Sensible Ways to Encourage Children’s Intelligence AND Creativity

Sensible Ways to Encourage Children’s Intelligence AND Creativity

Education February 05, 2020 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
Sensible Ways to Encourage Children’s Intelligence AND Creativity

Discover 10 strategies (plus resources) to encourage children’s intelligence and creativity!


“Embrace inquiry-based learning, model and stimulate curiosity, and appreciate children’s sense of wonder—all of which can lead to enhanced creativity and accomplishment.” (ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids – p. 69)

Every child (and adult, too) has a personal and evolving profile of abilities, including areas of strength and weakness in intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and behavioral domains. 

Contrary to what many people think, intelligence and creativity are not fixed at birth. They develop step by step over time. They require relevant learning opportunities, hard work, and a willingness to learn from setbacks. They also demand preparation, communication, questions (and answers), reflection, practice, and patience. And, encouragement! 


These understandings of what can propel both intelligence and creativity have action and desire at the core. It is each person’s choice whether to extend personal experiences in purposeful ways so as to augment intelligence and fuel creativity. There are no limits, only horizons! 

However, when it comes to motivating children and nurturing their capacities, it’s important to provide encouragement—to show confidence, demonstrate willfulness, and convey positive messages. For example, “By harnessing enthusiasm and pushing yourself forward you can change your world, one action and one day at a time.” Or, “Build your wings, find your strength, and take pride in your ability. You can do it!” (Bust Your BUTS – p. 133; p - 91) And, author C. S. Lewis wrote, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” You are never too young, either!

Here are 10 strategies for parents who want to encourage their child’s intelligence and creativity. 

1.   Help children understand why something is worth pursuing. It may be an assignment, a creative endeavor, a recreational activity, or something else altogether. If there is buy-in—that is, if children perceive a task as being relevant or meaningful—then they will be more motivated to see it through. “Motivation is often associated with triggers such as need, instinct, curiosity, or encouragement. Learning opportunities should be interesting so kids can experience the kind of motivation that comes from personal engagement.” (ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids – p 95)  

2.   Praise should be genuine and constructive. Vague compliments don’t really propel children forward in the same way that constructive and direct feedback do. Well-targeted and immediate feedback can be motivating, and empower children to keep going, and to feel that they’re making progress. 

3.   Help kids learn from their mistakes. Effort is what really matters.  Final products may not be perfect, and there may be stumbling blocks along the way, but that’s okay because it’s all part of the learning process! Show kids that taking responsibility—including working toward addressing challenges and errors, and overcoming problems—is every bit as important as other completion-related outcomes. (Here is a helpful article by Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell.) 

4.   Tap into support networks that will enable you to provide the best possible learning opportunities for your child. Relationships are foundational to human development. “Seek out and take advantage of local and long-range liaisons and leads for learning. This might include courses, seminars, conferences, panel discussions, chat groups, and book clubs. Find out what’s available in your area, or what’s accessible online. Also, watch for books on a variety of seminal topics.” (ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids – p. 88)   

5.   Become more knowledgeable about intelligence-building, and about ways to stoke children’s creativity. Check out the book Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids, and also the many articles posted online in my column at The Creativity Post. (See, for exampleHelp Children Embrace New BeginningsEat a Cookie; and Reflective Habits of Mind—and Kids.) Read these articles—and others—to discover why children’s education is not just about schooling, how there are endless possibilities for personal expression, and how increasing knowledge and applying understandings can empower kids on many fronts.    

6.   Monitor children’s momentum as they proceed. Stay attuned to their ups and downs. Help them learn to be patient, and to recalibrate or make any necessary adjustments as they complete tasks. Taking steps backward or sideways (or even pausing now and again) can often be as illuminating, learning-laden, and creativity-inducing as steps forward! After all, learning is a multifaceted process. (See the articles How Children Learn: Fit, Fairness, and Flexibility at Roots of Action, and Learning: What Do Parents Need to Know? in the November, 2019 issue of First Time Parent Magazine.)  

7.   Change is inevitable, so help kids anticipate it, deal with it, and use it to advantage. Change can be exhilarating or deterring. It can accelerate or short-circuit a child’s learning trajectory. Parents are well-positioned to offer guidance and encourage children to manage the changes that occur in their lives. These might include transitions to different or special programs, new friendships, altered family circumstances, and various expected or unforeseen circumstances that may occur at school or elsewhere. 

8.   Become an advocate. No two children are alike. And, every child is entitled to an education commensurate with his/her abilities. “Teachers do not help children by refusing to recognize and acknowledge their differences. They help them by celebrating those differences, looking for ways to accommodate them, and teaching the other students acceptance and tolerance and compassion.” (The Essential Guidebook for Parents of Gifted Children –  p. 127) Those words, written by author Jennifer Ault, exemplify optimal strategies for encouraging children’s intelligence and creativity, regardless of their ability levels. This approach is something that all parents can and should endeavor to advocate for and promote within their own school districts. 

9.   Life balance has a positive impact on intelligence and creative expression. Children and adults should make time for play, relaxation, and reflection. People who look after themselves, take breaks, exercise, and stay healthy are better able to invest the energy required to “kickstart” and augment learning, and engage in creative initiatives. The best kind of nurturing happens in the flow of day-to-day life, so pay attention to smart routines, rest, nutrition, recreation, and life balance—and to the whole child. 

10.   Demonstrate the importance of life-long learning. Embrace reading, open communication, curiosity, problem-finding, and problem-solving. Convey an attitude that shows and also reinforces that every day is another chance to learn new things and contribute to the greater good.  


Intelligence and creativity are not elusive. They’re a bit like salt and pepper. They’re accessible. They go together. They’re a choice. They can be used sparingly or plentifully.

However, unlike salt and pepper, an abundance of intelligence and creativity is good for children, cannot be used up, and can contribute to their overall well-being. That abundance is well within reach! 


Joanne Foster’s most recent book is ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids: Hundreds of Ways to Inspire Your Child.  Readers can find further information about optimal child development by checking out Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster.) Dr. Foster also wrote Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (recipient of the Independent Book Publishers’ Association’s 2018 Silver Benjamin Franklin Award), and its predecessor Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination. To learn more about these books, and for access to a wide range of articles and links, please go to Information about professional development workshops and speaker sessions with Dr. Foster can also be found at this website.

For excellent resources on supporting and encouraging creativity and gifted/high-level development see the assortment of material at Gifted Unlimited LLC

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