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.

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.

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.

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