Monday, April 27, 2009


Emma's monsters

One of the best things about having a three-year-old is that, now that Emma is fully conversant and able to draw (monsters, in this case), I see more and more of her personality. I am always amazed by the creativity of young children.

While scholastic achievement is important to me, I feel like fostering creativity in toddlerhood is at least as important as teaching letters and numbers. My mother called her home a “laboratory of learning” – a home full of opportunities for creativity and self-teaching. Looking back on my own childhood and at the environments I see in the homes of friends as well as on blogs, I’ve tried to identify a few ways to create this unique environment:

  • Books. Lots and lots of them. Both parents read aloud to us on a weekly basis, but there were books full of pictures, craft books, science books, medical reference texts and two full sets of encyclopedias. Books are academic, but they can be used to foster creativity as well – and they are often necessary for self-teaching. I love the internet, but books provide information in ways websites cannot. I was by far the most craft-oriented of my parents’ ten children, and most of the ideas I got and (skills I learned) came from books. Check out ikat bag’s post on the books for more on this topic.
  • Time for child-directed play. We had hours of unstructured time when we could come up with our own activities. My parents purposely limited extracurricular activities to create time for this. It helped that we spent most of our lives overseas, living in communities that offered a fraction of the activities available in the US.
  • Structured activities to teach concentration and discipline. In my home growing up, this was music lessons, but I think it could be any activity requiring a child to focus. True creativity requires an ability to focus.
  • Willing suspension of disbelief. Appreciate the magic of make-believe (I love this post on make-believe from Filth Wizardry).
  • Tolerance of messes. Your entire house doesn’t need to be taken over by creativity, but designate an area where messy creating (be it painting, cutting paper, playing with cardboard) can take place.
  • Underlying order. Complete chaos hampers creative thinking. Craft supplies aren’t useful if they aren’t organized.
  • Appreciate the potential of simplicity. Simple toys frequently allow for more creative thought than complex ones.
  • For toddlers in particular, the creative process is more important than the product.
  • Things don’t always have to be done the “right” way. Who knows, maybe your child will discover a better way ;)
  • Teach flexibility. A Large Room shares a brilliant example of this.
  • The primary goal should always be to have fun.

What do you think? What have I left out? What would you change?

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