• The Storyteller's Cottage

How to Keep a Creative Child Happy

Updated: Mar 18

Most kids enjoy creative projects when presented with them, especially in a setting where an authority figure leads the activity. But there is a distinct group of children whose brains generate a tremendous amount of creative pursuits all day, all night, all on their own.  These kids LIVE to imagine.  They come to breakfast dressed in a gaudy collection of fantastical accessories and demand to be addressed by another name, they have imaginary friends and vivid dreams, they sing songs and hum melodies they've composed, they build elaborate settings for their toy characters to live dramatic lives in and spend hours narrating soap opera scenarios ... in short, they generate imaginative content effortlessly, and they feel most fulfilled when they're engaged in the creative process.  Which is fantastic in theory, as the great Albert Einstein pointed out: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.”  However, most of our lives are not structured to allow for unlimited time and space to create, which can cause difficulty when you try to reign in an imaginative child and force her into a regimented box. Empathy is your best tool in these situations. Remember, for these children, the world in their minds is just as real as the world around them, and they are never happier than when they are immersed in a project with a clear result that they can see and enjoy. Keeping the creative child content is essentially a matter of providing them with opportunities to drive the situations that they are in, rather than asking them to follow a limited path. Start by offering them the chance to design their own schedules and systems, including as many elaborate details as they like.  For example, lunchtime might become The Exquisite Royal Tea Room complete with elaborate place settings, fancy dishware, printed menus, placemats that they've illustrated, buffet options and assorted toppings, each with its own name card, etc. All they'll need is a tiny push in the right direction, and they'll joyously take care of the rest. Intersperse hands-on creation time with intensive thinking time.  Provide your imaginative inventor with a cozy space that's designed exclusively for dreaming, plus a solid supply of journaling supplies so they can record the ideas that burst and flare as they meditate. Set up a Creativity Lab stocked with supplies that can be used to build immersive worlds of all types.   This can be a corner of her room, a set of bins on shelves, or even a small closet furnished with cast-off tables and chairs.  Gather containers of craft items (scrapbook paper, washi tape, colored pencils, poster board), sewable items (old clothes, travel sewing kits, safety pins), building supplies (Legos, wood blocks, small boxes), costuming (clean out your own closet for hats, scarves, belts and boots), and any old technology you might have hanging around the house (old phones, keyboards, motherboards).  Then let your child loose and see what emerges! Point them in a new direction then step back and see what happens. Even the most imaginative child will come to you and declare that she's bored.  Keep a few "launchpad ideas" in your back pocket to deploy when your child needs inspiration.  These are nuggets of ideas based on their interests and favorite themes that function like writing prompts do ... just a taste and they'll be off on a creative adventure. For example, if you have a Harry Potter fan, download a 30-minute video of a Hogwarts "Charms" class, where a magical professor will teach them a few spells, lead them through a hands-on craft demonstration, challenge them with a word scramble and suggest a writing project.  After they've completed the short class, ask them to create their OWN Hogwarts class and videotape themselves as the professor.  Just a little bit of inspiration from a trusted source can go a long way toward inspiring your creative child to new schemes and adventures! Need a few "Launchpad Ideas" for a rainy day?  Try these:

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