Friday, March 21, 2014

8 1/2 Tips for Raising Creative Kids

 I saw this blog post shared a few times on my Facebook and it was titled "20 Ways to Keep Toddlers Busy".  I clicked on it because I have a toddler who makes schooling the older ones IMPOSSIBLE!   Some of the suggestions were decent, although I haven't tried any.  Nothing seems to keep my youngest happier than the food processor or blender.   What shocked me and actually made me sad was this suggestion: "Tape off a section of the floor for them to sit in. Also tape a spot where you place a bucket of toys. Have them stay in the taped off section for play time. This may take some training, so start off trying this for a few minutes at a time." The taped off section looks like it's 
3ft X 4ft, but I'm being honest when I say it could be smaller.  I'm not sure what this world has come to when we tape off sections on a floor for our children to be "trained" to stay in - but that's NOT childhood, and that's not what creates a healthy mind & body.  My toddlers are wonderful creative little people, and even when they are being horrific I still couldn't imagine "training" them to stay still.  Yikes!  I'm not trying to bash this blog (although it seems that's what I'm doing), but why bother having kids if you aren't going to enjoy the hee-haw out of them?  Have fun, be light, and love your creative little people like no one else can!
One of our creative breakfasts!  I give the kids a heap of fresh fruit on a plate and they arrange it on wooden skewers.  It's great occupational therapy for my son with cerebral palsy, and my kindergarten aged littles LOVE making patterns and designs with the fruit.  

8 1/2 Tips for Raising Creative Kids

1. Turn off the tv (and other electronic devices).  Make sure they know it's not an option until a set time.  Ours is right after lunch for 40 minutes (I feel that's too long and we skip it a lot), and one before bed - usually 40 minutes again, but sometimes I let them watch a full movie which can be over an hour.  It depends on how much laundry I'm folding.  

2.  Let them be bored!  Unless your house is nothing but four walls - they won't be "bored" for long.  When buying toys for your little ones - try to find ones that demand creativity.  Toys that don't move on their own, have flashy lights and songs, and do all the thinking for them.  If you hate the thought of glue and construction paper all over your house - have a craft bag or box and designated area for them to do arts in.  Sometimes the two worlds overlap… like when the boys made guns out of construction paper and chased each other around the house, but that didn't make too big of a mess.  I also like to send my kids outside and let them know they won’t be coming in for a certain amount of time (usually a 2 hour minimum).  Play.  Climb.  Fight.  Get filthy.  Eat worms.  Be kids.  

3. Require more.  Little people have great ideas if you give them the chance to need to be resourceful.  All my children have chores - and their creativity in executing them is astounding at times.  Yes, sometimes it leads to me finding things out of place - like a certain someone's book collection under the bear claw tub - but, really, it was a pretty good idea (just don't tell him that).  The point is, if you don't ask your children to do anything challenging they won't need to creatively problem solve.  This doesn’t just mean assigning chores - it means, let them figure stuff out!  You don’t have to read their instruction manual and put their Lego together perfectly.  Let them make a mess of it, or read the manual and do it perfectly.  The point is, let THEM.  

4. Be an example!  Don't be afraid for your kids to catch you boogieing down in the kitchen when a great song comes on the radio, (or Songza these days).  You'll also have to turn off the tv, allow yourself to "be bored" (i.e. put down the cell!), and find ways to incorporate creativity into your every day life.  A few of my personal rules are:  1.  No “grown up” tv until everyone is in bed, not even the news.  2. “Forget” your cell.  A lot.  Don’t take it on walks.  Don’t take it for hikes.  Definitely forget it on dates or special trips.  I know you hate people who look at their screens when you’re talking to them - don’t do it to your kids.  3. Remember who you love and treat them accordingly.  Don’t put on nice faces for strangers and let your kids get the ugliest version of you.  Let your kids get the fun, loving, patient, generous self and if there’s nothing left - the strangers, coworkers, and acquaintances can suffer - not your kids.  The thing is, if you live a true life with your children and don’t “fake it” when you’re out, you will have more than enough happiness to share with non-family.  Trust me.  Love and happiness multiply.

5. Encourage, compliment and criticize (constructively).  My son loves to sit and plunk at the piano.  He creates songs from his head that are beautiful and are actually acoustically pleasing.  I compliment his playing, but also encourage him to do his scales, try new songs, and to try to create different sounding songs.  Creativity doesn't have to be expressed in the arts.  My 5 year old is the most imaginative kid I have ever met.  He wears costumes for days.  Not costumes you'd find in a store or on tv either.  Costumes he's created, and corresponds with the superhero (or super villain) he's also dreamt up.  He will tell me so many details (too many details) about his character's home, family, motives, powers, weaknesses, etc. and it's all from HIM.  If he creates a feature that doesn't quite make sense, I challenge him on it.  Sometimes he comes up with a good explanation but other times, my asking questions helps him see that it doesn't work and he needs to figure something else out.  Our culture seems to praise kids without adding the constructive criticism part.  Yes, your child did a great job - but there is always room for improvement, and let them know that… gently. 

6. Unschedule.  Just do it.  Let your kids find THEIR own interests.  Your child may love math, chess, dancing, reading - but you will never know if you let them waste their youth on video games, YTV and schedule every last minute of their day.  Children join and quit activities and parents shell out hundreds of dollars hoping their child will find their niche.  Stop signing them up for stuff, give them actual FREE time (for a long time too) and see what they naturally like and are good at.  

PS - Don't make being a professional, or a star the objective.  Just because your son started hockey doesn't mean his goal should be to play in the NHL.  Your daughter can sing, that's great - but being famous should never be the goal.  You get the picture - just let your children be children for goodness' sake and stop making money and fame the goal for everything!

7. They aren't you.  I have never seen a kid in public wearing something ridiculous and thought the parent was to blame.  If your child is wearing a costume mid-June - AWESOME!  And way to go for not making them wear what YOU think is trendy and acceptable.  Obviously we have to draw lines at certain times, but your child is not YOU.  Kids look like mini adults most of the time, but where is the fun in that?  I can't hang out with my friends with a fake sword shoved down a belt that isn't even looped in to pants - but my kids can.  This carefree part of life is so short.  Messy hair, mismatched clothes, the same backpack for a few years..... let them decide, creatively, for themselves, how they want to present themselves.  Personally, I spent a good year or more wearing the SAME white sweatshirt with pink and purple triangles and pandas on the front.  I loved that sweatshirt.  It made me feel empowered because I loved pandas and wanted the world to know.  Our kids reflect us - they do, you can hear it in the way the talk to others or how they tackle goals, but they aren't mini versions of us.  Let your kid wear their panda sweatshirt.  

8. Just say no to branding.  Seriously!  What the heck are we doing plastering a kids room in Winnie the Pooh or Tinkerbell before they're even born?  We have lost our ever-loving minds.  Globally, we are facing issues with our youth and their feelings of entitlement.  What could make someone feel more entitled than attaching their entire personality to a BRAND!?!  This isn't just about entitlement - it's about developing a personality that is authentic.  Cornering our young people into the mainstream personality types are not only stifling their creativity, but it's creating masses of depressed and drugged children.  Yes, trends won't last forever BUT the entitlement to "things" just changes brands, it doesn't go away once you've embedded it.   I've seen kid after kid have their every whim indulged based on the newest trend.  Hannah Montana and Justin Bieber bed sheets didn't create themselves - WE created a demand for them.  Please, oh please just neutralize the branding and buy plain t-shirts* and plain sheets and backpacks without a TM.   

1/2.  STOP LISTENING TO OTHER PEOPLE.  Yes, I know how ironic that is.  What I really mean is stop listening to the wrong people.  Every family is different.  Something that works for my family won’t always work for yours.  If you have someone telling you what you “should” be doing with or for your children and it does not sit well with you, or you don’t want it for your child - just don’t do it.  For a family to be healthy, it needs to work for the family -  not for everyone outside of it.  If you don’t like condoning violence, don’t put your child in karate just because all your friend’s kids are.  If you hated piano lessons more than ANYTHING don’t enrol your child just because your parents insist you continue the tradition of music.  Keep them home, put them in after school activities, do what works for your family - BUT, and this is a big but (haha, big butt)…. it needs to be right for you AND your child.  I hear/read parents supporting other parents by spitting out the painfully common phrase “do what's best for you” or "do what works for you".  Well, that’s why we have so many darned issues folks.  You had kids, and while they shouldn’t rule the roost they certainly can’t be ignored.  Do what’s best for your whole family - parents AND children.  

This isn't one of the tips, but we need to really focus on WHO we are raising.  Are you raising a consumer?  Someone who gets every new trendy thing?  Are you raising a competitor?  Someone who will put others down so he can be the very best?  Are you raising someone who feels unimportant and small?  Someone who has never had anyone have a REAL relationship with them?  Yup, there are lots of days where we parents just try to eek by and make it to the next day, and that might include hilarious amounts of extra iPad time - but every day can't be like that.  
We have to invest in these people we brought into this world.  Invest time and relationship.  

Do it.  Just do it. 
 Or don't. 
 Get angry and write a mean response to my stupidly innocent blog post and waste precious time you could be hanging' with your littles.  
Oh man, that was a joke.  I hope you aren't writing angrily now.... 

PS All my kids are in bed.  So don't even try flipping that on me.  

Guess what?  That's all I've got.  

*I have definitely indulged my boys in second hand t-shirts when they are mental for something.  I justify it by saying I get it AFTER they've already liked something, but it's really the same thing as what I'm suggesting we stop doing.  I didn't say I was perfect, but I still stand by the principle.  I actually did stop buying any brands or logos on shirts (Mario, Superman, etc) a little over a year ago, and they haven't even noticed yet.*

My delightful husband and proofreader said I need to add an extra tip, so if you're still reading here's Ron's Bonus Tip: Yell at your kids.  A lot.  Having a healthy fear forces creativity.  The child needs to be creative for several survival reasons.  1. They can creatively dance around your intense mood swings so as not to disturb the dragon.  2. They are so miserable they create a fantasy life that is based entirely in the land of make believe.  3. Being afraid will encourage a quiet creativity that doesn't disturb the perfect life you had before all these little people started pooping, crying and making messes in your house 24 hours a day.  So.... don't forget the bonus tip; yell at your kids!

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