No one has a crystal ball, but it’s safe to say that work will look a lot different in 20 years as more and more of today’s jobs are replaced by automation. However, one human trait that computers will have a hard time replicating is creativity. Not only is creativity essential to complex problem solving, it is also the foundation for a happier, more fulfilling life.
Unfortunately, the ready availability of digital distractions that encourage passive consumption are likely decreasing the creative capacity of our kids. As parents, we need to consciously fight our own urges to tune out and encourage our children to the same. Here are some ideas and principles that can help you raise more creative kids.
Provide a little structure and step back.
Helicopter parent is a pejorative term for parents that over mediate their kids experiences, preventing children from owning their struggles and the emotions that accompany them. However, kids still need guidance when determining how to spend their time, so the trick is to strike a balance by setting some parameters and then getting out of the way.
For instance, before going away on a trip I ask my kids to make a list of vacation specific items, pack their suitcases, and then review everything with me (don’t want to end up at the beach without a bathing suit!). In another example, you might show your kids how to use glue and construction paper to build a 3D structure, then leave them with a mission to create their own architectural masterpiece.
Ask for their help and input.
Next time you have a project you want to engage your kids in, avoid giving instructions. Ask them for input on how to approach the task and you will not only engage their problem solving skills, you’ll ignite their enthusiasm by providing them with some ownership of the project. A back yard clean up could start with questions like, “What tools should we use to clean the back yard?” or “What area should we take on first?” Depending on your child’s age, you still may need to guide them to an acceptable answer, but they’ll appreciate you involving them in the decision making process.
Rotate your kids' toys to improve focus.
Anyone who owns a smartphone can confirm that having too many options leads to distraction and decreased productivity. The same principle applies to kids’ playtimes. Instead of giving them access to all of their toys and activities, limit them to one or two. This will encourage them to go deeper into a single activity and discourage them from getting distracted if and when they reach a challenging impasse.
Nurture their passions.
When your child starts to develop a specific interest, particularly one that’s outside your personal experience, help them to explore it more deeply. As a first step, identify the specific interest in words to give them the language with which to discuss it. For instance, if your child is constantly singing along to songs, get them to talk about what they’re responding to in the music (and try to let go of any preconceptions that may reflect your interests rather that theirs!) From there you’ll be in a better position to explore opportunities to support them activities, groups and relationships they can pursue that will allow them to deepen their experience and appreciation.
Recontextualize everyday items.
Is it empty paper towel tube or a telescope? A refrigerator box or a fortress? To a great extent you’ll have to tap into your own creativity to ignite your children’s. Try to consciously see the objects around you in a new light, through the eyes of an imaginative child seeking adventure. In addition to seeding new ways to occupy their time, you may find yourself with a renewed sense of creative optimism.
Jeremy Robinson is a partner and the Chief Marketing Officer at Soyoung, a children brand focusing on health and wellness.