One of the first things I bought for my oldest child when he began sitting up on his own was a set of rock crayons. You could say I was a little over-enthusiastic in wanting to encourage his creative side. There may have been a small part of his just-learned-to-sit-up baby brain that thought I was kind of weird as I demonstrated how to color with them before he slowly brought one up to his lips and gummed it for a while. As he got older, became more mobile, and perfected his scribbling skills, we taped up a giant piece of mixed media paper to the end of the counter in our kitchen, sometimes along with line drawings of famous paintings, and he scribbled all over it to his heart’s content. I knew that creativity was something I wanted to encourage throughout his childhood and as he got older, I found some excellent resources for making that a possibility. Today’s list of six books to encourage creativity in your family not only help foster creativity in children but adults as well! And an added side benefit is the fact that being creative together also contributes to a wonderful family environment.
Why is creativity important?
To begin, I’m going to turn to an article by Robert Sternberg, a dean at Tufts University, about creativity as a habit as I think he explains why encouraging creativity in childhood has a life-long effect:
Creativity is a habit… It may sound paradoxical that creativity—a novel response—is a habit—a routine response. But creative people are creative largely not by any particular inborn trait, but rather, because of an attitude toward life: They habitually respond to problems in fresh and novel ways, rather than allowing themselves to respond mindlessly and automatically.Robert Sternberg
He also goes on to point out that:
Creative people routinely approach problems in novel ways. Creative people habitually (a) look for ways to see problems that other people don’t look for, (b) take risks that other people are afraid to take, (c) have the courage to defy the crowd and to stand up for their own beliefs, and (d) seek to overcome obstacles and challenges to their views that other people give in to, among other things.Robert Sternberg
And he concludes with:
Why is creativity even important? It is important because the world is changing at a far greater pace than it ever has before, and people need constantly to cope with novel kinds of tasks and situations. Learning in this era must be life-long, and people constantly need to be thinking in new ways. The problems we confront, whether in our families, communities, or nations, are novel and difficult, and we need to think creatively and divergently to solve these problems. The technologies, social customs, and tools available to us in our lives are replaced almost as quickly as they are introduced. We need to think creatively to thrive, and, at times, even to survive.Robert Sternberg
The biggest immediate benefit I have discovered in being creative is that it forces us to slow down. Many ways of being creative, or the work of creating, take time. They are methodical and care is needed. It causes us to pause in our ever-constant state of multi-tasking and DOing to stop and really see what we’re about. We have to pay attention to what we’re creating.
Specifically, in the case of fostering creativity in children, I love that it allows us to see into their little minds and get more in tune with their personalities. They show themselves, whether it’s how they see the world or what is important to them, through the things they create and that is fascinating to experience. In this way, we can also get to know them better. And when we respond to the things they make in positive ways, emphasizing HOW they made something rather than how good the final product is, we focus on the act of creation and foster their desire to continue creating.
On a more practical level, being creative can awaken skills that allow us to be self-reliant. When we learn to sew or knit or woodwork or cook or any of the ways that we can be creative, we learn how to make something for ourselves and thereby gain a little independence from always being consumers.
Being creative is something that we can often forget about as we get older. It becomes lost in the routine of our days and doesn’t seem important because, on the surface, it doesn’t enhance our life by bringing in more money or “stuff” or any of the things that are considered important in our modern, fast-paced world. But being creative actually enhances our lives in much deeper ways.
Where should I start?
If your children are still young and you’re not sure how to encourage creativity in your home, I highly recommend beginning with The Artful Parent. This book offers many more reasons why fostering creativity in your family is important, includes simple projects for young children, and contains excellent supply lists of things to keep on hand so your kids can participate in spontaneous art creation whenever they want. Van’t Hul suggests good-quality supplies which are important as art supplies of lower quality can be a hindrance to art creation. Poor-quality art materials can be frustrating to use and may discourage your child from ever wanting to try a specific medium again. Many of her suggestions also include projects resulting in pieces that would be lovely to hang around your home, especially when they go with the seasons.
On that note, when you couple your creative endeavors with the seasons, it opens a whole other aspect of creativity for you and your kids. Nature walks and the simple act of observing what is going on in the natural world can inspire and inform your sense of creativity. Perhaps you see dark branches contrasted against a white sky or snow and want to sketch that. Or you see bright red berries popping out of snow and an idea for a pastel creation comes to mind. Or maybe the chilly outdoors has encouraged you to learn to knit some mittens for yourself and your family members. Even just the simple act of coming in from being out on a cold winter day can inspire someone to brew up some hot cocoa before sitting down to a family read-aloud. Maybe you find fresh blackberries or strawberries during a hike and bring them home to make jam. Or you discover that you don’t have a good way of bringing your nature notebook and watercolors with you on your hikes, so you decide to sew a bag.
This even goes to collecting objects from the natural world to include in your creations. Simple things like leaves and twigs can become a beautiful mobile. In the spring and early summer, you can collect flowers to make pressed art or even flower-infused paper. Foraging various plants can also offer many opportunities for herbal concoctions, gifts for others, or remedies in the home.
Involving the whole family
I enjoy collaborative projects where everyone is in charge of a different part of the final creation. Every aspect of whatever it is we’re creating has the personal touch of the person who created that part. There is no perfectionism in artistic expression when we’re creating together. We bring our best to the project and the cohesive result is not only beautiful but also a memory of our time making that project together as well as an expression of each one of our personalities as they come together in our family. The following books have projects for younger kids, older kids, and projects that could include something from everyone in the family!
A few of these are out of print but can be found used through Bookfinder. Have I missed a must-have book for fostering family culture? If so, let me know what your favorite one is!