Creativity in children begins when they are babies but is more easily recognizable around 18 months when they become toddlers. At this point, parents can see how the child expresses his or her curiosity as they explore the world around them. You might notice that he or she loves to finger paint, play dress up and sing, or kick a soccer ball around. As your child develops, they might exhibit tendencies toward a perfect pitch, an eye for design, a knack for numbers, or an athletic prowess. Not every person is born with innate talent, but we can support, train and help children to develop strengths in the areas they love. As parents, we can play a huge part in nurturing creative abilities by providing opportunities for the child to express his ideas, and providing the optimism to help him succeed!
How do you go about finding and nurturing your child’s interests? It starts with a strong parenting foundation and observation. What does your child like to do? What does he seem good at? At an early age, you can follow his lead and then provide the resources he needs to stick with it. For example, if you see that your child likes to pound on the piano keys, provide him with a low cost keyboard until he’s ready for lessons. Or, if you notice that she loves to sing, provide her with children’s music to sing along to and even a pretend microphone. If he has a huge interest in building, provide him with blocks or even Legos. This doesn’t have to be a big investment at first. Initially you can find these items used at second hand stores or on Craigslist or EBay.
It’s also important to expose your child to new things otherwise you’ll never know whether or not a passion could develop. Don’t force them to do something, but try a couple art lessons or a season of basketball to expand their world. Even if they flip out after a couple of weeks and insist on quitting, they may eventually go back to it. Some children want to be able to things perfectly right off the bat, and when they can’t they get frustrated and want to stop. Your continued encouragement and support might convince them to stick with it, or interest them to try it again.
Research shows that children who are involved in extracurricular activities tend to have higher self-esteem, better time management skills, have better grades and reach higher levels of education, and are less likely to drink or do drugs. To further nurture and encourage your child’s interests, parents should:
1. Be sure it’s your child’s thing, not yours.
2. Do your best to provide the lessons, mentors, materials and guidance to help them improve their skills. Local community centers are often a great low-cost way to go about this.
3. Show interest in their passion by attending performances or playing the sport with your child. For example, if your child is good at playing tennis, practice with him for fun during your free time. If your child is interested in painting, take her to museums to see some of the works of great artists.
4. Don’t emphasize winning. Research shows that major talents almost always had positive, supportive parents by their side to help keep things in perspective. Standing by your child whether they win the spelling bee or lose plays a huge part in their ability to succeed.