So illiteration, rhyming, nonsense words. All stuff that can be done around and about and is part of every day life.

    To me, creativity is something that should happen the whole time. You don’t need to set aside a special time with glue and string (though that is fun too!) but it can happen when you’re sitting in traffic or when you’re late for school.

  10. We are any extreamely creative and artistic family so encouraging creativity in my SD and my DD is the norm in our house. We have 2 full cabinets in our house of arts and crafts supplies, fabric, yarn, paper, you name it.

    We have always incourage our kids to do what they love. My daughter will pick an arts and crafts project over a store bought toy, TV or candy any day. She loves to sing and dance and play musical instruments so we have a very noisey and sometimes very messy house.

    I also agree that the key to raising a creative and happy child is too encourage them to take risks and learn from their failures and their successes.

    Right now my DD is at an age where she is inflapable. Every drawing, glitter glue, pom pom creation is a masterpiece in her eyes (as it should be) and is on the fridge or in the mail on the way to the Grandparents.

    We also try not limit creative activities, as long as it doesn’t cost and arm and a leg, if they want to learn an instrument or to dance or to paint, as long as they stick with it for at least a year (this rule only applies to my SD who is older, but will eventually apply to my DD) and if after that time if they don’t like it or don’t feel they can do it we talk about the “why” and then make a decision.

    We live in a time of such instant gratification that I want my kids to learn that expressing themselves creatively isn’t always instant, sometimes you have to work at it too, but it’s almost always worth it in the end and they might discover they have a real talent for something that they thought was impossible in the beginning.

  11. My children are getting older, but since I have produced an actor and two musicians, I guess I can lay claim to creating a culture of creativity.
    It began for us with books. #1 Son (now 21 and a senior majoring in Theater and English) loved to read, and so did I, and on long winter days we read and read and read until I could read no more. We talked about the characters in the books, and he felt encouraged to make up stories about them. We also sang at the piano a lot, in addition to singing along with tapes in the car. We began with Raffi and later moved on to Broadway musicals. Although he is grown up, we still enjoy singing in the car together!
    The more children, the harder it was to do some of these things, but the general climate of ready access to books and music continued, and has had its influence on the other two children as well. They all enjoy writing, singing, reading aloud; one plays the clarinet, another is a pianist and singer.
    Thanks for asking this question!

  12. What a great contest! Your prizes are fabulous, and the information is going to be wonderful to read.

    My kids both love to be read to. When they were little, I started to make up stories about them. As they made it to preschool, they started to dictate the stories to me (sometimes things that happened that day and sometimes completely pretend), I would type the stories on the computer about a paragraph per page, print them and then the kids would illustrate what they pictured happening. Many of these stories were laminated, three hole punched and ribbon used to hold together. The kids would then give them away for Christmas presents etc. A parent of one of the recipients told me last week that her child still had the stories (five years later)because they reminded them about the fun adventures they had.

  13. I try to have the same attitude with my Boys that my Mom had with me. I encourage them however they need it. I surround them with “stuff”. What can we make or do with this? We say this a lot in our house! And the Boys say it too! And we always tell them they can do anything- just try. My 5-year old asked me yesterday- “What is your dream?” My God! That is deep! And it turned into a whole conversation with him about his dream! BTW, he wants to be a pilot, well, thats what he wants to be today!

  14. What a great idea! I followed your post in Ravelry here and I’ll come back to read all the comments you get.

    This is something that is near and dear to my heart. I don’t feel like I am a creative person (I like to make things, but I follow patterns) and I really want to encourage creativity in my children (4 and almost 2). And Soule Moma is one of my favorite reads – that is the kind of life I want my kids to have.

    So here are a few things we do:

    We dance. I have a play-list of kid-friendly songs on my IPod (music for kids, classical, and just silly, like Stand by REM) that we play at high volume and dance to. Sometimes I’ll ask something like: “what’s a good dance for this song?” and it will end up being a stompy dance or a flying sort of dance; sometimes we just do it. Sometimes we’ll invite our dolls and stuffed animals to be our dance partners.

    We get good materials to do artwork with. Plasticine, for example, doesn’t dry out like other doughs. It hardens, but will soften up again in your hands. And the colors don’t mix as easily, so you don’t end up with a big lump of gray at the end of each session. Much more satisfying and I find it lasts longer.

    We display artwork everywhere. We use lots of color names and talk about tangerine and indigo and plum instead of just the basics.

    Usually I let the kids lead and then I see where they take us. This involves a slowing down that really feels right to me. It could be a 100-yard nature walk that takes an hour or a stop in the super-market to see what all the different vegetables are (exploring builds confidence in their own ideas, I think). I’m a SAHM; how often do I really need to be in a hurry? ; )

    Okay, that was really long. But I can’t wait to see what others come up with!


    PS Oh, and turn off the TV! This is my first time to your blog, but probably you already do this. They don’t need it and will fill the time with all sorts of interesting stuff.

  15. Let me start by saying I have an almost 2 year old. So most of my answers are based on that age.

    How do you build a culture of creativity and imagination in the home?
    I think play for kids at this age is unendingly important. Now this means I teach my daughter not to play with things that are dangerous but if it isn’t dangerous she is usually allowed to play with it.

    How do you resist convention?
    I feel that many parents allow children to watch TV too much. Due to this belief we don’t watch TV.

    What do you think hinders imagination, and how do you deal with that?
    See above. More on the TV theme I think that TV programs for kids give kids an image to imagine and don’t let them imagine on their own.

    What rituals and rhythms do you think help nourish the artistic souls of children and families?
    I think that kids need a routine to feel safe and secure in their environment, and when they feel safe and secure it becomes a better place to play and explore in. Because of this I try and have naps and meals at the same time every day. Other stuff, like cuddling and baths change in the order and times each day.

    Did your own parents do anything in particular to support your creative pursuits?
    My mom was really into letting us play with craft supplies. We literary covered the house with junk. I don’t know how my mom stayed sane, the house was a mess.

    What do you do to feed your own creative self?
    I knit for the most part and I play make believe with my daughter.

    Where do you find inspiration for the creative life?
    My daughter, my hubby, and a pretty sunset!

  16. Hmmm, I think my biggest hint for this age (I have a 5 yr old and a 1.5 yr old) is to enjoy the process rather than the product. I try and stay away from figure drawing and instead get them exploring the colors, textures, process of creating.

  17. I let my kids try whatever interests them. Huey has always loved to draw, so that gets encouraged, but we never say no to trying something. Lucy likes to take pictures already and just be crafty, so I let her do that, even though I don’t ‘get’ what her crafty things are, LOL. They get their artwork on display in our house, even in the garage, and my husband has taken some to work. They see me pursue different interests and learn new things too, so they know that learning will continue till they’re old and gray like their momma.

  18. I think the most important thing that I learned about children and creativity as my children grow (they are all teenagers now) is that messy is OK! Many moms avoid “messy” as it is a hassle. In retrospect, the times that my kids were the most uninhibited and had the most creative ideas was when they were the least afraid to make a good ole mess!

  19. I think it’s important for children to see their parents and family members being creative. Hubby is a musician and lets our little one touch/play with instruments. I let her see me knitting and feel the textures of things. We sing and dance all the time. My husband hates things to get messy but I think we have to let go of that a bit if we are going to let children try things out and take risks. As she gets old enough, I think it’s important that she have access to whichever materials she needs to explore and create things from her imagination!

  20. I’m not a parent, but, looking back I realize that my parents dealt with this issue as well.

    Something my parents did, which I’m grateful for, is signing my brother and I up for after school activities through our Park District. The deal was that my brother and I would take the same classes. So, if I had an interest in drawing, he would have to take the drawing class with me and vice versa. Throughout out childhood we signed up for karate, soccer, basketball, swimming, gymnastics, raquetball, boy scouts, cooking, charcoal drawing, water colors, ballet, ballroom dancing, tennis, piano, and we each took up another musical instrument through the school. There could even be more.
    I definitely hated some of these activities but the exposure to all of these were infinitely valuable experiences. Not only did they inspire creativity but they gave me a better sense of myself. Now, as an adult, I feel that they make me a much more open and well rounded person.

    On another note, TV was (and is) a huge brain rotter. As a kid I was an avid reader, a builder, creator, and pretender… and then when we were old enough to stay home alone my SAHM went back to work and, unsupervised, we spent the rest of our growing up in front of the television. It definitely took a toll.

  21. Great contest. Mine’s not so much a do as a don’t – wait as long as you possibly can to start teaching them about color theory and what looks good together. It’s a little counterintuitive because you risk ending up with weirdly dressed kids and clashing art all over your refrigerator, but when a kid sits down to do something creative and wonders whether it will be good enough or pretty enough or if it’ll match his socks, something has been lost.

  22. my mom is a totally crafty lady and is always picking up some new hobby to try out. It’s rubbed off on me. But I think the biggest thing that she did to nurture my creativity was to give my sisters and me the resources to try out new things and the attention and love as she sat alongside us as we crafted together.

    I guess what I’m saying is that time and attention is more important than anything we ever made…she never just sat us in front of the tv and left us on our own while she did her own thing.

    Oh, and my aunt nurtured our creativity by giving us her collection of old prom/bridesmaid dresses…we used those all the time!

  23. the weird thing is i just found amanda’s blog last night and spent a lot of time scrolling through as it is so wonderful. and i looked at the book too, waiting in anticipation for that one. i love to take our boys, though only 5 months, to the park and lay them under the trees. i point out the changes and shush them when the wind blows so they can hear it. it is amazing because they really do pay attention. now with the fall here, the leaves are all on the ground and we let them crinkle them and touch the cool grass. i figure you cannot start too early with giving an appreciation of the textures and rhythms of nature.

  24. For me creativity is about freedom and flexibility.

    I like to keep our days simple from too many planned activities and have materials of all kinds around


    I think children also learn by watching parents create. I love the concept of leading by example. Kids love to copy.

  25. Great questions! I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s responses. That book sounds like it’s going to be a really good one.

    My older son is in 2nd grade now, old enough that they are really expected to complete their homework and projects by themselves. It’s so discouraging to go into the classroom and see dioramas or other projects that a parent has so obviously helped with and/or done most of themselves. I’ve always tried really hard when helping with a project, whether it’s for school or just a tower of blocks, not to do the work for them but to help make what they’re doing more successful. In the example of blocks, I would make small adjustments here and there to balance it out so that it didn’t fall, but the kids did all of the actual building. They felt proud that they could build such a tall tower—it ended up taller than it would have had they tried on their own, and they didn’t notice my “interference.” For school projects it might be as simple as asking a question to get him started, or helping him write an outline before he starts so that he has a framework. He does the rest, in his own words and in his own way. Certainly everything doesn’t always end up the way I would have done it, but it’s not my work. It’s his.

    I learned during a class in college not to put judgment into our praise of kids’ work, but to point out things about the work. For example when my son draws a picture, people might say “That’s a really beautiful picture.” Much better is to say “Wow, look at that! You used all of the colors of the rainbow and drew a picture of us at the park.” If he’s tracing shapes, it’s better to say “You followed the line all the way around the circle” than to say “Great job tracing that circle.” Subjective words like “beautiful” and “great” are removed from the praise–the child still feels proud of the details that he worked so hard on and that you noticed, and yet he’s able to make his own judgment about how he feels about what he did. It might seem like a small change on the level of semantics, but I think it’s an important distinction to make that I’ve tried really hard to follow when talking with my kids.

    As far as what hinders imagination these days? It seems that the list goes on and on, compared to when we were kids. Legos are a great example. My brother and I had a big box of Legos, most of which were rectangles of different sizes, and played with them all the time. Now you buy a Lego set and everything is so specific and specialized that you can really only build one or maybe two things out of the blocks in any given set. We bought the big generic tub of Legos for our kids, and they like to build airplanes and boats and different things out of those plain ol’ rectangles a lot more than they ever ask if we can help them put an actual set together. It seems that many toys are getting more and more specialized to the point that a child can only play with it in one way. We’ve tried to stick with toys and items that can inspire creativity and imagination, not stifle it. The old standbys like blocks, play kitchens, and a box of hotwheels are still as relevant for the imaginations of today’s kids as they were to us.

    That’s probably enough, huh? This is a subject dear to me, as I have always been creative and am pained so much when I see an adult “correcting” the creative work of a child. If a child wants to draw the mouth above the eyes on a face, what place does an adult have to say that it’s wrong? It’s not wrong. It’s the child’s choice, the child’s vision. Nothing in creating is wrong.

  26. Well, to nurture my children’s creativity…I supply the best materials available (and I can afford), homeschool to provide time and space, and really, really try to get out of the way.
    Oh, and laugh at my own creative endeavors.
    And lots of cocoa…lots my friends.
    Great idea earthchicknits!

  27. I try to let my kids help with everything. From laundry(sort colors, watch the water swirl and look at the patterns), to cooking(chopping colorful veggies, make shapes with the bread dough), to yardwork(listen to the birds and talk about them, jump in a pile of leaves, collect leaves for a craft). I try to point out the sights, sounds, smells of everything. Enjoy the beauty of the simple things. NEVER correct artwork. We encourage our children to make things all the time which are proudly displayed all over the house. As a matter of fact, over our fireplace hands three different canvases that each of our children have painted. Is there any better artwork? Every experience builds character and creativity in our children.

  28. What a great contest!

    I remember, as a kid, often being told that I couldn’t do something because “it’s too messy”. I try to never say that to my daughter. If she wants to paint, she can paint, if she wants to pull out we own and play restaurant, fine. This may be the reason I can never seem to be able to keep up with the cleaning!

    Another thing is that she gets to wear whatever she wants. She loves to put different outfits together (all day long), and honestly she often looks pretty ridiculous, but she proudly wears them wherever we go.

    I’ve heard many adults say that they aren’t creative at all, but all the children I’ve known come up with wildly creative things – drawings, Lego creations, dances, whatever. I hope to always remember to see and encourage the creativity in what my children do so that, as adults, they will still feel confident in their ability to create.

  29. Nice contest. I’m a huge Soulemama fan too!

    My tips for encouraging creativity:
    Let them make a mess! Set up an area where they can be free and where you don’t worry about the mess.
    Be creative yourself. They will want to be too
    Follow what they are interested in.
    Don’t say negative things about their work (my mom did). Appropriately praise their work.
    Spend a lot of time in nature- I find that it’s a huge motivator.
    And most of all? don’t buy a whole lot of junky toys. I feel like too many toys in a house can be stifling.

  30. I’ve been thinking about this since you first posted, and I’ve realized that we don’t do anything specific. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t fostering creativity, though. Our son is little, so we don’t do specific artsy stuff (though we do have crayons and he loves those). Instead we include him in everything we do. I show him what I am doing around the house and he often copies me or tries to help. He is good with laundry and wants to cook.

    I encourage him to play. I pull out a toy he hasn’t played with in a while, or put on music to dance to.

    I try very hard not to place limits. He has only a few toys and they are wonderful; he plays with household items frequently, his recent favorite being the dust pan and whisk.

    He eats with us, he reads with us, he goes everywhere with us. He sees us being creative and it’s my hope it is catching.

  31. Both my mother and one of the teachers who most inspired me encouraged me creatively. My mother even now encourages me to draw, paint, knit, crochet, sew, etc, etc… the list is very long! My GT teacher always had us doing arts and crafts and playing games like MadLibs and Tangrams. She also took us to many plays and museums, which I feel are a huge help to inspiring creativity. Encouraging your child to learn music is a great idea, too, or to write stories. Really, I think the best thing you can do is to encourage your children to choose other pursuits like these over video games and/or tv. Children are blessed with such imagination and creativity, only as they age do they lose it unless they take care.

  32. My 3yo loves his book (all of his books really) of baby faces even though it’s a bit young for him now. They show babies expressing different emotions. He can recognize the emotions now, so I started asking him why that baby is happy or crying or kissing or whatever. It gives me a little view into what makes him feel that way, too. He stubbed his toe last night and the baby was worried about stubbing her toe and crying because she had stubbed her toe, etc.

  33. Three things. We keep the TV off most all of the time, we let our kids get bored and make them use their imaginations to get un-bored, and we play a lot outside and in the sandbox.

  34. read to them. my biggest creative memory is of my dad reading Roald Dahl books to me when i was really little. like kindergarden and grade 1. it didn’t matter that they were way past my level of understanding, it was more his style of reading that got to me. Different voices for every character, and he even acted out the entire book BFG (Big friend giant). those memories have stuck with me forever, and fostered a love of writing and reading creative novels. second thing i would say would be just to let kids be kids. dont let them grow up too fast, let them wear their superhero costume to school and have a big roll of brown recycled paper lying around that they can use to draw on without limitations.

  35. Something I read a long time ago stuck with me. I was reading an article on a Zappa, but I don’t remember which one (Moon Unit or Dweezil?). One of them said that while growing up their parents really encouraged creativity and that they had this big coffee table that was painted white. The kids were encouraged to draw on, paint on, whatever on the table, as a collaborative, creative effort. Then occasionally, they’d repaint the whole thing white and start over. I’ve always wanted to do this with my kids. Now that I have one almost 2 year old, I can see starting this as a family project within the next year or two and I’m looking forward to it already.

  36. I don’t drive so the three kids (8, 6, 4)and I do a lot of walking and we play games along the way – counting things or doing stories where you take turns with what happens eg. “Such and such happened and that was bad, but then they realised that such and such could be done and that was good…”
    We also have various ploys that were originally designed to help motivate them – eg. A particular fence that has a bit sticking out is a petrol station (you stop and fill up there, and manhole covers are where you do manhole cover dances (of course 🙂 ) etc. Of course we also talk about the things we see as we go along and they know a lot of our native trees and plants from their walking.

    Now that they are bigger we do lots of board games – Carcassone, Monopoly, Ticket to Ride, Cluedo, Shopping List, Memory type games etc. Lots of games that encourage organised thinking, planning, but also lateral solutions and maths skills.

    And we read them lots of books and talk about them and watch those books come out in their play (they are all avid readers). Books do so much for long term creativity.

  37. OOoh, love this!
    My step-mother was such an inspiration to me – I would tell a funny story, and she’d get the old movie camera out and we’d make a family movie of funny stories… we went hiking, and we’d find interesting sticks and rocks and then make things out of them… if I learned a new song at school, she’d learn it too and sing it with me… just having her interest and energy to support my own creativity was the best.

    My husband and I are both writers, and we find a lot of inspiration in the kids! I have to say, having raised my 10 year old God-daughter, and with my own son nearly two, that all I have ever done is follow their lead, and provide as much opportunity as I can for their artistic interests. My Goddaughter has always loved to read stories, and now writes and illustrates her own little books. My son loves to dance, sing and paint, so we do these things often, I make time to do these things, make the materials available, suggest projects…

    I think that life can get busy and we can forget that it is important to pay attention to our kids and their interests & creativity. I just always make sure they have the time and space to create.

    Oh.. and one more thing.. the most important thing one could ever do to foster and nurture your child’s creativity – and your own… KILL YOUR TV!

  38. It seems like so many things have been covered here already. This is a great contest!
    One thing I would say is that kids really love to feel useful. Creating something of beauty, just for beauty’s sake is wonderful! But there is this unique sense of pride that comes with creating something for the first time that is practical as well. I’ll never forget how pleased with himself my son was last Christmas when he knitted a scarf for one brother and little thumb-less mittens for the other. It was such a huge accomplishment for him and he really felt like he was giving them something of value. I’m always struck by how amazing it is that this small child of mine can create useful things. I don’t think I produced anything of use until well into my adulthood! And here is my little 7 year old boy, knitting clothes, sewing bags, building toys… A couple of weeks ago he built and finished a beautiful box to hold some of our craft supplies. It’s ever-so-much lovelier then anything I could have bought! I guess the other part of what I’m saying is don’t underestimate abilities. It’s great to let kids experiment with some real, grow-up artisan crafts as well. You don’t need to just stick to gluing macaroni and glitter!

  39. These are fabulous – I’m so enjoying reading them. This is something I think a lot about, aware as I am of how magical my childhood was in a rural area, with few neighbours but lots of imaginary friends and a mother who encouraged every flight of fancy. Now with my own daughter 13 months old, I want so much to instill that same love of nature, of stories, of wonder in the world. The farthest I’ve gotten so far is just trying to see the world as she does, rediscovering the wonder that is a ceiling fan, or a squirrel, or a fistful of grass. So while I don’t have any ideas or experience, I’m so glad you’re doing this and I’ll keep reading the responses as they come in!

  40. Very thoughtful comments (but that doesn’t surprise me). Now here is mine.

    My children are considered grown (at ages 18 and 26), but while they were growing up we had a craft box that was filled with paper, paints, crayons, beads, buttons, glue, sparkles, bits of string and yarn and anything else that looked remotely interesting. We had dress-ups galore. We had old stage and television show props. We dared our children (and half the neighborhood kids as well) to test the boundaries of their imaginations, often times giving them a jumping off point and then saying, “what now”? I didn’t impose any pre-conceived ideas of how they should play; I just encouraged them to play, often joining in the fun myself.

    As to what hinders imagination, there are many things. The biggest, in my opinion, is giving a toy and only one way to “play” with that toy. My motto was always to let kids use their toys however it worked for them, as long as it wasn’t in a destructive way. We didn’t have too many electronic gadgets and gizmos back then, but we did acquire a Nintendo and Gameboy (purchased secondhand). Ironically the only one that needed boundaries and time limits set was me!

    Growing up with our girls we attended as many art shows and museum exhibits as we could. I scoured newspapers for free events (this was pre-internet) and looked for discount coupons that would get us in cheaply to the rest.

    Thinking back to what my own parents did, two things stand out. One was the day my father dragged home shelves from a grocery store that had closed. Apparently he knew this was going to be happening, and my Mom (along with other neighbourhood Moms) had been saving empty food boxes and tins, which they had then resealed, all ready to be added to the grocery store shelves. My Dad had a bag of the old plastic pricing tags that fit into the shelves, and had hunted up an old cash register. Dad and Mom then built a grocery store in one corner of our basement, complete with checkout, cash register, small grocery carts and bags and play money. We spent endless hours deciding who, on any given day, would play customer, grocer, stock boy and cashier. When I think of all we learned without realizing we were learning it just boggles my mind.

    The other thing, believe it or not, was my Dad listening to us and NOT fixing the cement around the stairs that led down to the basement. They were in the very center of the house and the basement cement had settled in an odd sloping manner, creating a perfect circular roller derby course, banked in way that nobody could have imagined!

    As for me, I find inspiration all around and in almost everything. While that may sound cliché, it’s not meant that way. I may not always blog about my creative side, but that’s because blogging came much later for me than for all the young women and men for whom it’s no different than writing in a paper journal. There is always more than one way to do pretty much anything and I’ve tried to live with that in mind, and raise my family with that thought as well. Traditions are wonderful but sometimes bucking tradition can be equally as much fun.

    Oh, and those two children of mine? I’m proud to say that not so surprisingly they incorporate creativity into their everyday lives, because it’s as much as part of them as breathing!

    (I hope I didn’t put anyone to sleep reading this)!

  41. I’m not a parent, but my parents were fairly good at nurturing our creativity. They taught by example. Most of the things they did have been mentioned here, so I will emphasize one that I think is really important: my parents let us get bored and figure out things to do on our own (with limits – nothing too dangerous and no TV). I have cousins who took all sorts of classes and have a whole bunch of interesting skills that they never think to use outside of a class environment, which I think is sad.

    I was lucky enough to grow up in the country, where we had a lot of space to play outside. We were allowed to take reasonable risks – for example, while I wasn’t allowed to use dangerous things like the tablesaw until I was older, I can remember hitting my fingers with hammer several times even as a little kid. We used to build boats out of scrap wood and float them down the creek.

    Also, as much as I like the computer now, I think it was good that we didn’t have one until I was about twelve. Even educational games are limiting.

  42. Wow! I just had this conversation over dinner.
    We do lots of things in our house, but my favorite has to be Theme Day. Our family (3 girls ages 8,5,& 2, my husband and myself) create a jar full of theme ideas. Then, on Theme Day, we pull one from the jar. The only rule: everyone must participate to the best of their ability. I am most fond of Opera Day. It’s hard to be crabby at the bad driver in front of you when you are only singing everything you want to say. It’s hard to resist a child’s request when she sings it with an earnest look and opera feelings.
    Sometimes, out of necessity, we have a “no smiling day.” That usually lasts 15 minutes.
    Most of all – we play, TOGETHER! We expose, and discuss, and listen, and share and play. We really try to encourage inquiry and exploration. We encourage our kids with the only wrong answer/question is no answer/question at all – jump in and try something new.

    Thanks for the great topic. It’s really gotten me thinking.
    BTW – I love that book, too. I haven’t ordered my copy yet…

  43. Ok, I know I am too late for the contest, but I’m going to leave a note anyways. 🙂
    I really try to let my child see ME being creative. And I don’t just mean when we do projects together. She sees me working on my own things all the time, whatever they may be. That includes when I make a mistake, or something comes out badly. I think it is important for them to know that things don’t turn out perfect just because you are an adult, and to let them see you come up with a way to fix your mistake, be it ripping out a section of knitting, or reworking a picture after dripping paint in the wrong spot, or even just deciding you’re having pizza for dinner after burning the dish you’d been working on all afternoon! I also think it’s important to let them try out different things and to realize that Daddy’s motorcycle project can be just as creative as Mommy’s yarn dyeing.
    “But what if she getss dirty?” is a question I get from a lot of other moms, who often look at me a though I’m nuts when I talk about our creative endeavours. My answer: “That’s how you know it was a successful day!”

  44. What a great contest. First-time commenter here…

    1. Turn off the TV

    2. Allow breathing space and time – don’t overschedule. Allow your kids to be bored.

    3. Do your own creative stuff, whatever your passion is, and they’ll want to create too. It does rub off.

  45. what a wonderful contest! i have some very creative little people in my life that inspire me daily! the one thing that i feel helps foster this in them is little or no tv/computer/video games! we have tools for creativity all over our home, inside and out. if we are outside they are digging in the garden, arranging rocks and twigs to make fairy houses, drawing huge chalk murals, finding families of roly poly bugs and naming each one, making fabulous crowns from the flower or herb garden or pretty autumn leaves, or making big snow forts, when we are lucky enough to have snow.

    they love to create art and music. puppet shows are a daily occurance around our home, we made a puppet theater out of a large cardboard box. my husband has plans to construct a ply wood theater as part of our home made, china free christmas and i will make some new puppet characters to add to their shows. dress up is another favorite activity around here. what could be more fun than watching a puppet show put on by our beautiful kids in their home made theater while dressed in costumes? life is good! 🙂

  46. After reading 48 other comments, there are many that I can amen not only from our first experience with our one and only son, but now with the four great granddaughters that my husband and I are raising. Our son was exposed to a lot of adult craft from the very beginning and was allowed to use all our tools. He was building condos and a duplex ski chalet with his legos at the age of four. Contractor father, real estate mom, language.
    He helped build the second story on our home. Neither of us were big on TV so neither was he.
    With our second family, times have changed and I knew from the very beginning I would not be able to monitor the TV content with 4 little ones especially the way content had changed even in the daytime. So we made a decision to not have TV during the week and only kid approved videos in small doses on the weekend. I am an avid reader and the girls became avid readers and story tellers. We now read the many of the same titles. They all have different crafts that they have adopted because they see their grandparents crafting, designing, building, writing, etc. I believe we all lead by example and that the culture is having the tools available for experimentation.

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