How to be a Creative Parent
While creativity comes naturally to children, creative parents can not only hone their child’s natural ability into a talent but also infuse an element of fun into their parenting skills.
By Mina Dilip
Many people believe that creativity and imagination have an age limit. They can’t be farther from the truth! In reality, creativity and imagination are tools for a lifetime, and they come in handy in all situations, particularly when it comes to parenting.
Obviously, you need to develop the skill and start applying it in your daily life before you can extend it to the realm of parenting. This article attempts to explore ways in which you can work on developing creativity as an individual, and applying it specifically to parenting.
Ways to develop creativity
Learning any new skill requires a leap of faith. Below are some tips to develop creativity, based on the acronym ‘LEAP’.
- Learn to brainstorm: Brainstorming is a skill. In everyday decision-making, if you enlist the support of family and friends by inviting them to share their ideas, you will discover many creative ways of dealing with problems and difficulties which you would probably otherwise never think of.
- Engage in an artistic pursuit: The human brain is designed in such a way that its abilities may wither away if not put to use effectively. One of the best ways to nurture creativity and develop imagination is to engage in some artistic pursuit, be it drawing, painting and craft, or dance, music and theatre.
- Assign tasks for yourself: As mundane as it sounds, assigning tasks to yourself, and keeping a checklist to track the ones you complete can have a far-reaching impact on your sense of well-being, which can, in turn, foster creativity and lateral thinking.
- Practise mindfulness: Tuning into your senses, and being present in the moment is the most powerful way to develop and enhance your creative skills. From focussing on your breath for a minute each day, to keeping a gratitude journal, activities in mindfulness can open your mind to unlimited possibilities and creative potential.
When you become more creative as a person, your creativity is bound to spill over into all aspects of your life, including your role as a parent. Below are some examples of creativity in parenting children of different age groups.
Toddlers, preschoolers and primary-schoolers
Young children live in a world of make-believe and fantasy. One of the most effective ways of engaging creatively with your toddler would be to enter his world of fantasy through stories, pretend play and creative questioning.
- Stories: You can use stories in many different ways. You can begin by reading or telling stories that you make up, and graduate to story completion games where you begin a story with “Once upon a time…” and encourage your toddler to continue the story. This kind of storytelling not only enhances creativity and imagination, but also encourages children to think out of the box and solve problems independently.
- Pretend play: Neuroscientists have discovered that metaphoric pretend play lights up parts of the brain that are associated with learning, memory, creativity and emotional resilience. Parenting creatively through play can be very satisfying to both you and your toddler. This is because, while your toddler enjoys her developmental stage of make-believe, you get an opportunity to experience the magic of play and a chance to relive your childhood all over again!
- Creative questioning: One of the simplest ways of engaging your preschooler in creative thinking is by using the “What if” method. The more bizarre the scenario, the greater his creative skills will be. For example, if you can come up with questions like, “What if we lived on Mars?” and “What if you had a fairy Godmother?” you can infuse a sense of mystery and wonder into everyday living for your child and for yourself.
As your little one grows into a preteen, her interests and tastes will change. No longer will she be able to relate to magic carpets and aliens. This would be an ideal stage to engage in structured activities and games to iron out the emotional kinks and encourage creative thinking.
- Structured activities: You can use a wide array of simple structured activities ranging from cooking together to arts and crafts for children of this age group. Allow your preteen to come up with his own recipes in the kitchen, and encourage him to create art out of waste. Watch your own creative juices begin to flow along with his as you collaborate with him in these creative pursuits.
- Games: Board games are quite popular with this age group. You can encourage your preteen to make up her own game rules as you go along, or you could both devise a game from scratch and enjoy the creative ride.
Teenage is a time of transition from childhood to adulthood. Most people believe that it is very challenging to parent teenagers. While this may be true if they have not kept communication lines open, in a majority of cases, connected parents find it relatively easy to manage teenagers. This is because your teen is now less dependent on you and more inclined to take responsibility. Since teenagers love to take charge, creative parenting at this stage would relate to letting them organise events and perhaps hosting sleepovers. Moreover, creativity at this stage would be about conversations, and solving moral, ethical or social dilemmas together.
- Organising events: When I say events, I don’t mean a full-blown birthday party or social get-together that drains you and leaves you feeling weary and dispirited. On the contrary, if you involve your teen in planning a garage sale or a neighbourhood clean-up drive, you can watch him come alive. A garage sale can become more fun if your teenager can invite his friends to bring their stuff to be sold as well. Similarly, a neighbourhood clean-up drive can be great fun if you add a theme to it, and get your teenager and his friends to plan and execute the entire exercise while you stay on the periphery, ready to help out in case they run into any trouble.
- Hosting a sleepover: This may take some doing, but it is well worth the effort. Teenagers enjoy sleepovers. If you have misgivings about sending your teen over to someone else’s house, the next best thing you can do is to invite her friends over to your place for an overnight stay. Remember to stay out of their way, knowing that they are safe within the confines of your house under your watchful gaze, and yet having the time of their lives, giggling away to glory.
- Intense conversations: Teenagers are developmentally at the abstract-thinking stage, where they are able to think critically and analytically. Engage these skills and use them in steering your teen towards creative problem-solving by presenting him with a moral dilemma once-in-a-while, and see him work through the problem to arrive at a solution. You might be surprised by the way he thinks and handles some of these scenarios.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that parenting is meant to be fun. What better way of making it more fun than to infuse a dose of creativity into everyday parenting tasks?
Mina Dilip, Child Psychologist, Trainee Practitioner in Therapeutic Play Skills (PTUK)
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