Creativity is King! Helping Little Ones Dare to be Different

Creativity is one of those things I think I must have been home sick when they taught in school.

I mean… maybe it’s a simple case of pinterest envy… but the inventive and perfectly photographed homes, foods and parties I see there put me to serious shame.

I want more for my son! (Drama. Where the creative kids hang. Maybe I’m getting it?). But really, my handsome husband is a musician, graphic wizard, and creative nut. So Sonship has a fighting chance. But what if, just what if, all of his creative alleles were turned off as he gestated due to a lack of sugar and Doritos in my pregnancy diet? I would feel terrible, and everyone would know the blame was squarely on me. So today, let’s talk creativity. More for me than for you.

For starters, creativity is so important because it:
 Develops critical thinking and abstract thinking skills
 Increases kids’ vocab and verbal skills
 Enhances social skills
 Promotes problem solving

It’s a tough idea to define, but creativity involves:
o Breaking old ideas apart
o Developing new connections
o Expanding the limits of knowledge (by breaking assumptions)
o Arriving at innovative, exciting ideas

So, here is a list of ideas that might be helpful in encouraging creativity in your children. As always, I’m going to try to make them as integrate-able into your already busy life as possible.

Developing Creativity

Coloring – while you’re busy working on dinner, whip out some paper and crayons and let them have at it. Free hands for you, fun for them! We’re currently working through a coloring book called “The 21 Rules of our Home” by the Harris family (found here) that is teaching him about how to behave in our family, and letting his inner DaVinci flourish!
Sidewalk Chalk is another option while you’re weeding/mowing/gardening/chatting with the neighbors/reading a book in the shade while your husband fans you and feeds you grapes…

Creativity for Kids
For a hassle free art session – the kid in the box is our “no fuss” solution :). Go nuts boy!

Music – we have music playing a lot of the time when we’re home (especially on weekends), and very often in the car as well. This could be dead time, or worse with a cranky toddler held captive by a car seat. What we try to do now while we travel is help him clap on time, drum along with a water bottle or sing part of songs with us (the prepubescent male voice is a precious thing).
o Dance parties – while we wait for something to heat up in the toaster oven. #ohthosemoves
o Turn everything into an instrument – pots, boxes, books, bottles, spoons, balls, egg cartons
o Stream concerts on TV – let them see how bands play together, oh and take them to free concerts around the city

Creativity for Kids
Dress up – Instead of donating all of your once-fashionable-finds, why not hang on to a few of the most outrageous pieces and let the littles put on a show for you. Or make up stories. Or embarrass you in front of the entire extended family who didn’t realize you were into pink leather pants and camelhair vests. Together.

Encourage them to solve problems – try not to get all “Generation X” and helicopter-y on them. Don’t swoop in and solve problems for your little sweeties at the first sign of struggle. Let them keep trying and see how creative they get when left to their own devices.

Read imaginative books – And ask questions that make them use their imagination as you read everything “what if this had happened instead…?”

Play make believe games – Climb into their fort with them and help defend everyone from the impending gorilla invasion, tell them how delicious their Kleenex soufflé is…

Give them random non-toy items to play with – and find uses for. An empty egg carton as a mini set of drums? An old purse as a crib for their stuffed animals? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure 

Limit Screen Time – The opposite of creativity is probably what most things on TV are going to encourage. Sit. Stare. Switch of brain. Repeat. Kids learn and grow through PLAY! And MESSES! Foster those and the rest should take care of itself.

Activities for Toddlers – Strategies for Busy Parents

When it comes to activities for toddlers, one of my new “feel-good-about-today” strategies is what I’m calling:

The 3-15 chunks. (Love me a good sexy title!)

Most days, I find myself at home and car-less, which sounds like a recipe for quality kid time n’est-ce pas? Then I check my email. And all of a sudden it’s open season on my time as publications, job hunting, laundry and writing suck up the space in my planner.

Too often at the end of the day I used to feel like I could hardly account for my waking hours. Nothing of consequence had been accomplished. I was no better for it, and neither was my Little. There had to be a better way, and I think, for now, I’ve found one that is working really well for us. It requires an investment of about 45 minutes a day.

I spend most of the day in the same room as my son, eating the pretend “pasta” he “makes” with sand toys, laughing at his antics, correcting his behavior, hugging his sweet body and answering his questions, but not entirely present and not particularly engaged (usually working away on my computer). This is where I see the dichotomy between quality of time and quantity of time.

I technically spend all day with the doll, but it used to be the case that I didn’t actually spend it with him. I just had time with him.

This is what I came up with.

I now try to do a minimum of three 15-minute chunks a day with my Little (these can certainly be smaller chunks of time, and sometimes it turns into such a party it lasts for hours). Most weekdays this pans out, some it doesn’t…we just keep rolling.

Growing Great Toddlers - Strategies for Busy Parents

Activities for Toddlers

15 minutes for some kind of physical activity

  • Dance party anyone?
  • Kicking around a ball
  • Walks
  • Hitting the park
  • Swimming
  • Running around blowing and catching bubbles outside
  • Making and flying paper airplanes or kites

15 minutes for some kind of intellectual activity

  • Practicing numbers
  • Recognizing letters
  • Country capitals (Kabul is literally the cutest word he knows how to say)
  • Reading together
  • Practicing colors while we draw
  • Learning body parts

15 minutes for some kind of spiritual activity

  • Explaining something about who God is
  • A particular Bible story
  • Memorizing short verses
  • Praying together

If at the end of the day I have accomplished those things – at this age – I think that it was well used.

Activities for toddlers - Strategies for Busy Parents

Perhaps those of you with multiple kids at different ages and stages at home can weigh in a bit on this and suggest ways to make activities with toddlers work in those situations… but I reckon we’ll either move into teaching the same general thing at different levels simultaneously, or focus on only one or two of those a day with each child independently.

We’ve been doing this for about a month now, and it has made stay-at-home mothering so much more meaningful and fun for us! And seriously, my little sponge-of-a-son blows me away every day with his capacity to understand and remember. If you see him around, ask him the capital of the UAE. *melt*