Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman
It seems that creativity is becoming a rarer and rarer thing in today’s world. Schools focus on lock-step learning and standardized tests, people are hired (or not) based on their answers to online psychometric panels and popular entertainment is often anything but creative or original.
But as parents, grandparents or teachers, we still want to encourage creativity in kids. So how do we fight the tide of conformity? Here are ten gift ideas that can help nourish the creative spark in the next generation.
10. Musical instruments
Music has always been one of the primary ways human beings express creativity. In every culture, musical instrument, drums or chants have served as outlets for originality. So it only makes sense that musical instruments would be one of the best ways to spark the unique and creative in kids.
Don’t confuse this with rigid, mandatory piano lessons (although they are of value to kids, too.) I’m talking about providing kids with things to strum, blow into, bang or shake. A chance at first to make their own sounds. Later, lessons can help them harness creativity into composition or a style of their own.
9. Art supplies
Let them paint. And make things with clay and draw pictures and play with shapes. Provide the art supplies, the time and the space, and creativity in kids will bloom. This is not a time for rules or lessons on artistic trends. It’s all about allowing them to explore how they see the world.
Books do more than tell stories. They can carry a child to places they have never seen…and places that don’t exist in the world as we know it. And they force the reader (or listener) to fill in the blanks. What does the heroine look like? What kind of forest are they in? Movies and video games replace imagination with answers. THIS is what they look like. HERE is the forest.
If you want make this work, give kids books that fire their imagination with stories and ideas and images.
7. Science tools
Children are natural scientists, exploring the world around them. Left to their own devices, a child will lay in the grass and watch an ant crawl or a worm slither with all the attention of someone performing a critical experiment in a lab. And all the while, they are imagining. Learning.
Give them science tools to explore their world. A magnifying glass or microscope opens new worlds. A chemistry set gets them thinking about how things react. A robotics kit helps them imagine the next step.
6. Craft kits
Sometimes kits are okay. In fact, sometimes they’re wonderful for supporting creativity in kids. A craft kit can introduce a child to new materials and new techniques that they can use later on. Look for kits that allow a personal touch in the finished product. An A to Z detailed ONLY do-this-then-that kit might just thwart the very creativity you’re trying to feed.
Like musical instruments, dolls have been a part of creative play for as long as there have been children. Kids learn by having make-believe people do the things they see around them. Or perhaps doing the things they wish real people were doing. (Case in point… most kids make their dolls fly at some point!)
Baby dolls teach girls and boys about nurturing and caring. Adult or character dolls allow them to explore occupations, experiences and real or make believe events all within their imagination. Skip the collectible, do-not-get-it-dirty dolls for these gifts… this is all about playtime, not shelf time.
4. Kid-sized tools
Maria Montessori, a pioneer in early childhood education knew that for kids to learn and experience hands-on learning, furnishings, tools and supplies needed to be made to fit small hands. Giving kids the opportunity to build, clean and create with real, functional tools made for little hands might be one of the best gifts for developing creativity in kids.
Like dolls, puppets allow kids to act out and explore things they see and hear around them. But the “talking” aspect of puppetry also encourages children to get creative with what they say and how they interact verbally with other characters. Gifts of human and animal puppets or a puppet theatre is a wonderful choice as a creative birthday or holiday present.
2. Dress up costumes
What child doesn’t like to dress up in mom or dad’s clothes and shoes? Dress up is a simple way for a child to pretend to be someone else… a grownup, a pirate, a doctor or a space explorer. Unlike video games where an avatar “lives” the alternate personality, dress up encourages kids to experience it from the inside out. So they can “be” rather than “watch” — a key component in developing healthy imagination.
1. Building toys
For years, educators have known that using building toys like wooden blocks, erector sets and Lego blocks helped with spacial skills and with math and science success. But did you know these toys also help improve creativity, too? Sets with lots of pieces of different sizes and colors but no set pattern to build are the best choice for originality, experimentation and creativity, while sets with specific designs and instructions work on skill in following directions, sorting and patience.
Creativity in kids matters, so skip the electronics and passive toys this year. Make sure the gifts you give encourage them to explore, try and innovate.