What To Do With An Idea? Encouraging Creativity in Our Children

This post is sponsored by Origin.

As a parent, there is much I want for my three children. I want them to be healthy. I want them to be kind and thoughtful of others as well as look after themselves. I want them to persevere when things are hard and show resilience when things don't go their way. I want them to love and be loved. I want them to be creative, to always be able to look at something and see all the possibilities it holds. To me, teaching them this will be my greatest gift and challenge.

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How to encourage creativity in our children | youclevermonkey

But as parents how do we best promote creativity in our children? Many great books like Creating Innovators tell us how important nurturing creativity and innovation in our children are but that these skills can also be encouraged, taught and mentored in the right environment. We know that Australia has a rich history of innovation with many seemingly simple ideas nurtured, adapted and developed to change the way we live today.

This year, one Australian company has created such an opportunity for our children to showcase their creativity. Origin are once again holding their littleBIGidea competition for Australian school children in Years 3-8. Children can enter their innovative idea for a chance to win a trip of a lifetime to the US including a visit to NASA's Cape Kennedy Space Center and Epcot Themepark in Disneyworld Florida, and, having been there years ago myself, it is a place you want to visit!

The competition is open now. Entries close on 21st August 2015. For more details including how to enter, visit www.littlebigidea.com.au

So how best to help our children become creative? There are many ways to help promote the set of skills and habits of mind shared by innovative people. Here are my top five -

1. Encourage their curiosity - Every parent knows how many questions a two year old can ask but help them shape their questions over time to become good questions displaying an ability to think critically - a reflection of their need to understand things more clearly. Books are a great resource for the even the youngest of children. Read to them from birth and read widely. Maybe read the book What Do You Do With an Idea? to help inspire them to enter the littleBIGidea competition! Such a beautiful book.

2. Let them play - Play allows children to imagine and pretend the world is different. Through play children learn to collaborate, listening and learning from others from diverse backgrounds. Play provides a framework that allows children to explore, experiment and take risks to discover the world around them. During play, children use trial and error without as much fear of failure, they adapt their play to try again. Play is easily the most important activity they can do in early childhood.

3. Create a growth mindset - Parents and teachers alike can help children approach problems with a sense of optimism, to see that even the most challenging problem can be solved with perseverance and adaptive thinking. Being able to empathise with others is also key - to be able to see something and think about what they would change to make it better or easier for people to use. 

4. Be imaginative - Your toddler might look at you like you've lost your mind the first time you open your imaginary fridge door to get out some more pretend milk to go in your invisible cup of tea while you're playing but fast-forward ten years and they'll be the one looking out the car window at the crocodile in the clouds or keeping the recycling to make a robot. Use a mix of real-life and open-ended objects in play to encourage their imaginations. Using open-ended objects allows children to use their imagination to transform objects and actions during play - the forks that become trees, the wooden block that becomes a car, the white shirt that turns them into the vet looking after their toy dog.

How to encourage creativity in our children | youclevermonkey

5. Showcase art and science at home - Provide resources and opportunities for children to experiment and create - space and time included. We just updated our space at home. Emphasize the process rather than the product particularly in early childhood and leave the direction up to them. Don't always show them how to do it. Involve them in tasks like cooking (a first science). Celebrate and display their work to help encourage them and what interests them. Share your passions with them and talk to them about their work. For me, providing art and sensory rich experiences at home helps build creativity just as taking dance or learning an instrument does. Children who have these early experiences show more flexible thinking and have better vocabularies when starting school. Creativity is not limited to the arts and science but is essential for maths, English and children's emotional development too.

If your child is in Years 3 to 8 and has a brilliant idea for the future, why not encourage them to enter Origin's littleBIGidea competition? They could win that amazing trip!


Thanks to Origin, you can also win an iPad Mini 3 by telling us how you help encourage creativity in your child? What else would you add to my list? 

Simply leave a comment on this post to enter telling us how you encourage creativity in children. 

** This competition is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to Chelsea E on winning the iPad Mini 3 from Origin Energy **

iPad Mini Competition Terms and Conditions
You must be 18+ years of age and an Australian resident to enter.
You must provide a valid email address.
Entries are limited to one per household and will be judged on merit and creativity.
Entries close Saturday 1st August at 11.59pm Australian EST 
The winner will be contacted by email and announced on this post by Saturday 8th August.
The winner must contact me within 5 days or the prize will be re-drawn.
The winner agrees to have their contact details passed on the appropriate PR company or brand representative who will send out/organise the prize directly.

Free printable poster - How to encourage creativity in children | youclevermonkey

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  1. I love this post Nichole and all your suggestions to foster creativity and imagination in our children. The only thing I'd add is to regularly take your children out into nature. It doesn't have to be a hike in a National Park, it can be as simple as a stroll around the neighbourhood. The outdoors is where imagination and discovery collide in the most spectacular fashion. Mother Nature's secrets are just begging to be discovered and what's more, she is a brilliant, patient teacher and your child a willing student. Everything outdoors is pure magic to a child. It promotes and fosters not only imagination and creativity but also resilience and responsible risk-taking. If I won the iPad mini I'd give it to my kids so they could capture nature through photos and videos. x

    1. I totally agree Caro. Spending time outside is so important and we are very lucky here in Australia that our climate generally allows us this opportunity. Living in the country and out of town, I think we quite often take this for granted, something I was only reminded of on our recent trip to Melbourne when I was talking to a shop assistant in her 20s that had never been out of the city. I think using the iPad to record their adventures and findings a perfect use for an iPad. They're perfect for that on the go documentation. Thanks for entering :)

  2. Great post and what a fabulous competition that Origin is running. Good on them for supporting our youngsters in this way! I love all your ideas or encouraging creativity - the free play one especially! Another thing I try to do, is not help my kids directly. I'll willingly 'waste' 10 minutes brainstorming with them ways that they can help themselves, than spent 1 minute fixing a problem for them. I've noticed that the time 'wasted' gets paid back - firstly because they don't need my help next time, and secondly because of how their minds start to open up, when they don't expect a parent to have all the answers.

    1. For me, that's very much what time to play or free play looks like. My kids don't need me to do everything for them but can sometimes benefit from an injection of new materials or a reminder about where to find something so still being within earshot to be able to do that without interrupting their play can help extend their play and ideas. Nothing better than hearing my three play together :) Thanks for entering!

  3. The best thing for encouraging creativity in my kids is time... lots and lots of time.
    Time to get bored, time to come up with crazy ideas, and time to test them out!
    I often feel like we are all so busy and rushing here and there that time is one thing our kids miss out on... so give them some time and see what they can do!

    1. Absolutely Kate! I feel like this sometimes in class, that we're too busy! My own kids don't do too many after school activities for this reason. Having that time is where many great ideas have come from. Thanks for entering :)

  4. A child's innate creativity and imagination are some of the most beautiful things about childhood! I love to see them nurtured. For my children, I nurture their creativity most of all by giving them time, space and opportunity. Time - to play, be bored, roam free, and create. Space - to explore, to work independently from hovering parents and teachers (haha!), and to think freely. Opportunity - to work with varied materials, to see the world, to be exposed to other big ideas and concepts. All these elements work together to nurture a creative child!

    An iPad Mini would be a wonderful way to expose them to creative apps and ways to be creative with technology - so many possibilities :) Thanks to Origin and Youclevermonkey for this great post and competition xx

    1. Absolutely Kate although I try not to be one of those hovering teachers ;) I have tried to introduce both my own children and those I work with in schools to a range of experiences and opportunities as you just never know where some children's strengths lie and every child deserves the opportunity to know success :) Thanks for your entry

  5. Great post & I also love all of the suggestions in the comments too.
    We also have a "Treasure Box" at home which we keep all sorts of things that we can use for creative play and making.
    -We have cardboard tubes which make fantastic binoculars or musical instruments
    - String, cupcake liners & foil which make beautiful jewellery
    - Leaves, bark & pine cones which make interesting animal figures
    and lots of other treasures that can be used in so many different ways!
    I love it when my son sees something that would normally be thrown out, like a lid from a jar, & asks to put it in the "treasure box" because he has an idea on how he could use it!

    1. My nine year old is an expert at that Denise! We have a large making box in our spare room which is home to many reclaimed objects. I've slowly trained my builder partner over the past 11 years so he now keeps spotting things at his work that the kids might like too :) The book lover in me has also added to our collection of making books over time to help spark inspiration when needed. I totally agreed - there's nothing more beautiful than a child in the grip of a good idea! Thanks for entering:)

  6. Wow! So many great ideas :)
    I love being outdoors - that tends to spark creativity in my two girls - digging around, planting, exploring, normal ordinary things become extraordinary with the opportunity to be outside and create!
    I also find leaving small prompts for creative craftiness inside helps too - so a table loaded with different materials or some sketch books and new pencils left out! :) So perhaps my answer is opportunity! Where there is opportunity to move, do or be then there is opportunity to create and be creative! :)

    1. I think creating those sorts of invitations are just perfect for encouraging young children Bekka! New art supplies are always hard to resist! Seeing you be creative can inspire them too :) Thanks for entering and good luck!

  7. Lots of great ideas in this post and also in the comments above! Creativity doesn't come naturally to me (accountant alert) so I need lots of ideas to help me encourage creativity in my children. Sometimes I find it helps my kids if I stay out of it! I'm always putting the dolls house furniture in the right place, or sorting the toys into their various groups, but if I butt out of their play magical things happen! Such as the ninja turtles invading the dolls house and building a zip wire to the farm, or the Little People doing the food shopping and making their own pizzas. Sometimes I think they're the ones encouraging MY creativity!
    My son also expresses his creativity through sport - he re-enacts games of footy where he's both teams and the umpire, stopping with each score to update his whiteboard (his 6 times tables are progressing nicely!) and at the end of the game he looks up the winning team's song on Google (improving his IT skills) and plays it nice and loud, singing along with gusto. Once they discover something they love, the creativity flows!

  8. Fabulous post!
    We encourage creativity by having lots of materials available for the kids to use freely! It can get messy but it's so worth it.

  9. What a great topic to explore and that competition looks great (I wish my son was in Grade 3 already so he could enter!). One way I try to encourage the kids to be creative is by exemplifying creativity myself. Whether it's taking (and showing them my) photos, sewing, cooking new dishes or even something simple like being creative with setting the table or decorating for a holiday... it's showing them that I value creativity, and they are usually inspired by this and want to join in too. I hope that fostering a home environment that values new ideas and creativity will help them establish these patterns throughout their own lives, work and relationships.

  10. Great read & totally agree with it all. For us it's about being creative & experiencing everything together, Miss A copies everything I do so the best part is I get to be a kid all over again. We do craft, dancing, roll playing, trips to the beach, the park, playing with animals, swimming etc etc we are exploring the world and all it has to offer. When things are exciting & fun learning is wonderful at any age and I am certainly learning a bit myself. Good times

  11. Such a fabulous competition. I think it's so important to make children feel confident in their ability to start an idea. We can often put too many rules and boundaries on them and so giving them freedom to be creative and wild thinkers is what they need.

  12. I have to admit, I have a huge literacy bias when it comes to creativity. As part of that, I love to encourage kids to challenge the status quo. When you combine the two, it often means that I'm encouraging kids to re-think the way stories go (and why); to create their own, in fact. I read The Jabberwocky with my 4yo childcare kids the other day - and next week I have grand plans to get the kids to write (and illustrate) their own nonsense poem. I can't wait to see how it turns out!
    The other thing that I like to do is encourage them to explore things on their own, to see if they can work out why they work the way they do. I'll often put (most) of the ingredients for playdough (can't have the boiling water out, unfortunately) and let them see if they can work out what they need to do to have it work out: how much/which colours do they need? What happens if they put in more water or more flour? How do they make it more or less sticky, etc.
    Encouraging them to be active agents in what they do often fosters creative approaches, simply because children (and probably adults too for that matter) are naturally creative :)

  13. I have an early riser - he often gets up a good hour before his sister or I. When he was little I'd have to get up too just to make sure he didn't decide to try and make toast with a carving knife - but the past couple of years he's been responsible enough to leave to his own devices. Where his big sister would automatically gravitate to the TV, Charlie loves to play. He might have an imaginary game set up, he might be busy with a LEGO project (and I throw away the instructions so our LEGO is free range, not by design but rather a slightly lazy approach to cleaning up on my part). I have emerged from my room to find our living room transformed into a cubby house shanty town and many many mornings to a room full of paper planes - I am pretty sure I have a future engineer on my hands as he's always busy creating. Time to play is very important - but I might add that a limited selection of resources requires a deeper exploration of the resources at hand. Also it definitely helps if the area of exploration is something they are personally interested in (as opposed to something I might like them to be interested in). Paper airplanes have evolved over time at our house... they were very basic two years ago - but these days they are origami works of art that have also had bits glued onto them and more details drawn onto them... the prototypes are endless - and other than admiring their design and ability to fly, I have had very little input into this glorious output (apart from occasionally cursing when I go to print some form for a school excursion and we have no paper left!).

  14. A few things that we find helpful in unleashing creativity:

    * encouraging imagination in everyday life - making up stories and songs, looking for images in clouds, dancing around the house, discussing our dreams for the future

    * providing materials, tools, spaces and opportunities for initiating a wide variety of creative projects, including using everyday items not typically considered art materials

    * instilling the idea that creativity is limitless and everyone can be an artist


  15. Developing the imagination is great for encouraging creativity! I love listening to my little one play her imaginative games and hear her describing the drawings she has done for me. Turning plain blocks into an array of farm animals one minute and a Leaning Tower of Pisa the next is one of our fav things to do!

    I love your Albert Einstein quote, by the way! Thanks for the opportunity :)

  16. Chelsea EleveldJuly 31, 2015

    My post disappeared! If it turns up I apologise for repeating myself ;) -Great post Nichole, it really provided me with a chance to reflect on not only my parenting, but also how our children see the world! we promote creativity by participating in our kids play, but also allowing them to think and create on their own individually. Oh the time I have spent in awe watching my children's creative minds at work! We also have adventures and share experiences as a family which opens the children's minds to developing interests, investigate and ask questions, and recreating/role playing. Providing children with foundations to wonder and create is vital in their learning.

  17. A great post Nichole! Our playroom is never short of creativity with it constantly turned into a drama and musical theatre. We have an abundance of dress-ups (you can never have too much!) multiple microphones, either the CD Player or iPod turned up rather loud, someone in charge of the music, another scene & costume changes and the third as lighting director. If visitors come over they are instantly given a role and a job. The audience is directed to sit in the correct spot for the best view & mobile phones are asked to be switched to silent. As a family we are currently filming the entire movie of Frozen from start to finish on my iPad. As you can imagine with 3 children trying to play multiple parts with scene and costume changes it is a very funny sight to behold which constantly has me in stitches. While creativity means the entire contents of the dress-up box is upended on the floor creating a mess you silently groan about, the laughter and joy heard while creating together as a family is all worth it.

  18. Hutchies3July 31, 2015

    Dressing up. Just one assessory can put you into character and ready to play a part. For my very sporting boys sometimes it's as simple as pulling their socks up high, wearing some gloves or a singlet with drawn on numbers of their favourite footy player on the back. Once in character imagination takes over and they are whoever or whatever they desire. Dressing up doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. What kids often enjoy most to dress up in is what they can scavenge in their parents cupboards or make themselves. Its not about how good it looks, it's how good it feels.

  19. This is an amazing post with wonderful comments from some very clever people. It makes me hesitant to add my bit, I'm sure it has all been well covered. My children are full of energy, creativity and have boundless imagination. I am aware that I am the one who needs to let them go and not stifle that natural creativity. I need to let them get dirty, make a mess and not follow behind cleaning up their half finished projects. I need to let them try and let them fail and try again. Often I find myself doing things for them because it is easier and quicker and I have to consciously let them have a go at things that will be a learning experience. I am a practical and task orientated person who lacks creativity. As ridiculous as it may sound I have to bite my tongue when Miss nine dresses herself. I have to repress my desire for matching clothes and patterns as i know this is not allowing her to express her creative side. Its all the little things that make a difference and I want them to be themselves, be happy, be free, be creative. I think creativity leads to free thinking and I sure this leads to open-mindlessness and tolerance. Just ignore the part where it sounds like I need therapy!

    1. Should point out this was written by Daryn's wife Anne, poor bloke can't put his name to it. He has no problem with miss matched clothes.


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