In 2001, Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, joined a team of 55 international researchers to research the question: “How can we help young people realise their full potential?” This led to research into what makes life worth living, how we experience a richer life, how we reach optimal well-being and how we can become the best version of ourselves. Thus followed three years of research, which resulted in the identification of the 24 character strengths used by mankind.
This series of blogs helps you understand the 24 scientifically proven character strengths, which help mankind’s well-being and quality of life across the globe.
Strength #1 Creativity
10 TIPS FOR FOSTERING CREATIVITY IN YOUR CHILDREN
Creativity is a really important strength to have somewhere in your toolbox! It’s important to understand that creativity isn’t simply limited to art/music/drama … — it is also vital for science, maths, and even social and emotional intelligence. Being creative means that people are more flexible in their thinking and are better problem solvers. This is so important in helping them with life – and with work opportunities, as they can easily adapt to technological advances and deal with and manage change. It’s a strength which is a key to success in nearly everything we do. Creativity is a key component of wellbeing and happiness and an important resilience skill to help promote in children.
Many people assume that creativity is something that you are born with, a gift. But actually, creativity is more skill than inborn talent, and it’s a skill that parents can help their child develop.
I really feel that there is a danger that children of today don’t need to be as imaginative, and therefore, as creative, as older generations. The availability of manufactured toys and games often means that children don’t get the opportunity to make believe that a chopstick is a fairy wand, or that branch is a knight’s sword. Similarly, academic expectations often dominate free time, along with a packed schedule of after school and weekend activities. Leaving little time for creativity or imagination.
As a parent, and teacher, I know the importance of play - of down-time. The value of a bored child inventing a game to keep them amused. The importance of living in an environment where imagination and creativity are both prized and enabled.
Here are 10 Top Tips for fostering creativity in your children:
- Provide time and resources for creative expression. Children are at their creative best when left alone to play, with no adult or older sibling to tell them what to do
- After time comes space! Not every parent is happy with mess – and creative play can get messy and untidy. The best solution to this is to provide your child with a creative space where they know they can be messy, without being worried
- Creative gifting. How many plastic dolls or superhero models does a child need? Really? For birthdays and Christmas, ask people to give creative presents – coloured paper, pens, paint, modelling materials, dressing up props, building materials … Add these to your creative space
- Encourage photography, let them use your phone, a tablet – or get them a cheap camera to experiment with. Look at buildings. Go to the theatre and cinema and talk about what you’ve seen. Embrace new technology and let your children see you using it. Encourage new interests
- Encourage creativity. Let children plan part of your weekend “What can we do that we haven’t done before?” or plan an evening of family creativity where you all make or do something together
- Let children know that it’s OK to fail and to make mistakes. They will learn that best if you model that yourself. Children who are afraid of failure and ridicule often avoid any creative activity. If a child doesn’t feel confident and secure to make mistakes – it can REALLY curb their creativity.
- Value creativity and innovation yourself. Put up artwork around the house, visit museums and galleries – the library too. Have music in your house – share your favourite songs and musicians with each other. Get younger children playing tambourine, maracas, drumming along to songs on saucepans and plastic storage boxes. Expose them to popular music, but also classical, opera – music from around the world
- Read, read, read! Buy books, read books, display books around the home, borrow books from the library, look at illustrations, talk about the writing, the rhyming, the stories. “What happens next?” “What would be a good ending?” Tell each other stories, make them up – the sillier the better!
- Don’t be a helicopter parent! You don’t need to be in control of their every minute, their every activity. They don’t need to be in your sight every second. Loosen up! It’s OK if they colour outside the lines, make mistakes putting that Lego model together. Constant direction and interruption can interfere with the thinking and doing processes. Along with this goes extra activities and classes that you sign your child up for. Are they REALLY enjoying the piano lessons two years in, or is it something YOU want them to do? Creativity is halted when the enjoyment isn’t there
- Have discussions. Ask children what they think about things that have happened, encourage individual thought and opinion. Let them know that it’s OK to have different opinions and to disagree with each other. Talk about problems, worries – real or imaginary, encourage them to find a way of solving the problem. “Is there another way we could solve this? What else could we do?” Problem-solving is a very creative process and thinking ‘outside the box’ is valuable in life and in work situations. Microsoft and Apple look for creativity in their employees – it improves finding solutions and accelerates innovation
All these things and more, put into practice, will give your children an environment that allows them to explore and embrace creativity. It’s such a vital character strength which can really enhance life experience.