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As parents, we can all see the value in encouraging our children to be creative, independent thinkers who can come up with their own creative thoughts and ideas and their own ways of solving problems, and being confident in doing so. That bit’s easy. The more difficult part sometimes is actually figuring out how to put that into practice. Time is not on our side as parents and we sometimes feel that there are not enough hours in the day. For those of us who work outside the home, we struggle to rush home, have dinner, do homework and have bath-time. For those of us whose place of work is in the home, daytime is just as busy, as we are pushed from one hour to the next meeting constant demands from our children and our home. Perhaps there just doesn’t seem to be any space in our day and in our family to squeeze in any form of creativity?

Every child is born with the ability to be creative. For some it comes naturally, just as it does for some children to ride a bike with ease or play sports well. But for others, encouragement is hugely beneficial to the child. We can train the eye, the ear and the mind to be creative and help our children gain access to a creative way of seeing and thinking about the world. We can assist them with concentration, competence, optimism, perseverance, appreciation and positivity in all that they do. We can encourage and applaud their creative activity and outcomes and we can let them know in bucketfuls how very proud we are of them and all that they do and achieve. If you are looking for ideas about how to encourage creativity, imagination and discovery in your child, the following are some pointers that we have picked up over time in Imaginosity. Perhaps one will spark an idea in your own mind as to what would interest your own child and how you could do this at home.

MOVE AWAY FROM THAT SCREEN! A child that is constantly entertained by screens and other visual media, will find it difficult to find ways to entertain themselves when that media is removed. Your child’s imagination and thought processes are pre-defined when playing a video game. They must ‘press A’ to make the guy jump or ‘B’ to make the building explode. There isn’t much imagination in these pursuits. Ditch the ipads, the smartphones, the Wiis and anything else that your child seems to be spending too much time using. We’re not suggesting to take them away completely, but do limit the time to allow creativity and imagination creep back in through those cracks in time.

ENCOURAGE THEM TO THINK OUTSIDE THE (CARDBOARD) BOX: The inside of a toilet roll can be made into binoculars, a cardboard tube can be a telescope or a racetrack for cars, a plastic bottle filled with pebbles could be a music shaker, a cardboard box could be a Formula 1 racing car, a shoebox could be an elevator on the arm of the sofa. Guide your child to think outside the box, but try not to interfere too much in the process. Allow their imaginations the time and space to self-guide.

PROVIDE THEM WITH AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE THEIR CREATIVITY CAN ABOUND: Get out the paints, pencils, feathers, glue, play dough, sand, water, glitter and anything else that you think can be used. Collect, or at least put aside milk cartons or egg boxes and save them for creative pursuits. Allow your child just to ‘be’; to figure it all out for themselves and to create what they would like to create, not what you think that they should create. Another way to provide a creative environment is to take a trip outside; point out the colours in the sky, the flowers, the shapes of the trees. Encourage them to be aware of the weather and to recognise the change in the seasons, when there’s a full moon or a sky filled with brightly shining stars, get their coats on and go outside. The more aware they are of their outside environment, the more they can dream and think about their place in the world.

TV Presenter and Naturalist, Chris Packham, said: “The love that fuels a lifeties interest in wild things comes from the heart not the hard drive and what ignites it is contact. The Wild Network, which was launched in late September 2013, today reached a milestone of 1,000 member organisations – all pledging to encourage kids to play outside more and re­connect with the natural world on our doorsteps[1].

GET MESSY! As parents (some, not all!) we have a tendency to be tidy and to immediately clean up a mess for fear of the mess becoming even bigger if left unattended. A child is not going to think or act creatively in a controlled, tidy environment. That is a fact. So give in to the mess. There’s plenty of time later on to tidy up. 

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