Encourage creativity in your children

Wisconsin Youth Company recommends time, materials and unconditional support

"My kid just isn't that creative. She's more the active type and likes to play sports, not sit and draw."
"My son couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. He's just not musical."
"She's growing so fast now that she has two left feet. She's not coordinated enough to dance."

Have you ever said these things about your kids? They're usually said with a laugh and a hug. It's just the way your child is. No problem. You love them no matter what.

Here's an idea to try on for size: all children are creative in their own way given encouragement. When we adults stop worrying about if that painting of a giraffe really looks like a giraffe or if all the children are exactly in step doing that line dance or if time spent working with clay is time wasted, then we will see some real creativity.

Children need the time, the materials or equipment and unconditional support to be creative. We live in a culture that tends to measure things by what is first or best. Creativity doesn't flourish when the child is worrying about finishing a project or activity in time or making it look like the one in the book or the one the teacher did. Children need to hear praise for their effort, enthusiasm, and attitude, not only for the final result.

At AFTER SCHOOL, Wisconsin Youth Company's largest division, we make sure creativity can happen. Every program has an art cart stocked with markers, crayons, pencils, drawing paper, construction paper, scissors, yarn, string, glue and more. All children are free to take materials from the cart and make whatever they want. CD players and radios provide music to dance to. Boxes of dress up clothes inspire all kinds of play acting. Given the freedom and acceptance to create children don't worry about how good their art is or how perfect the dance. There's really only one rule: clean it up when you're done! Here are some ideas to promote creativity with your child:

Give them open-ended play materials like Legos, finger paint or clay or process-oriented toys. They can develop skills without being worried about the end product.

Model creativity for your kids. Make sure they see you having fun with art or singing or dancing to the radio or mixing up an unusual casserole in the kitchen.

Tolerate "wrong" answers. Creativity grows in the midst of ambiguity and when mistakes are made.

Make sure your kids have time for pretending and day dreaming. Turn off the TV and the computer and set aside time when nothing is supposed to be accomplished other than looking at the clouds, imagining that the family cat has wings or your little brother is a toad.

Want to see creativity in action?

Come to Wisconsin Youth Company's Celebrating Youth!, a free family event that is a celebration of the youth in our region and the diversity of their cultures, talents, and interests. Enjoy multiple stages of youth performances, a visual art exhibit, hands-on activities, and exhibit booths with resources on programs and services for youth and families.

Celebrating Youth!
Sunday, January 30, 2011
11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Monona Terrace in Madison

Visit the Wisconsin Youth Company website to learn more.

This story is written and presented by Wisconsin Youth Company, which provides quality before- and after-school care, summer day-camp and travel camp experiences and family travel adventures. WYC exists so that the children of Wisconsin benefit from communities that nurture them at a sustainable cost.

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