The benefits of getting creative with your kids
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"Creativity is intelligence having fun."
We all know the benefits of physical activities, but have you ever thought about the benefits of getting creative with your kids?
All kids love to create, whether it's painting, making music or baking.
But there is so much more going on than meets the eye! As well as the chance to express themselves, there is tonnes of development happening.
And not just the physical skills but emotional learning, sensory processing and decision-making, to name but a few.
So as temping as it is to leave the 'messy' activities to the childminders and schools out there, it is so worthwhile trying a few in your own home.
You never know, you might have a budding little Picasso on your hands!
I am going to explain the benefits, as well as giving tips on what you can do with your children to get creative. I'll also share a few simple activities to get you started. Hopefully I can convince even the most reluctant crafter/painter/gluer out there!
FINE MOTOR SKILLS
This is the most 'obvious' benefit of creating as you can see it in action. It's the development of the muscles in little hands and the coordination that goes with it. And the more your child is given the opportunity to handle and grasp objects, the more skilful they will get.
Using tools to create gives children a huge advantage when it comes to doing more tricky things, such as writing and dressing themselves.
Creativity is a great way to help kids express and process feelings non-verbally. Children have yet to develop the skills needed to understand and control emotions, so providing a creative outlet for feelings can really help them make sense of things. For example they might express anger by having a good scribble! Or have a nice bang of a drum! Open-ended mediums are the best for this, such as crayons and paints..
Creative activities are a great starting point when it comes to communication. You may have noticed children naturally like to narrate their play, so you could find yourself having some wonderful imaginative conversations together. When painting some rocks recently, Mr 5 coloured one half green. He then took a blue paint pen and told me it was "a river flooding fields".
For younger children, it's the perfect way to build vocabulary; you could introduce the language of colours, shapes, textures etc. If kept natural and playful your kids will get loads out of creating together and it will strengthen the bonds in your relationship.
Creative time is great to have in your back pocket if there is a 'situation' that you need to distract your child from (we all know those! How many times have we forgotten to add something to the shopping list that they MUST eat now 😉). This is where a bit of creative time can really help!
You may meet with some resistance if you suggest doing an activity, so maybe just get a few crayons out, sit at the table and start doodling. Children are naturally curious and I've found this works really well with my kids. Plus, if you let your child have autonomy in their creations, this will help them feel more in control in general, and they may be more willing to concede in other areas.
Creating is such a brilliant way for kids to start learning how to have ideas, test theories and experiment. Colour mixing for example - "what happens when I mix those two colours, and then if I add this... do I like what colour it has made?" Or playing an instrument "I can shake it hard and make it loud, or shake it gently and it's quiet". Experimentation not only helps lay the foundations for understanding cause and effect, it paves the way for scientific thinking in general.
If you're feeling brave, then giving your child a full-on tactile experience is so worthwhile! Kids love to explore new textures, and adding an extra sensory element to an activity, such as painting ice or making paper mache, can help raise creative thinkers. Bear in mind however that not every child likes this - my eldest had sensory processing issues and used to shudder when he touched glue (we later found he was Autistic).
Think about something that has taken you out of your comfort zone recently. Maybe a difficult telephone call or a meeting. Think about the confidence you felt once you'd overcome the challenge. Every time your child creates something it will give them that same feeling. Confidence in their abilities. Confidence to try something new. And if they are given the opportunity to try different types of creative activity - whether it be painting, baking or crafting - finding something they enjoy or have a talent for will really boost their self-esteem!
A CALMING INFLUENCE
Creating calms you down - fact! Have you ever picked up a piece of playdough whilst your kids play and found yourself kneading and stretching it? Think of how calming you found it. Have you ever baked to wind down? Or doodled? Whilst it’s less apparent with activities such as painting or drawing, creativity has a calming influence. There are meditative effects that come with the total absorption in an activity - a concentrated mind focusing on something - think of how this is used with mandalas in Buddhism.
PRIDE IN ACHIEVEMENT
Allow your child to create independently, resist the urge to 'correct' or 'direct' their work, and the they will feel enormous pride in their creations. If they are entirely in control of their creations they will feel a genuine sense of accomplishment. If you are creating something with a more defined outcome (such as a craft) try to give them choices and options.
A study by academics in 2016 (Kaimal, Ray & Muniz) found that adults can experience a significant reduction in their cortisol (stress hormone) levels after a 45-minute art session. Whilst we don't know for sure how much of an impact creativity has on children, as they are unable to vocalise stress in the same way, the mental health benefits have been proven time and time again.
During lockdown, Mr 5 was stressing about his friends. How they were and what they were playing. When would he get to see them again. I didn't have the answers to that, so I said to him, why don’t you let them know you are thinking of them by making a card? He chose what colour paper he wanted and I folded it in half. He then went to town with crayons and stickers. A frantic few minutes later I asked how he felt and he said “better”. I don’t know if he felt less stressed but he certainly didn’t express any more worried thoughts that day.
Giving children early experiences with making decisions and choices, not only validates them as people, but will also help them to think analytically as adults. It will enable them to make decisions based on what excites them, what is emotive.
Creative thinking is a great thing to have in your toolkit.
Whilst we would love our kids to make their own decisions about everything, we know that isn’t possible in everyday life – much of the time the grown-up’s have to lead the way. Giving kids freedom to be empowered when creating helps to make up for that.
Types of creativity
There are so many way to get creative - here are just a handful:
Making a creative space
A great way to take the strain out of setting up creative projects for your kids, is to have a space set aside for them to easily access materials. It is up to you the nature of this space – if you don’t want too much mess maybe just a pot of washable crayons and some paper to start with. Or a basket of musical instruments. This will enable your child to do some form of mark-making or creation when they feel that way inclined!
We don’t have much space in our house, but I have a shelf that contains felt pens, paper and playdough in a rainbow of colours, as well as pencils, crayons and a watercolour set, accessible for when the kids want to get creative. For my Mr 1yr there is a large chalkboard in our garden with a pot of chalks. The kids can help themselves to these, but if they want glue, scissors etc I get them out, just to be on the safe side.
Ideas to get you started
If you want to try something a bit different, here are a few fun activities:
PAINTING WITH CARS
Tape some paper down inside a tray, add some paint and let them go to town! The fun of this art is all in the process! You can either let your child choose the colours, or if they're a bit younger, add in some colours that will help them explore colour-mixing, such as blue & yellow, red & blue or red & yellow. You can always have a playful 'car wash' in the garden afterwards.
Don't be put off by the strange name! Hapa Zome is the art of creating prints by hitting things. Hitting things + kids, you say? Yes, this is one that needs to be supervised. BUT it's so FUN! All you need to do is, collect interesting flowers and leaves, place them under a piece of fabric or kitchen towel and give it a good bash. As the pigments come out and soak into the fabric/paper you get unique and stunning results. It's a great way to get creative outdoors!
Playdough is the ultimate medium for creative learning, it's so versatile! We love a good playdough 'invitation' and have made all sorts over the years - storm clouds, cupcakes, rainbow fish, dragons, fireworks.... you can find them all in my Instagram highlights.
I hope I've encouraged a few of the more reluctant creators out there, it may involve a bit of time and a little mess, but your kids will get so much out of creating, especially if it's done together!
PIN IT FOR LATER!