Teaching Creative Kids Even When You're Not

by Kelly Allen

Teaching children to harness their creativity is a wonderful part of homeschooling. The ability to add special projects and explore hidden talent is part of what makes homeschooling so fun and exciting. But what happens when you have no creativity to speak of? How do we teach our children to maximize their own creative potential when our gifting is more practical than creative?

Though developing a creative environment is something that takes time and inspiration, there are things that any parent can do to help build a creative environment in their home.

1. Sometimes creativity means going against our natural tendencies. When I see craft supplies I immediately think about all the tiny shreds of paper, glitter, stickers, etc. that are going to end up all over my floor! Craft time ends up feeling more like “crisis control” than any sort of whimsical foray into creativity. It’s not a happy feeling and it also isn’t compatible with self expression so I have learned to manage my nit-pickiness by creating a special project area for the kids. The project area should be well stocked (construction paper, crayons, scissors, tape, glitter, etc.), easy to clean up (tile, plastic or wood floors) and organized so that everything has a place. Making sure it is out of the way and self contained (so that projects don’t migrate to other rooms) is also a nice idea if your house will accommodate. Hopefully, if all goes well, this should help with any unnecessary panic attacks due to glitter glue stains in the carpet.

2. The next step in the process is to do your homework. What we “non-creative” types lack in natural ability, we are able to gain back in spades with good old fashioned research and hard work! Whether you do a web search, check out some books from your local library or pick up some magazines at your local news stand, inspiration is everywhere. You would be surprised how many projects are really pretty easy once we find some directions to guide the process. Some of my favorite places for project ideas would be Martha Stewart KidsPBS.org for Teachers, and Discovery Kids. Though Martha Stewart and Discovery tend to be a bit more random as far as their applicability to academic subject matter, PBS.org has some really great tools to combine specific subjects with craft ideas. You can even purchase craft kits from your local craft store. My favorite kit is not typically available in craft stores but you can purchase it from Amazon. It’s called Treasure Chest” and it is designed to look like a hardcover book. When it is opened it reveals a small paperback book along with several compartments that hold craft projects to work on with your kids. You can purchase a kit for a variety of topics including a handful of ancient civilizations, Knights, Shakespeare and Leonardo De Vinci along with many other themes. I also love these kits because they tend to be very self contained and do not make much of a mess.

3. Another important thing to consider is your child’s potential for growth. With all the opportunities out there for homeschoolers, it is not too difficult to find an inexpensive class or co-op group that is able to teach classes for children who are looking for creative outlets. Though you might not feel the need to invest in such a thing for all your kids, I would highly recommend it for any child that seems to show a real desire to learn and has a clear love of art. This lesson was made clear to me this past school year as my youngest daughter begged me for art lessons. She is a very logical thinker with a great mind for science and mechanics so I had signed her up for a building and design class hoping to encourage her gift for engineering. As an afterthought I went ahead and signed her up for an art class even though I did not expect it to go anywhere. However, by the end of the year, Hannah was bringing home some really beautiful paintings and two of her pieces were even chosen to be displayed in the school yearbook! She still loves building and designing but I didn’t realize her potential for art until I gave her the chance to really invest in that interest.

4. This brings me to my final thought on developing a creative environment. Allow your children to lead the way when their gifting fits the task. My daughter, Cayti is a wonderfully creative young woman and she has a real sense of style when it comes to image design and marketing. She can put together wonderful displays with catchy slogans and titles to grab anyone’s attention. She also has fantastic handwriting (unlike everyone else in our family). That is why I often have Cayti pair up with her siblings to help them with some of their project work. Likewise, when projects involve mechanical ability and logic skills, I often have my youngest child lead the way. Every child has gifts and talents and there is no better way to encourage those gifts than to allow that child the chance to lead from time to time.

Though teaching is a real responsibility and one must always be ready to offer guidance, we are not required to have all the answers, all the time. Learning is a process, not just for our children, but for us parents as well. The real challenge is not learning to be creative; it’s learning to love learning.