How to foster creativity among young learners

Kids are naturally creative. Ideas seem to flow effortlessly from their minds. They have an amazing innate ability to be creative when they play freely on their own. When children are encouraged to explore their curiosity and creativity, it stimulates their gifted problem-solving potential, according to experts. 

Studies suggest that creativity is not limited to artistic and musical expression—it is also essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence.

Unfortunately, as a child grows, the imagination is tamed by society’s constricting rules and pressures that can prevent children from experiencing a rich and full childhood that will shape them into responsible adults.

Wondering how to go about it as parents? Below are a few steps to help you;  

Create a space to experiment creativity

According to experts, children need a lot of time for unstructured, child-directed, imaginative play that doesn’t depend a lot on of commercial stuff.

Celestin Hategekimana, a lecturer and an expert in development studies at University of Kibungo, suggests that parents should create an area for mess and provide the resources they need for creative expression.

“If you can’t dedicate a whole room to it, don’t worry. A small corner in a room works just as well. Fill the area with things the kids can dress up in, pretend with, explore with, and express themselves with. Some ideas for this are; old clothes to be used as dress up clothes, objects they can play pretend with, Legos, art supplies, among others,” he says. 

Screen-free time

Hategekimana says that families should designate certain hours of the day as screen- free time, when everyone in the house puts down their digital devices.  Parents can use this time to do a puzzle together, play a board game, read a book, among other things.

“Giving your child, and yourself, regular time away from a screen can help facilitate creativity, as it allows the time and space for every member of the family to find and pursue their own creative outlet. Think too about the weekends; some families choose to have a whole weekend without screens. Expose your kids to the world so they can use all of their senses, this doesn’t mean costly trips. Take them to the library, museum and outdoors,” he says.

During this screen-free time, parents can experiment with their child to see where and how she /he expresses her creativity.

“See what activities foster your child’s creativity and then build off of them. Introduce her to other outlets and see how she takes to them,” Hategekimana says.

Build confidence

Vianey Habumuremyi, a lecturer at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, suggests that building confidence is not only important for instilling creativity in children; it is important for all aspects of their life.

“Be aware of your child’s talents and interests, and always encourage them in everything they do. Provide your child with unlimited support while being their biggest fan.

He adds that another way to build confidence in a child is to encourage them to express themselves. This can be done through the arts, clothing, storytelling, and imaginative play.  Be sure to encourage and support the child when they show interest in something that expresses thoughts, feelings, or personality.

Don’t step in

“Take a step back and give kids the chance to figure out what they want, how they want to do things, or how they want to solve problems. Letting children work through “stuff” on their own is truly worth it,” says Habumuremyi.

He suggests that instead of parents stepping in and solving problems for them, they should allow children to learn how to problem solve on their own. Which in turn forces them to tap into their creativity to figure out what to do in certain situations.

“When a child presents you with a drawing and says, “Look at what I made”, respond by saying, “Tell me about your drawing”, or ask, “What do you like about your drawing?” These open-ended responses let the child evaluate his own creativity while initiating conversation about the work at hand,” Habumuremyi adds. 

Encourage critical thinking

Eline Mukankusi, an entrepreneurship teacher at Ecole des Science Nyamagabe, says that ways to encourage critical thinking is through looking at everything with a scientific process lens. Encourage them to find more than one route to a solution, and more than one solution to a problem. When they successfully solve a problem, ask them to solve it again but to find a new way to do it (same solution, different route). Then ask them to come up with more solutions to the same problem. And when you ask them this question don’t interrupt.

“As your kids get older, ask them how they approach certain problems and how they might do things differently. Let them fully think it through without you guiding their answer. Ask them how things work and why things work the way they do. Ask them about cause and effect. Encourage them to think things through,” Mukankusi advises. 

Model it

According to experts, children who grow up in homes where their parents are making things or pursuing passions, learn how to replicate this way of life themselves. On the other hand, a child who is shuffled from one after-school class to another by a parent eager to foster their child’s creativity (at the expense of their own creative dreams) may grow up feeling sadness for their parents.

Show your kids how important creativity is to you. As parents, appreciate some art. Take a fun dance class. Go to museums. But, it doesn’t have to be that complicated either. It can be as simple as drawing with your kids. Dancing with your kids. Building Legos and blocks with your kids.