It's something all kids are born with, something that can have a great impact on their lives as long as it's encouraged and supported. That something is creativity, and in this rapidly evolving world with its ever-present technology, it's more important than ever.
So what is creativity and how can parents foster it in their children? The definition may vary, but the good news is, it doesn't take much to spark the creative mind.
Jill Abusch has been watching creativity flourish for two decades as co-founder and Artistic Director of The Play Group Theatre (PGT) in White Plains. She defines it as "curiosity that is given time and space to develop into ideas" and this is incorporated into all of the classes and rehearsals at PGT. "Our focus is always on developing and understanding the thought process behind the work, rather than on just doing the work. We want kids to get curious about their own thoughts, about each other, about the world and about the artistic process," Abusch says.
This approach helps children learn that being creative is about making choices – and that there are no right or wrong answers. At PGT, students display that innovation on stage. "We always say that our proudest moments are when we see a 10-year-old actor figure out how to cleverly cover a missed line, or a late entrance, or pick up a prop that someone else unknowingly dropped – and do it in character!" Abusch gushes. "Watching a child think creatively and on the spot in front of a live audience – that’s what it is all about!"
Open Time and Space
At the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, students are given time and space to grow their creativity. Ariel Edwards, the Community Arts Director, says, "We give our students permission to do something for themselves, and a place where they can see, learn and experiment without fear of failure." She says at home, parents should withhold judgment, keep a check on their
expectations, and reinforce the idea that failure is just a normal part of finding success...
Unfortunately, music and the arts are usually the first programs targeted when school districts run into budget problems, something Edwards points out can have a lasting impact. "Without the arts and creativity, we end up raising children who don’t know how to be flexible, to adapt, to problem solve or to develop the social and cultural connections that are only fostered through creative expression," she says.
And while the presence of technology has opened new and different avenues of invention, it can, at times, become a roadblock for parents trying to nurture creativity at home. At PGT, there is a "phone bucket" that kids have to use to
ensure they unplug and get a break from having answers given to them. It's an example to all parents to keep the screen time at home in check.
So the next time your little Picasso paints a silly picture or your little Mozart makes up a song on the piano, give a smile and words of encouragement. These are the little things that just might ignite a passion for creativity that
could last a lifetime. As Picasso himself once said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."