Watch a toddler play with an empty cardboard box for a few hours and you’ll get an up close and personal lesson in creativity. A box can be a house, a space ship, or something invented out of thin air. As we grow older, that kind of creativity that can lead to innovative thinking – the kind of thinking that can change the world.
Creativity is what helps us think on our feet. It’s what enables us to imagine things differently than they are and to strive for a better way. This skill is what shapes technology, medicine, and businesses big and small. It doesn’t matter what profession you’re in – creativity moves it forward.
A study out of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation showed that arts education helps students develop the skills to “persistently and adaptively” work through problems. Foundation representatives Kim Kanatani and Gail Engelberg said, “By asking students to think like artists, we are imparting 21st-century skills in encouraging them to approach problems with creativity and analytic thought rather than just recitation of facts.”
How unfortunate, then, that the arts are so easily dismissed as unimportant. Even more distressing is how creativity is often discouraged as we grow older.
“Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” --Pablo Picasso
It’s the phrase all parents hate to hear, “I’m bored!” Take advantage of that phrase this summer by involving your children in the arts. If summer camp or summer school programs aren’t practical, the arts are all around you.
8 SUMMER ACTIVITIES TO FOSTER CREATIVITY
1. Arts and Crafts Treasure Hunt
Combine a treasure hunt with arts and crafts. You probably have little odds and ends stashed all around your home. Buttons, yarn, bits of cloth, paper, glitter, glue… All spread out, they’re little more than junk. Collect and sort them, and you’ve got the makings of some very creative art projects. Have your kids spend a day hunting around the house and yard for creative tidbits. Create an arts and crafts corner where they can sort and organize their loot. Then let them have at it.
2. Observational Walking
Whether it’s a long nature hike or a walk around the block, it can be a learning experience. Ask your child to point out colors, shapes, or objects. Observe what they notice about their environment, what things they like best, and what they would like to change. Later, you have them paint, draw, or write about their adventure.
3. No Rules Day
Throw away the rules for a day. Well, not all the rules. Have the kids revise the rules for one of their favorite board games or even make up a new one.
4. Musical Moments
Studies show that music lessons offer intellectual benefits. Without the distraction of school and homework, now may be the right time for music lessons. If formal lessons aren’t in the cards this summer, look for an online course or a do-it-yourself playbook. Even an inexpensive harmonica may be all it takes for your child to get creative.
When you’re playing music in your home or car, take the opportunity to discuss your music choices.
5. Museum Magic
Wherever you live, there’s bound to be a museum or two. Kids love hands-on museums that encourage active participation, but don’t sell them short. Take them to museums that will pique their interest in art, history, and nature. Ask what they think. Encourage them to take photographs (where appropriate) and write about what they learn.
6. Digital Treasure Hunt
Judy Molland, author of Get Out! 150 Easy Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future, suggests an imaginative photography session.
“Find some awesome items for kids to locate on a treasure hunt: a leaf bigger than your hand, an animal track, a stick in the shape of a Y, a spider's web, etc. Check to make sure the items are really there! Set up teams of kids and have them take photos instead of collecting the items.”
Don’t make any rules about the photos – creativity is the name of the game. As an added bonus, point out that they’re not disturbing nature or wasting paper.
7. Creative Computing
When it comes to computers, kids have a reputation for frittering away time on nonsense, but as Bill Gates says, computers are “the most empowering tool we’ve ever created. They're tools of communication, they're tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.”
Help your children harness the power of the computer to expand their creative horizons. Let them try their hand at writing short stories, using graphic art programs, and enhancing photographs.
8. Put on a Show
“Let’s put on a show!” They used to do it all the time in the movies. The common theme of those stories is that it takes loads of creativity to develop a show, tap the talent, and organize an event, but at great reward.
Your kids don’t need to fill an auditorium. A simple show for family and friends will do. Encourage them to explore their talents by writing a script, creating costumes and scenery, and performing. Acting, music, dance, a puppet show – there’s no end to the possibilities.
If a show is too much for them, keep a collection of old Halloween costumes, discarded clothing, and accessories at their disposal. Playing dress up is a classic way to create a new identity. Throw in a little karaoke and let their imaginations fly.
The possibilities are endless once you get your own creative juices flowing. Encourage children to explore their artistic interests, even if their talent isn’t obvious. It’s not always about the end product. It’s about the process and tapping into the creativity that will shape the future.
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” – Albert Einstein
Ann Pietrangelo is the author of "No More Secs!"She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and writes for sites all around the web.