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Why Raise Creative Kids

Raising creative kids is a good thing! If you hear, “She’s so creative!” it’s a compliment. It means she can do or make something unique or special, and we all want others to think of our kids as unique and special.

Even better, raising creative kids has other advantages. Here is a short list. Let me know in the comments if you think of others.

  • Making and doing things that are unique to you builds confidence and self-esteem.
  • Overcoming the challenges that come while being creative develops general problem-solving skills.
  • Learning to deal with failures gives experience for handling setbacks in life.
  • Being able to see creative possibilities fosters optimism.

You can find plenty of advice out there from many groups on raising creative kids.  Here you will find the perspective of a father whose kids are now young adults – some observations and advice. I’m not saying I always followed this advice! Instead, these are the things I would do more often if I were raising kids all over again.

1. Read to Them

Were you expecting this one? This is a biggie, and it’s easy to do! Even at a young age, those little brains are learning a lot about how language works. They will eventually learn how to communicate with language – a creative process in itself. Why not help those young minds in a creative way by reading some creative writing?
When you read longer books and chapter books (you know, those books without pictures!), the brain will construct its own picture of the characters and events. Out of necessity, the brain exercises creativity.  I like watching TV and movies, but can you see how too much video can be bad for creativity?  The brain needs to be challenged.  It’s better to not have all the visual details so the brain can practice being creative.
Even when our kids were young, before school age, we would read longer books and chapter books. My wife was very good at making this a regular family event and at making recorded books a part of every road trip. Our book reading titles included the “Little House on the Prairie” series, “Freddy the Detective” and many other Freddy books, “Johnny Tremain“, and the “Hank the Cowdog” series.
The Read Aloud HandbookThere are plenty of good things to say about reading to your kids. One excellent resource that had an impact on our family is “The Read-Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease. we received this book as a baby gift with our firstborn and have gifted it to other new parents as well.

2. Let Them Be Kids

Luke and Legos

Luke with his latest Lego build

Let them play! Kids can be pretty creative, so provide stuff to play with and time to play. They will practice creativity on their own. Any toy can stir creativity, but some seem to have creativity as their goal. Legos are a good example. Our kids spent plenty of time creating with plastic bricks what they imagined in their mind. We also had a Lego game we enjoyed called Creationary. In Creationary you take turns using the Legos in the box to build what you see in a picture on one of the game cards while everyone else has to guess what you are building. We had some pretty wild designs at times!

But toys don’t have to be actual toys. Old clothes for dress-up, old dishes, a device to take apart, and even a large cardboard box can be tools to spark creative play. Taking things that already exist and finding new uses for them is a creative skill. As Thomas Edison once said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” So give them the tools to invent!

Are you throwing anything away that you could repurpose as a tool for creativity?

I’ve been reading about Scrappy Circuits, recently – a good example of finding new uses for common things. A couple of smart people used items from the dollar store to make a kit for learning about electricity. (More about this in a later post.) As an added bonus, by making the kit they learn that they don’t always need a prepackaged kit to learn or solve a problem. How many of life’s problems do you solve with a prepackaged kit anyway?

3. Let Them Struggle and Even Fail

That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? We want to protect our kids and see them succeed. Certainly, keep them from danger, but give them time to figure out a solution on their own. Then, when you do step in give them guidance. Help them think through the problem. If you give them the solution too soon, it doesn’t help their problem-solving skills.  Struggling with a problem is a chance to practice creativity.
I once told my kids that I thought laziness was the mother of invention. I didn’t want to mow my lawn so I came up with ideas for gadgets or little robots to do it for me. It’s not only laziness. Any desire for something to be different creates an opportunity for creativity. If all our kids’ problems are solved and desires met, then there is no need for creativity.
What if they fail? That’s not such a bad thing. We learn more from our failures than our successes. Help them learn from their failure and start over. Then they will be able to handle future failures better. It’s an excellent lesson for living life.

4. Show Interest

Chess set made out of Legos

Homemade Lego chess pieces

Kids need to know that what they do has value. If you don’t care, they won’t either. You can show you value their creative work by providing them with the materials they need. That can mean art supplies, parts, kits, tools, or other things. When they are done, ask them to tell you about their piece of creativity. Tell them what you like about it.

If a child needs tools or special materials, get good ones. Be aware that cheap tools are often frustrating to deal with and can ruin a desire to do something creative. You will have to decide your own balance between quality and cost, but spending a little more for quality can mean a more rewarding experience for your child.

5. Be an Example

Making family Christmas cards

Making family Christmas cards

Does this need to be said? If you’ve read this far, you are probably already the type of person who would set an example.  Just remember that much of what your kids learn is “caught not taught.” They are watching you and take a cue about what’s important from what you do. So, practice your own creativity. Perhaps start a hobby.  Have and use creative things around the house – art, music, books, hobby supplies/tools.

Be creative with them. For example, we had an egg drop contest once. We each used straws and tape to construct an egg carrier that would keep an egg from breaking when dropped. I taped garbage bags to the basement floor and we dropped our egg-holding contraption onto it. First, from a few inches, but then from ever increasing heights until the eggs broke. I don’t remember who won, but we learned about eggs and engineering and had fun doing it!


What creative thing do you do in your free time? Are you looking for suggestions? Take a look at for creative ideas for yourself and your kids.  Let us know how we can help with raising creative kids.