“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein
There is something beautiful and magical about childhood that unfortunately we push aside in the interest of “growing up.”
Creativity and the ability to innovate are some of the most important life-skills we need to be successful. Especially as the world becomes flatter, faster, and more competitive.
So how do we help our kids develop the skills they’ll need?
I believe good old-fashioned play is the best way to prepare my kids to succeed. We all learn best through play and often, our most inspired ideas come when we relax.
Kids are actually doing serious work when they play—They are trying on roles, imagining what it is like to be a mommy or daddy, figuring out how to run a business with their lemonade stands – it is filled with high-level negotiations where kids are learning social and language skills, organized thinking, and collaboration.
Kids are building their confidence, learning how to make good decisions, innovating, and fostering a lifelong love of learning.
Here are several ways that I’ve tried to make my home a fun learning environment:
First, make time for play. Believe it or not, in our overscheduled, planned-to-the-hilt lives, many kids are actually lacking “free time.”
Our kid’s schedules don’t need to be packed with sports, music lessons, academic enrichment, and more. The truth is, unstructured play is every bit as important as these other activities (and definitely not a waste of time).
“Play” might look more like downtime: listening to music, daydreaming, reading, or drawing. All of these things help us learn about who we are and what we like.
Welcome questions. When you begin to feel overwhelmed by your toddler’s never-ending “whys” or infinite curiosity and boundary pushing, take a deep breath, stay patient, and be glad that they are asking questions. It’s a sign of intelligence.
I try to stay away from the idea that there is a “right” answer and allow my kids to take the lead. I ask a few “whys” myself.
Learn to speak in positives. Criticism affects confidence throughout our lives. So, let your kids know you much you admire their courage to make mistakes, try again, take risks, and enjoy the process over the end result.
Explain that there is no such thing as failure, just opportunities to figure things out in new ways.
When your kids show off a new skill, pay attention. You are their biggest role model, and though we may not feel like their super hero, we are.
Get in touch with all of your senses. When kids are able to experience the world through all five senses, imagine how much they’ll notice and learn!
A good way to play with the senses is to go exploring in your backyard. Find bugs, flowers, and birds. Touch tree bark. Crinkle leaves in your fingers. Smell flowers.
If you’re stuck indoors, you can set up a guessing game. Put something in a paper bag and ask your child to guess what it is based on touch. Blindfold her and ask her to identify something by smell or taste. And so on!
Engage with your child. Turn off your phone, set aside your to-do lists, and play with them. Sip that cup of pretend tea. Play is about being in the moment and letting all rules and expectations fly out the window—a place where all things are possible.
Don’t rely on toys and electronics. Don’t feel that you have to constantly entertain your child or put something in front of him to do.
Leave him to his own devices from time to time. It will develop his ability to innovate, and you may be surprised by the results!
Help your kids flex their creativity muscles. Creativity is like a muscle; the more you use it, the easier it gets to pull off amazing feats.
To help your kids build this skill, encourage the arts in your own home. Dance, play different types of music, sing songs, write poems, paint, draw, dress up.
And outside the home, expose your kids to culture whenever you can. Go to museums, art shows and talk about what you see.
Lastly, don’t be too quick to give your kids a solution when they have a problem. Try to coach and guide them as they work out an answer for themselves. That’s creativity at work.
Wishing you and your family a playful 2015!