Teaching Your Child to be a Creative Thinker and Innovator

children playing with blocksThe term “innovation” has become an often-heard buzzword. News reports and articles refer to “innovative” companies and encourage more “innovation” from young Americans. “Innovation,” it seems, is everywhere.

The impact of creativity and innovation has been around since the dawn of time and is a legacy of great thinkers. Now that the ability to innovate is an increasingly desired quality among employers, what does this mean for parents?

Can parents help their children to develop this trait, or is it inborn? Does it require a well-rounded education? Is it the result of a combination of factors? How can parents encourage their children to come up with ideas and solutions and to embrace traits like curiosity, questioning, exploring, dreaming, reading, learning, as well as thinking creatively, critically and spatially?

For those wondering how to teach innovation to their children, here are three ways to start:

Approach everything as a new learning experience.

Whether in school or out of school, approach the ups and downs of your child’s daily life as new learning experiences and never as failures.

Explain to your child that failure is nothing more than a new learning experience. This will help your child to understand that there is value in every kind of experience. It also can help motivate your child for continuing to take risks and be creative when facing new situations and trying to solve new problems.

Never penalize your child for failure. When children are penalized for poor performance or for trying something new, they eventually learn that it’s better to play it safe, in order to avoid the negative consequences. Although penalizing for failure can occur frequently at school, you don’t need to carry that approach into your home. By reinforcing the “new learning experience” approach at home, you’ll also be helping your child to learn how to handle negative experiences at school.

Widen your child’s horizons.

Think about a typical workplace: If there is a small problem, a single person can solve it, but if there is a large or complex problem, it often takes a team to find a solution.

In the same vein, continually widen your child’s horizons rather than allowing your child to focus entirely on a narrow path. Expose your child to various subjects and activities, and encourage him or her to try them all – even if just for a while. At school, allow your child to study and participate in a broad range of disciplines, subjects and activities, and, if your child desires, to choose an interdisciplinary major at college.

For the past several decades, children have been pushed to specialize at earlier and earlier ages, whether for sports, hobbies or education. This may be an excellent way to develop a particular ability, but it’s usually not an ideal way to develop a creative thinker and innovator.

Help the desire to create become second nature.

Children are natural experimenters and creators. Eventually, however, it can be easy to lose that creative spark or have it go dormant, unless it has become second nature.

To help nurture a child’s innate abilities for innovation, encourage your son or daughter to create things, especially when faced with a choice of making or buying.

For example: making a bead bracelet or seashell necklace, rather than buying jewelry; assembling a miniature car or airplane from a kit, rather than buying a toy; taking music lessons or buying an app for creating original music, rather than only listening to music; baking a cake with mom, rather than buying one; learning how to stencil on fabric to make something to wear or give as a gift, rather than buying a gift; or launching and writing a neighborhood newsletter with neighboring kids, rather than spending that time playing video games.

There is no exact science for developing creative problem solvers, or hard and fast rule for how to teach innovation to children. By encouraging creativity in ways small and large, however, parents can help children to develop skills needed for innovation.


Source: The Wall Street Journal

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