On our recent trip Backpacking around Asia we saw a lot of local handicrafts - on markets and in the streets. The girls bought lots of small purses, keyrings and other knick knacks, but there were endless things we looked at that they wanted to try making for themselves when we got home. I sew a lot - especially things for them, and this probably made them realise that they could make a lot of these things for themselves rather than having to buy them. We took lots of photos of things for inspiration and made notes and drawings of things we saw.
Now we're home, it's trying to find time to make these things that is the challenge. Now that school has started up, with all the homework, clubs and after school sports they want to do, not much time is left to spare.
The importance of creativity
The more I have thought about it though, the more I want to find that time to follow through on things our girls wanted to do and make after the holiday, but overall to encourage that spark of creativity, which is a skill I believe will help them immensely in their future lives.
When we think of how to help our kids grow up to be the best they can be, we think about them getting good grades at school, or being physically good at something, but encouraging their creative side isn't always focussed on.
Creativity is an important skill to nurture for anyone. There are endless articles and research that shows that creative people are happier, healthier and generally more positive than those who do not explore their creative side.
So what is Creativity?
Sometimes we think of creativity as being artistic, but creativity has so many and varied forms. It is not about being good at what you create but it is the act of creating itself that is important.
From cooking, sewing, painting and knitting to woodwork, jewellery making, pottery and so much more.
Lego building is a excellent creative pursuit for kids of all ages. There are endless kits and projects in the toy aisles of stores, but you don't need to buy anything to be creative. Any household is full of items that can be used to make and build, create and imagine.
Outside in nature - building dams, huts and fairy gardens; drawing in chalk on pavements and driveways can provide endless hours of creative fun.
Music is also a creative pastime - singing, playing instruments and even forming your own band! I remember doing this as a kid with friends. We worked out our hairstyles and outfits and all sorts of details like that, but never actually played or sung any music! Still we had fun making it all up.
Creativity as a form of expression
There are an increasing number of 'creative therapies' where people are encouraged to find alternate ways to express themselves or alternate ways to channel negative energies.
Sometimes kids find it hard to express themselves and their feelings, particularly when hormones start to kick in. They are still learning how to control their emotions. Creative pursuits can be a great way for kids to channel those feelings and emotions they are struggling with.
So what can we do to help?
Creativity for future job prospects
In a world where job opportunities are changing so dramatically, how can we best prepare our kids for the future? So many jobs are now outsourced to other countries, or the need for staff is replaced by computers. Things are changing so rapidly that who knows what the world will be like when our kids graduate from school and make their way into the workplace.
The ability to adapt and think outside the box are skills that are going to stand our kids in good stead for a constantly changing future. Good grades and studying hard may still be important, but encouraging creativity is more important than ever in preparing our kids for the future.
An interesting book to read on this topic is "A Whole New Mind" by Daniel Pink. He believes that what is happening now is that it is not the people who do well at studying and learning facts, figures, academic subjects etc who are headed for the top jobs; it is those who are good at being creative. It is those who can offer something different, new and innovative that are headed for success now.
Ways to encourage creativity
If you yourself have a creative hobby, perhaps you can share this with your kids. I sew a lot and over the years have helped my girls make a few things.
For example they've made pencil cases, bags and place mats. However, proud as they are of the things they've made, the most fun they've had has been when I've just given them a pile of scrap fabrics, and buttons etc and let them loose with needle and thread and my sewing machine.
It is important to allow kids imagination full reign. I remember when our daughters were at kindergarten, talking to their teacher about a planned new playground. There was a fancy set up that had the play equipment in the shape of a train. Exciting as this looked, the teacher was strongly against this as she felt it would limit the children's imaginative play as they would only ever see it as a train, whereas play equipment with no theme could turn into anything at all - a train, a fairy house, a pirate ship, a hospital - the possibilities are endless.
I think this was a valuable lesson in allowing our kids to express themselves and find their own meaning.
Switch them off!
By far the best way to encourage creativity is to switch off the television, take away the tablets and electronic games and let the kids create their own entertainment.
I've seen this effect clearly with our girls. They both have tablets and like to play games on them. I remember one time in particular (I'm sure there have been more) when I told our youngest it was time to switch her tablet off and do something else. She turned it off and put it away, then sat down looking fed up and said, "But I don't know what to do!".
When she was sitting at her tablet playing the game, there were set moves she had to make - goals to achieve and clear instructions of how to play the game. Now that had been taken away she had to think for herself again.
On the other hand, sometimes we'll take the girls to a nearby creek to play. They find endless games to play and things to do, making dams, racing sticks, arranging stones to make pretty areas and just endless imaginary games with no instructions or anyone telling them what to do. They are never bored there!
This is the kind of play kids need to foster their creativity and encourage free thinking and independence.
How about you?
Whether it's creative play or making things, do your kids find enough time for creativity?
How do you encourage your kids to be creative?
Do you agree about the importance of fostering creativity in your kids?