We all want to raise imaginative, inventive children who are great problem solvers and creative thinkers. Luckily, children are natural creators with boundless imaginations. However, parents can help children nurture and grow their inventive nature rather than letting it slowly slip away as they grow.
Encouraging creativity in young children is relatively simple and doesn’t come at much of a cost. You can start by ensuring children have easy access to art materials in the home, showing both interest and pride in your child’s creations, and engaging in conversations about art.
Here are several ways you can encourage creativity in your home:
Do art projects together.
Children, especially young children, follow your lead and take an interest in what you do. They also crave your time and attention. If you spend some time creating with them, they’ll be more likely to engage, and they’ll know it’s something you value. Doing art projects together can be a great way to spend time together, start a conversation, and just enjoy each other’s company—all while encouraging your child to be a creator.
If you’re not much of an artist yourself, don’t worry. There are plenty of simple crafts for kids you can do too. Try doodling, scribble art, sticker mandalas, paper sculptures, or even paper airplanes for some laid back creative fun together.
Have an art space that’s accessible.
Of course, your children will probably love doing arts and crafts with you, but it’s great for them to create on their own too whenever their inspiration strikes. Keeping art supplies accessible and central in the home will allow your children to go create any time. Try setting up a dedicated art space or kids art corner, and try to make it somewhere central to the home, near where they play or where the family tends to gather.
Keeping the art space somewhere central will make children more likely to engage as they won’t feel like they’re off alone creating. Also, they’ll see the art corner constantly and perhaps be more likely to use it when they have free time at home.
Keep a variety of art supplies around.
Stock your art corner with a variety of materials, and change things up from time to time. Crayons and paper provide an outlet for endless imaginative drawings, but be sure to add some other materials to really inspire your child’s imagination.
I recommend keeping crayons or markers, paper, tape and glue, scissors, stickers, and maybe some googly eyes. Then add to these basics or change them up from time to time. Try pastel or metallic markers. Add some feathers. Try florescent paper or textured paper. However, keeping a rotation of art supplies does not need to be complicated or expensive. Instead of running to the store for new materials, you can just rearrange what you have and add some recycled materials. Fold some paper into cards, and see if the kids want to make a card for a friend or grandparent. Cut some colored paper into circles, and simply add it to the pile. Put cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, and paper shopping bags in your art corner.
Create art invitations.
Another way to encourage your child to take part in art activities is to set up invitations to create. If you have a great idea for a project or just a selection of fun art materials, set them out on a table, and let your kids discover them on their own.
I do this with both art and learning activities. My children will see some materials set out nicely on the table, and they’ll be intrigued. They’ll come to me to ask about them. Instead of me telling them what to do or even suggesting what they do, they sort of discover the activity on their own and become curious. Sometimes this makes them more likely to get excited and try it out.
Display their art proudly.
When your child does create something, show them you’re proud by displaying it. You can go all in like we did and let your children tape their art all over your hallway, or you can go with something more elegant. You can have a bulletin board where you pin up their latest drawings, or a picture frame where you can frame something special and change it out from time to time. You can choose a spot like their closet door, where they are free to hang anything they like.
You can also allow them to display their art by making wearable art. We’ve designed our own t-shirts with fabric markers a couple times, and my kids love it. They get to wear their own drawing! You could do the same with a tote bag or zipper pouch.
Talk about art.
Another way to encourage your child’s creativity is simply by talking about art. Talk with them about their own art as well as art you see in books, museums, or around town.
When you child is making or drawing something, you can ask them to tell you about it. Say something like, “Can you tell me about what you’re making?” (This can be much more encouraging than asking them what they are drawing when to them it is clearly a lion!) They often have an elaborate story behind what they are creating, and it’s fun to discover it.
Also, talk about murals you find around town and art you see in museums or other places. I dedicated an entire post to talking about art with children last year, which you can read for more ideas and a printable conversation starter for the art museum. It approaches art conversations from three angles—the story the art tells, the story of the artist, and your own story of your reaction to the artwork.
Visit an art museum.
Art museums can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be. Visiting an art museum with children can be a fun family activity. If your child is not ready to delve into complex themes of identity, history, and existentialism, keep it simple. Play “I spy” or have a scavenger hunt in the museum. You can spy a woman wearing a hat, a tree with no leaves, or you can create a scavenger hunt for particular colors or animals, for example.
Beyond these games, your conversations in the art museum can be simple. Talk about what you and your child see, what you like and don’t like, and what the art reminds you of. If you have young children, search for free days at your local museum so you won’t feel bad whether you stay an hour or just 20 minutes.
Read books about art and that inspire art.
Another way to engage with fine art without venturing to a museum is to read books about art and artists. You can check out fine art books from your library and treat them as you would a museum or gallery. Flip through the pages and talk about the art that stands out to you.
There are also a growing number of picture books about famous artists. These books give a nice background into different artists’ lives and the inspirations and ideas behind their artwork. A few of our favorites are My Name is Georgia, Henri’s Scissors, and Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.