by Tammy Darling
Creativity is a natural part of a child’s God-given intelligence—a part that only faintly echoes his own marvelous creativity as expressed in everything he makes and does. In creating, our children imitate God. To be a creator is part of what it means to be a human being.
Too often we discourage our children’s inventiveness instead of making an appropriate time and place for it. By not helping our children develop and use their creative capacity, we are impoverishing them as well as those around them. We need to give them time to explore, materials to create, and room to invent.
We should never quench our children’s God-given desire and ability to create. Creativity is a reflection of the Creator.
A closer look at Scripture reveals that creativity is linked to wisdom. The Lord described a man named Bezalel as follows: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship” (Exodus 31:3-5).
Christian creativity is being used today to minister in ghettos, on beaches, in shopping malls—in short, anywhere people need Jesus. Your child may not be the next Michelangelo, but his creativity may point others to the ultimate Creator.
Creativity, as expressed by my five-year-old daughter, is purple grass, green ants, and a blue sun—with the remark that “God made it all!” God is honored as we nurture creativity in our children.
Creativity freely expressed increases problem-solving skills and the ability to visualize different perspectives. Free-range thinking can lead to exceptional creativity later in life. Given time and opportunity kids can become adults who are not afraid to tackle life’s challenges head-on.
Creative activities foster brain development; the powers of observation and concentration are well developed. Children gain a sincere appreciation of beauty and a love for God’s creation. Character qualities such as diligence, hard work, and self-discipline are instilled.
Creative children believe the world is filled with endless possibilities. Obstacles aren’t roadblocks; they’re challenges waiting to be conquered. Creative kids tend to be confident in their ability to tackle even the most daunting task. They eagerly engage in valuable learning experiences and have the capacity for solving problems using whatever resources are available.
Children have an incredible ability to adapt and to make do with whatever is at hand. Kids aren’t especially concerned with boundaries, and they have a way of thinking outside the box—something most adults need to learn.
All creativity begins with wonder. G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.” Wonder is the compass that points toward God.
Such wonderment is innate even in small children. But as they get older our children’s sense of endless possibilities tends to dwindle—unless we actively see that it doesn’t.
Children need time to explore the creativity within them. Many children are so overscheduled they have little time for such endeavors. Limit screen time to allow for blocks of time when your child has to entertain himself—then watch his imagination soar.
I have an especially creative 10-year-old daughter. She can make something out of nothing—or at least it seems that way. She likes to keep everything because as she says, “I might need it to make something.” I allow her to keep everything from gum wrappers to empty 2-liter soda bottles with one stipulation: she must keep it all in a large plastic bin that I purchased specifically for this purpose.
Even the toys we buy for our children can foster or hinder creativity. For example, paint-by-number kits or model cars have one outcome, effectively putting a lid on creativity. Multi-use toys however, such as wooden blocks, Legos, bead sets, or modeling clay have endless possibilities and can be reused.
Kids are naturally curious, and when we provide the necessary tools for them to explore, they will do so on their own with no urging from us. My husband saves scrap wood and provides nails for our kids to use. Two of our daughters made a small table and chairs for their stuffed animals. We bought an inexpensive wood carving kit for $10, which provides hours of creative fun for them. They love to put on dress-up clothes and perform plays for Mom and Dad.
One daughter loves to watch birds, so we took her interest a step further. We provided her with binoculars, a sketchpad, and a bird identification book. She built a bird feeder with her dad to attract even more birds, and now she likes to photograph the birds as well.
Ply your budding artist with options beyond crayons. For my kids, ages four to 14, I keep a plastic bucket full of colored pencils, markers, charcoal, watercolors, pastels, and more. They love the variety as well as mixing different mediums on a single project.
I don’t force-feed creativity. I simply make sure a plethora of artistic components are readily available. When my kids see all the options, they can’t wait to begin.
Take the time to answer your child’s questions, even if you have to look up the answer. Those dreaded “Why?” questions are actually a great creativity booster. Not answering undermines curiosity—a prerequisite to creativity.
Be an observer yourself and share your observations with your child. Say something like, “I love how the trees make shadows on the road” or “I am glad God made flowers with so many different colors and scents.” Tell your kids how much you appreciate what God makes. Talk about God as an artistic Creator.
Our children have a well of creativity within them. As we equip them to tap that source, the refreshing spring that flows from them will glorify God and bless people for generations to come.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.
Tips to Spark your Child’s Creativity
Not all kids launch into creative endeavors on their own; some need a little jumpstart. The following may help spark your child’s creativity.
• Play “What if . . .” Ponder possibilities together. What if you were invisible for an hour? What if your toys were alive? What if you made your own clothing?
• Start a never-ending bedtime story that includes your child. Begin the story, stopping every couple of minutes to let your child insert some parts. The next night, pick up where the story left off.
• Provide stuff for your child to take apart such as old watches, appliances, and toys. Allow your child to save the separate components and use them for future inventions.
• Exhibit your own creativity. If you have a passion for creativity and aren’t afraid to show it, chances are your child will develop a keen interest in being creative too.
• Conduct simple home experiments. For example, place leftover coffee in one dish and juice in another. Does mold grow in each? How much mold? Does it look the same?
• Fill a bag with 10-12 items such as a paper plate, Styrofoam, wire, empty paper towel rolls, yarn, nuts and bolts, old spools, and so on. Have your children build something using every item. Ask him to name the new invention and explain how to use it.
• Search yard sales for clothing, hats, and accessories and put them in a dress-up box. After reading a story have your child dress as the character and recreate the story. Encourage him to create his own stories as he puts on various costumes.
• Ask your child to create a new dinner dish that you both are willing to try. Perhaps it will be a new twist to an old favorite or an all-out original creation.
• Visit art museums and hands-on science centers. Let your child lead the way and set the pace. Talk about what you like and why.
Creativity without the Mess
Creative expression doesn’t have to result in frustration for you with these mess-free tips:
• Have a generous supply of creativity items on hand so your child doesn’t begin a project only to find he doesn’t have what he needs to finish it.
• Invest in several cheap vinyl tablecloths or use old sheets to cover the table and floor, making cleanup a snap.
• Store supplies in clear containers so your child doesn’t have to get everything out to find what she’s looking for. I also use a plastic container that has many little sections to store small items such as sequins, buttons, and wiggle eyes.
• Instead of keeping every creation, take pictures of them, especially 3-D pieces and oversized projects. Your child can then use the photos to create scrapbook pages for a lasting record.
• Do not clean up alone. Teach children to put away what they get out before moving on to the next activity.