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When I was a child, everything was an art project, every school assignment was an opportunity for creativity. I used the back of my hand as a canvass well into high school. I was also a mess. My room was always a disaster. I kept crayons in my pockets, hoarded every piece of scrap paper I drew on; my floor was carpeted in books. Before I could read I would hold up books and tell my dad stories as if I was reading the book to him. My drawings were real experiences, and many of the stories I told only existed in my imagination. Even today, in my mid-twenties, I still have false memories from my childhood because I created so many stories in my head that were real to me. I was a creative child and sometimes quite the handful for my dad. Fortunately for me, he helped harness my creativity and encouraged it when I was very young.

Creative children look at the world in a different way than others their age. Their imaginations run wild and they get lost in their creative side. This sometimes leads to disorganization, behavioral problems, and trouble listening to ridged instructions.

For those raising creative beings, there are some things you can do to help nurture your child’s artistic side while still keeping them on task.

Rewarding effort

Research has shown that rewarding the effort your child exerts will teach them that trying hard is something to be proud of no matter what the outcome is. Children can suffer from feelings of inadequacy if they are rewarded for the result of their work and not the work they’ve put in. It’s natural for them to excel in one area and not in another. The important thing to focus on is the amount of effort exerted. This doesn’t mean that you can’t reward them for coming in first place or getting a good grade on a test, it just means that they should be rewarded for their effort in both first place and last place situations if the effort put in is equal but the results are different.

Creative children can sometimes be very sensitive to situations like this. Feelings of inadequacy can result from an overabundance of rewarding results and not effort. When schooling and activities become more challenging as the child becomes older, this type of thinking can damage their creative drive by forcing them to focus on the path to the result and not the creative journey to obtain it.

Creative toys

Creative kids gain a lot from toys that help develop their artistic side. Open-use toys that don’t require them to follow a controlled experience – such as Lego kits– allow kids to use their imagination and make whatever their mind creates. Blocks, dolls, and trucks require them to use their imagination to create structures, realities, and roads for them.

Alternative toys are also great for the creative mind. Something as simple as a cardboard box can be an easy and highly engrossing toy for them. This is also a great alternative for those that really enjoy coloring on the walls. Stick them in a box with some markers and see what they make out of it. Maybe they will pretend the box is a spaceship, maybe they just sit and color. You will get to watch your child’s eyes light up with the possibilities.

Craft projects

A weekly craft project with mom or dad will be a dream for them. Karla Cook, an experienced home educator, argues that requiring your kiddo to “sit still” isn’t a social norm you have to follow. She uses art to get the wiggles out in a healthy way. Avoid projects that offer guidelines that are too strict for their creative minds to stick to. Painting planting pots, finger painting, Popsicle stick creations, or just coloring are great activities to help harness their creativity. Be sure to find a way to display some of their work. Have an area on the fridge, a cork board, or a frame on your desk at work dedicated to showcasing their art.

Expect a mess

There will be messes. This is a virtual certainty with most children. For the creative types messes will mean gorgeous paintings, amazing toy creations, beautiful stories, and an active mind. For many artists of any age, letting a mess happen while they are in a creative or artistic mindset is just a part of the process. It is completely fine to let your child make a mess, within reason, while they let their creativity flow. Don’t let their messes get out of hand, however, and let them know that they are to clean up their area once they are done. Be sure to put down newspaper or plastic if you are worried about the mess becoming too destructive.

Unplug

Unplugging from electronic devices is a great practice for the entire family. For your child, the dependence on video games or television can stifle their imagination that is necessary to keep their creative minds running. Take a few hours a day to color, play with Legos, finger paint, write, take photos, or make something. Allow them to help you bake, cook, or work on the car. Creativity can mean any number of things and unplugging from electronics will force your little one to find other means of entertainment. Not all video games and television shows cause negative effects for kids, in fact many are created with education and creativity in mind. Regardless, a few hours of unplugging will be a nice relief for everyone.

Despite the painted finger prints everywhere, stained clothes, and drawers overflowing with craft supplies, your child’s smile and creative spirit will be all the thanks you need for helping their artistic side flourish. In organizing your lives around cultivating your kiddo’s creativity, you are doing them a great service by showing them that their creativity is something to harness and not something to stifle. Raising a creative child requires you to be innovative, understanding, and resourceful, but your creative kiddo will appreciate it your efforts.

Chelsy Ranard

Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She is happiest when writing, creating spray paint art, and drinking fruity wine.

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