The Power of Play
Ways to Spark a Child’s Creativity
Analyzing more than 150 studies across the fields of psychology, neuroscience, education and business management, the Center for Childhood Creativity, in Sausalito, California, found many important life skills are affiliated with a creative upbringing. The resulting white paper, Inspiring a Generation to Create, underscores that rather than simply being an innate trait, creativity can be taught.
“Creativity should be an integral part of every child’s education. The research shows that we can avoid the drop in original thinking that happens as students move into early adolescence,” reports Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind.
Engaging ParentsCameron wrote the book in part to guide her own daughter, actress and film director Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, in her creative journey through motherhood. While many such works focus on art projects for kids, Cameron’s book emphasizes activities that put creative fuel in the parental tank. For example, she recommends parents take up the ritual of “morning pages”; writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts the first thing each morning.
Jean Van’t Hul, author of The Artful Parent, started a daily sketchbook practice for herself and to set an example for her kids. “I like that the kids see me creating regularly and they’ve joined in a couple times. I also want to get over my self-limited belief that I’m not a good artist,” remarks Van’t Hul, who blogs at ArtfulParent.com.
A family ritual, like a bedtime story or relationship with a pet, can be re-imagined to inspire household members to co-create together. “Instead of always reading to my kids, we take turns making up stories by ‘giving’ each other three things, like an airplane, a shovel and a pair of pants, which we have to use in a story,” says Nicole Corey Rada, a working mother of two in Richmond, Virginia. “Sometimes, we pretend our pets are having conversations, and use different voices and accents to express what they might be saying, given their circumstance at the time. This is a family favorite; we laugh constantly.”
Mark Runco, Ph.D., a University of Georgia professor of gifted and creative education, founder of the Creativity Research Journal and advisor to the Center for Childhood Creativity, notes the importance of balancing unstructured and structured activities, creating space for both individual expression and creative collaboration.
As an example of the latter, Cameron suggests that parents lead kids on a weekly creative expedition, allowing the kids to choose a new place to aimlessly explore such as a park, bookstore, pet shop or museum. According to the author, that sense of shared adventure, fostered in a safe space, naturally nurtures the creative process, both for now and the future.
“If you make art the center, insisting that kids be creative, they may feel a sense of pressure,” advises Cameron. “If you make inspiration the center, it spills over into art.” Connect with freelance writer April Thompson, of Washington, D.C., at AprilWrites.com.