Written by Arlenea Halyda, Content Writer Intern at Project Child Indonesia
One of my most vivid childhood memories was sitting on my mother’s lap one evening, with the noises from our square-box TV fading into nothing more than white noise as we read a book together. The book’s binding was already frayed, due to age, and it had several of its pages missing. But instead of finding another book, my mom suggested that we fill in the blank ourselves—pick up where the protagonist last left off, and rewrite the story however we like.
I suspect that moment was when I first discovered my love for reading, which then morphed into a whole other passion (writing!) later on.
That experience led me to believe that children’s freedom to create something—anything—has the power to shape their minds and leave an everlasting impact on their lives. Whether it breeds into a lifelong passion, or molds the way they perceive the world, or even simply as their first form of self-expression… Having an outlet in which they could channel their boundless imagination would be an invaluable and unforgettable experience for children.
This is not a mere personal opinion, fortunately. The World Economic Forum, the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), and the Ministries of Education around the world value creativity as one of the most essential skills for children.
There are a variety of reasons for this; through creativity, children can develop their problem-solving abilities, practice their fine motor skills, aid muscle growth, and foster their cognitive development, to name a few. Furthermore, O’Connor (2012) stated that children would remember activities they experience through senses on a deeper level, which is why developing such a wide array of skills and exposing them to brain-stimulating activities is so crucial to do at an early age.
If you ask me, though, what I think the most important part of letting children be creative is how it’s simply fun!
The reason is not only because it can lead to a better psyche, and therefore nurture the well-being of the children themselves, but also because I believe everyone deserves a happy childhood. Every child deserves a chance to explore the world, to see how things are while everything is still basked in a golden light of childhood innocence and naivety. Because once that light dimmed, usually through the jaded lens of adulthood… There’s no turning back. The least we could do is give the children around us happy memories they can smile at whenever they reminisce about their early days.
So, with this in mind, I’d like to show you a few ways we can encourage the children around us to be creative!
Create, Create, Create
The classic answer people think of when posed with the idea of ‘being creative’: creating things! Be it a crayon drawing, watercolor painting, folding origami to create animal shapes, or any other arts and crafts project, can boost the development of children’s sound fine motor skills, and improve their hand-eye coordination.
Research shows that by the age of three, children have entered Piaget’s preoperational period. What this means is that children now have the ability to use symbols and representations to conjure words, images, and ideas! It might be good to let them pour these thoughts into the world through creativity, and it can be so rewarding for children to see their creations being displayed out in the world!
Being Kings and Queens (or, really, anything we want to be!)
Other than creating things with their hands, we can also encourage children to create things with their minds. A mind is a powerful place, and children’s imagination is a vast and uncharted territory waiting to be tapped into—so let’s tap into it!
Playing make-belief where children get to be whoever they choose to be can do wonders for children’s development. Whether they want to be a king, a queen, a knight, or a hero, the choice is theirs, and they will have the liberty to set off to a magical land of their own choosings. This can help them in practicing language and communication development, and enhance their social skills and heighten their emotional senses!
In this modern age, having children engage with technology is inevitable. The good news is, technology can be our best friend in encouraging children’s creativity! It’s portable and convenient, so children can be creative while on-the-go, or when we simply don’t have the time and space to do any artsy activities or play make-belief.
We can utilize technology to our benefit. There are a lot of good educational shows on Netflix or YouTube that you can watch with children! Maybe it’s a children’s show, or maybe it’s a documentary, or maybe it’s even games—the media form almost doesn’t matter. What matters more is that children can interact with it! You can ask them questions about the show (what they think of it, who are their favorite characters, what’s their favorite part). This allows them to think critically, and not to mention that it’s an excellent way for you and the child to bond!
When encouraging creativity with children, always remember: they’re children. Sounds obvious, but it’s a reminder we have to constantly remind ourselves. They’re children—which means they can be messy (spilling things all over the floor, getting paint on your clothes…), and they might not always be cooperative. While it’s important to encourage creativity, it’s vital to remember to not cross a line and force them into anything they’re not comfortable with. Always have their best interest in mind! Let them explore, let them be creative, let them mess up, and most importantly, let them be kids.
So, let’s encourage children to be creative! As Albert Einstein says once:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
Creativity Matters. Legofoundation.com. Retrieved from https://www.legofoundation.com/en/why-play/skills-for-holistic-development/creativity-matters/.
Nurturing Creativity & Imagination for Child Development. Brighthorizons.com. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/nurturing-creativity-and-imagination-for-child-development.
O’Connor, D. (2012). Creativity Development in Early Childhood: The Role of Educators. Educational Tales Of The Unexpected: Children And Creativity, 41-51. https://doi.org/10.1163/9781848882942_005
Piaget’s Preoperational Stage of Cognitive Development | Lifespan Development. Courses.lumenlearning.com. Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-lifespandevelopment/chapter/piagets-preoperational-stage-of-cognitive-development/.
The Importance of Pretend Play. Scholastic.com. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/parents/kids-activities-and-printables/activities-for-kids/arts-and-craft-ideas/importance-pretend-play.html.