3 Ways Parents Can Develop Creativity in Children

[I] think every parent likes the idea of developing creativity in their children. Who doesn’t want creative kids? The problem is many parents don’t always how. Creativity and innovation are admirable qualities in kids and adults alike, but if you were raised in a home where creativity wasn’t valued, developing creativity in your children or grandchildren can be a challenge. Two weeks ago in the first Question of the Week, several of you shared stories of being raised in homes where creativity wasn’t encouraged. I’d like to see that change, wouldn’t you?


(Click here to watch Janae’s Super-8 SLO video on Youtube)

As a parent, one of my goals it to cultivate creativity in my kid’s lives. The fun part is, you never know when their creativity is going to pop up. Just this past weekend, our family went on a little adventure to San Luis Obispo to visit our daughter, Ellie, who is a freshmen in the school of architecture. As we walked through the campus, my oldest daughter, Janae, shot clip after clip of video on her iPhone. Later that evening when the rest of us went back to our hotel, Janae stayed with Ellie in her dorm room to put together this fun Super-8-ish video. No one asked Janae to create the video, but we all enjoyed it. She put her creativity to work and we received a wonderful little gift to remember our adventure together. Read on…

In today’s world of smart phones, apps, cameras and laptops, give a kid a camera and a whole new palette of creative opportunity awaits. As I recently wrote in What Can Artists Learn from Soldiers, Athletes, Farmers & Craftsmen, just because your children have an iPhone and an Instagram account, does not make them an artist or professional photographer. (There still remains the disciplines of study, learning the craft, working to excel and answering the hard questions.)

But, if you do want to encourage creativity in your children, here are 3 specific ways you can start today. (When I write of creativity here, I’m considering creativity in broad terms.)

1. Encourage Your Children to Read

Encouraging your children to read and helping them learn to love to read is one of the most powerful first steps you can take to develop creativity in your children. There is nothing like reading to ignite your children’s imagination and creativity. Reading requires your children to follow a character, face challenges and conflict, discover the difference between good and evil, understand description, dialogue and the parts of speech.

Along the way, children who read learn what it means to develop perseverance, patience, endurance, recover from failure, and discover solutions for the battles that are a part of every hero’s journey.

I have two children who love to read, one who is 50/50 and one who hates to read. For my book lovers, I don’t even have to breathe on them to get them to pick up a book. My youngest son hates to read because he struggles with reading, but just this past year, we discovered he likes to read if he has the audio version of the book so he can listen and follow along.

Model a love for reading first as a parent and you’ll give your children a gift for life.

2. Teach Your Child to Ask Good Questions

One of the key goals of parenting is not only teaching children what to think in terms of what is good, true and beautiful, but equally important, is teaching children how to think. If you want to develop creativity in your children, teach them how to ask good questions. Asking good questions encourages creativity in a number of ways…

Good questions provoke curiosity.

Good questions develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Good questions encourages confidence and assertiveness.

Good questions make children active learners.

3. Point Out the Creativity of God

As a parent, if you want to develop creativity in your children, be intentional about pointing out the creativity of God in everyday living. If we want to see a renaissance of art and creativity in the Church, as parents, we need to help our children and grandchildren develop a full, expansive view of the beauty, wonder, and awesome creativity of our God. Here are a few ways you can do this:

Give Children a Creative Worldview

The first thing we learn about God in scripture is “God the Creator.” “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” The first thing we learn about ourselves is that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We are made to reflect all of who God is…His love, His goodness, His creativity. When kids learn that they are inherently creative because they are made in God’s image, all kinds of creative paths are made possible.

Help Children see God in Creation

I love the oceans, the mountains, the deserts and the tropics. Whenever I am in God’s creation, I am renewed and restored. Creation helps me see the incredible expansiveness of God and the microscopic details He is intricately involved in. Like reading, developing a love of creation in children by pointing out the creativity of God teaches them to appreciate all the creative power and goodness of who God is.

Allow Children to Explore Who God has Made them to Be

As parents, we may have a certain idea and vision of who we want our children to be. More often than not, our vision is limited to what we want our children “to do” in terms of a role or career. But if you really want to develop creativity in your children, you need to give them the space to explore their creative interests.

Allowing your home to be a creative sandbox of opportunity allows your child to explore, learn, fail, drop something, or pick up something else. Whether you have small children, teenagers, or kids in college, it is never too late to have regular conversations about what it means to be creative and help them identify their creative gifts and talents.

The goal here is not to produce an artist. The aim is to develop your children, teenagers, and young adults as people who have a deep love for God, the people they meet, and who make their creative mark on this world by employing every creative gift God has given them. If this involves some form of the arts, wonderful! If not, at minimum, your child will grow into adulthood valuing creativity and all the benefits it brings. I speak to so many adults who are just awakening the artist within. What if we started this process a whole lot sooner?

When you are intentional about developing creativity in your children, your home will be a whole lot more fun, interesting and maybe even a bit intriguing?

Kind of like all being on an adventure together…

Questions: How do you encourage creativity in your children? What has worked? What hasn’t work? What are some of the positive outcomes you’ve seen?

I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.

If you have teenagers or college students, take a few minutes to watch this video Good Advice for Young Artists. Spend some time discussing what my friend Virginia has to say and how her words might apply to both of your lives.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Neil O’Connor

    Joey –
    I love this post! It really hits home with me when I think about Jesse and how we can help him grow and be a creative little soul. I love how you are raising your family, you have so much depth to your relationships and you vest so much quality and quantity in them. I try and let Jesse explore what he wants and try not to make him explore what I want. He loves his books, flash cards, dancing, coloring and being silly.
    He has so much love to give, it is amazing the joy he brings us!

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      We all know children don’t have a problem being creative. As parents, our job is to keep encouraging creativity as they grow older because, in many cases, it’s around elementary school when parents, teachers or other important role models can squash kids’ creativity with lack of support, hurtful words or disinterest.

      Thanks Neil for your kind words of encouragement. I don’t think Jesse will have any problem growing up in a home where he is loved, nurtured and supported. You are both doing a great job as parents! There’s more love and joy on the way…before you know it–blink–they’re off to college!

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  • techne

    anthony esolen has written a great book called ten ways to destroy the imagination of your child. well worth reading. he addresses and challenges how contemporary culture (and contemporary educational models) snuffs out, rather than cultivates, creativity. more here: http://www.amazon.com/Ways-Destroy-Imagination-Your-Child/dp/1935191888/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1352565332&sr=1-2&keywords=anthony+esolen

    • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

      Thanks for the book recommendation Techne! Looks like a great a read! I’ll share it with others!

  • http://www.joeyo.org/ Joey O’Connor

    I heard a radio news program that explained how one preschool teacher got rid of all the toys and replaced them with cardboard boxes. The kids loved them and took on all sorts of new creative challenges with them: making boats, spaceships, homes. The quieter kids asserted new leadership and the power roles were often reversed as kids had to work together to build something versus one kid taking a toy and “that’s that…” Thanks for your input Stephen…we all know technology isn’t going away, so we do need to look at new ways to encourage creativity in children…

  • techne

    “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Picasso