By Clark Burbidge

The importance of creativity in our lives has been supported by study after study, but in our current public school system, the curriculum rarely supports creative thinking in our children. Too often, we find standards that are driven by tests, or by the desire to deliver curriculum in the most economical way. Such efforts do not train our children to think; rather, they teach memorization without meaning and regurgitation on demand, without understanding.

Measuring students’ skills by using a grading scale, while critical in schools, does not take into account the full spectrum of learning development necessary for our children to achieve success in many aspects of their lives. By taking our children away from art, music, performance, and other creative offerings that historically round out primary education, we are sliding ever more toward teaching what the answer is, rather than why the answer is important and how to get there. And as a result, our children are losing touch with the actual beauty of life on this planet.

Fostering creativity in children builds confidence, self-esteem, understanding, empathy, and emotional health. And if they aren’t getting it in the classroom, we parents must provide it ourselves. Below are a few great ways to help foster your child’s creativity outside the classroom environment—beyond art and craft projects.

Start a family book club. Reading with our kids is a great way to develop imagination. Take it a step further by spending time talking about the book afterwards. To avoid this feeling like just another homework assignment, start with an informal dinner conversation, asking questions like, what was the motive of the main character? Did he make a morally right decision? What would you have done in that situation? Help your kids look at the story from different angles and think of new possible outcomes.

Start a family blog. Creative writing can help improve a child’s vocabulary, as well as his creative muscles. A blog can be a great medium for a fiction series (like, what if we lived in space?) or to explore a topic your child is interested in, like cooking or science.

Take advantage of YouTube. There are a great many educational shows on YouTube and some of them are terrific—like TED’s Education channel. So many subjects are left out of traditional education these days. Discussing them will expand your child’s view of the world, and may even lead to a new passion! Ask your child what her favorite building is and why (maybe you have a budding architect on your hands), or her favorite scene in a TV show (maybe she’d like screenwriting), or favorite magazine (journalism). If you have middle- or high schoolers, discussions about social interactions and problem solving will develop creative and critical thinking skills and help them work out social interaction strategies.

You don’t need to be an expert in any of these things. Just get started—from wherever you and your child happen to be. Don’t overlook simple opportunities like museum exhibits, city festivals, and other cultural events. Then, make these creative interactions a regular part of your family life. That’s when the miracles will begin!

Photograph by Lotus Carroll via Creative Commons.

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