At university I heavily studied creativity and whether it can be taught or if it is a skill you are born with. I constantly look for creativity within my pupils of my Performing Arts business and I have a thirst for finding new ways to stimulate them in their creative journeys.
But where does creativity fit in to my Motherhood? How to I foster that within my boy? How do I inspire him to be creative?
I believe that creativity is a skill. A learned one. One taught to us by our teachers, parents and grandparents. I don't think everyone is equal in their creativity just as we are not all equal in our intelligence. It is the key to success in almost everything that we do and is a skill I feel everyone should have the opportunity to practice. When researching and studying creativity it became very apparent that creativity isn't just limited to artistic ventures and musical expression; it is vital for science, maths, emotional and social intelligence. The more creative you are the better you are at solving problems. Creative thinkers are more flexible enabling them to be more adaptable to changes and able to see new opportunities in all that they do.
As a mother I'm saddened by the vast amount of products, toys and technology that is available to our children. To some people that is exciting and I hear phrases like "They are so lucky to have that as we never had that when we were young" or "I think its the best invention as I can just leave them on it so I can get the housework done". Not to me. Don't get me wrong I have be known to stick Toy Story on so I catch a bath or hand the boy the iPad for twenty minutes so I can answer emails. I'm by no means a perfect mother but I am proud that I am strong enough to not have him attached to a screen all day.
Entertainment companies feed our children a constant stream of characters, images, props and plot-lines that zap their imagination. Yes the act to decide to play Star Wars is creative in the first instance but the creativity in creating the stories for themselves and the ideas are being lost. My boy is constantly playing different characters created by someone else but he makes his own stories up all the time and adds new powers and experiences to the role. What I'm saying is that children no longer need to imagine a stick is a sword in a story they have made up because they can play with a Power Rangers specific sword in a costume designed for that specific role. Yes my boy has a lot of costumes so I am in no way implying that I haven't been a victim of this. Every day on the dog walk my boy will grab a stick. Some days it's a lightsaber, others a wand and it has even been the string attached to his spaceship in the sky. All children need sticks in their life.
A way to help our children to express themselves creatively is that we need to give them time. Free unstructured time to do what they want, to really use their imagination; this time shouldn't be directed by us and we should not expect a finished product by the end of it. We should just sit back and observe their creative process unfolding.
As a mum I try to foster creative thinking within my boy. I don't judge his creations and I encourage him to tell me all about them. I only glue or cut if I'm asked and only offer suggestions of what to make if we are undertaking a specific task or project. Children who are afraid of failure and judgement will curb their own creative thinking. Children should be encouraged to problem solve and we should brainstorm ideas with them to find solutions. All mistakes should be embraced and taken as learning opportunities, involve them in looking at it from a new perspective. We should tell them about our learning journeys and the mistakes we made at their age.
I love debating with my son. We debate about the sun and whether it moves or not, why we exist and how we became who we are. I love to have him challenge my views as this means he is becoming an independent thinker. I learn as much from him in these discussions as he does from me. I constantly ask him questions. I'm always asking "What's your favourite book?" "How are you feeling?' "What made you sad today?" "What made you happy today?" By asking these open-ended questions I'm encouraging him to respond creatively and he isn't afraid of answering them as there is no wrong answer to give me. We visit the library together to look at books and he is constantly raiding my bookshelves finding books about creative people in different areas like science, music, dance and visual art. We listen to music a lot and can often be found creating a new dance routine or song together. He loves to play LEGO, paint, draw and read and I love to observe and join in on roleplay.
Technology does have a place in this world and I feel I would be making a mistake to deny him of such things. But at 5 years old all he needs is 15 - 20mins on the iPad once a day and only if he asks and has been good. All these things are hopefully helping to raise my son to be a well-rounded creative individual in a world where the future is going to really need one.