February 11th, 2008
Creativity is a value in my home. I foster, nurture, and develop the creative urge in my children every day (quite possibly to ward off any chance that they will languish uncreatively in soulless jobs as
I many people I know have done.)
I firmly believe that we are all creative. I also believe that if the embers of creativity are allowed to burn out, or are never coaxed into flame in the first place, it can die. Although luckily, it’s resurrectable (A word I made up. Because I like to think that I’m creative).
As I’ve personally found, creativity requires freedom to be yourself. To break from judgment, personal criticism and any thought of “can’t.” My mom encouraged my writing, because she wanted to be a writer herself, but discouraged me from other things (when I wanted to try out for my grade school musical, she said, “but you can’t sing.” And I still believe to this day that I can’t sing. Of course, I can’t, but you get the picture?). “Can’t” kills creativity because it makes you afraid to try.
Anyway, I’m just a hack mom, but I wanted to share my creativity encouragers, because maybe you’ll like them*. (*Note: Check back later for a more creative close than “maybe you’ll like them”).
1) Make Up Words to Songs: My daughter asks me every day to sing “a scary lullaby.” (Let’s dissect the psychological ramifications of that later.) By complying with her silly, but possibly disturbing, request, I’m showing her that thinking up nonsense on the fly is fun, funny, and most importantly, doable. Involve your child in the making-up-words process and soon, she’ll gain enough confidence to create a scary lullaby all on her own. I usually take a well-known melody and substitute my own lyrics (i.e. “Sleep, little monster, don’t say a word, momma’s gonna buy you a spooky bird. And if that spooky bird don’t tweet, momma’s gonna buy you some werewolf feet.”) Stupid: Of course. Fun? Yeah, baby! Which is the whole point.
2) Prompt Your Child to Tell You Why She Likes a Book, a Painting, a Song, Etc.: By encouraging your child to think about what she likes in an art form, you’re helping her think in creative terms. I like to think that I’m “turning on” the neurons that fire creativity. (If such things exist. And if they did, what would they be called?) Which brings me to point #…
3) Foster Nonsensing: This is similar to point #1, but more encompassing…Don’t just make songs up, make everything up! Remember Sniglets? (defined as “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should,” for example, “Milkdudes” are Two Milk Duds stuck together in the box).
Do that. Often. Ask your child to make up a word for something, much like my kid did here. This, in my humble opinion, develops out of the box thinking, a prereq for creativity.
4) Practice Undirected Play: Let your kid play! Give them play starters such as “Barbie walked in on Ken and Skipper making peanut butter sandwiches in the kitchen…then what?…” Allow your child to complete the play sequence any way they want, without you orchestrating the next step. (And if your child has Barbie throw a tumbler of Scotch at Skipper, slap Ken across the face, and storm out for a Nordstrom shopping spree on Ken’s dime, don’t fight it. Lifetime TV pays their writers handsomely.)
5) Don’t Say Can’t: I know I already said this, but don’t do it. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It’s a simple, yet powerful word. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re saying it, as in “No, Suzie Q, you can’t say “Ex-squeeze me? A-baking powder?” instead of, “Excuse me, I beg your pardon?”
In the case of my mom and the musical referenced above, I will remember her saying, “but you can’t sing!” for the rest of my life. It cut deep. It made me doubt. It undermined my confidence. It made me think I couldn’t.
(But. I did anyway. And ended up as a lead. Albeit a non-singing lead…).
So, don’t say “can’t.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather my kid have a sense of humor, than an oppressive sense of propriety.
Propriety. Now that’s a real creativity killer.