Parenting for Creativity

Parenting for Creativity

Parenting for Creativity

How can parents encourage their children’s creativity?

Creativity is an essential tool for success and fulfillment in an unsettled and uncertain world.” – Matthews & Foster, 2021, p. 40

Parenting is full of opportunities to nurture children’s imagination and creative expression. There are many possibilities—for example, encouraging wonder, flexibility, and effort. Resilience is also important, including helping kids learn to welcome problems as ways to figure out how to do things better and find new approaches to thorny problems and setbacks.

Since creativity is a choice, it makes sense to consider why some children choose it and others do not. Creative expression can be fun, enable kids to deal with challenges and changes, and fuel their enthusiasm for learning. However, not every child knows this. Moreover, some kids wrestle with creativity, and need extra help before they can engage freely in discovery, imaginative or unstructured play, artistic activities, inquiry, or brainstorming. (Check out the scores of articles in my online column at The Creativity Post. Topics include the impact of struggle, experience, music, expectations, special needs, mentorships, nature, craftsmanship, confusion, relaxation, and more.) What ignites creativity varies from person to person, so factors that support its development vary among children and across different ages and stages. If one strategy doesn’t work for your child, try another, or a combination of two, three, or more over time.

Seven Strategies for Parents

The following suggestions for parents provide avenues to nurture and support children’s and teens’ creativity, at home, in concert with teachers, or elsewhere.

  1. Provide diverse experiences. Encourage shared, independent, innovative, unstructured, and hands-on multisensory activities. This includes taking time to enjoy nature, outdoor play, sports, games, and physically challenging activities on land, water, or wheels—all of which can strengthen your child’s body; develop their motor skills; improve their energy, health, and well-being; and stimulate their creativity.
  2. Spend time with the arts. Get the family involved in music, dance, theatre, writing, and other artistic activities across a spectrum. This might include making art; sharing products with others; experimenting with different materials; attending professional events; and going to galleries and museums.
  3. Strengthen connections. Creativity often emerges from collaboration and problem-solving together. Also, a network of social support can bolster your child’s resilience and creative self-expression. Consider reading clubs; program offerings through libraries and learning centers; technology-based options; chess groups; mentorships; community service; and other opportunities to connect with like-minded others.
  4. Support your child’s choices. Their interests and abilities may be different from your own, and will likely change over time, but follow their lead. Maintain a positive perspective, and help them develop that outlook, too. Welcome their curiosity with enthusiasm and an open heart. Curiosity is often the first step on the way to discovery, investigation, effort, and creativity.
  5. Get organized. Encourage your child to acquire the information and resources they might need for creative expression, and in order to develop solid work habits. As they proceed, help them take advantage of opportunities to discuss their ideas or products, and to extend them.
  6. Encourage questions. Let your child know there are no stupid questions. Be available to listen, and to help them find answers. Show them how asking for assistance can open possibilities that provide new perspectives and lead to next steps.
  7. Show why creativity matters. You are your child’s best teacher of the benefits of living creatively. Stay fresh, eager to keep on learning, enthusiastic about new ideas, and grateful for knowledge. Reflect, focus, be resourceful, and discover your own ingenuity! Then demonstrate that.

Making It All Work

A little creativity and a resourceful attitude can stretch a child’s learning boundaries and lead to other exciting opportunities.” – Matthews & Foster, 2021, p. 40

An environment that feels both safe and challenging for a particular child is most conducive for nurturing their creativity. Children are creative in areas where they’ve built a foundation of knowledge and skills, so help them do that. (Here’s how.) When children extend their learning, they gain confidence. Embrace the fun factor, too, and invite wacky, spontaneous, and far-fetched notions. Help kids learn to appreciate the importance of a resourceful attitude, cultivate a willingness to stretch beyond their comfort zones, and seize “aha!” moments. (See how here.) Nurture their autonomy, pride, and more. (Click here for suggestions.) Consider hobbies and crafts. (Here are some ideas.) Encourage reflective habits of mind (check it out here), and support children as they follow their passions and discover new ones. Be patient because creative expression often requires time, guidance, and reassurance.

Author’s Note:

Dr. Joanne Foster is a specialist in gifted education, and the award-winning author of several books. Content in this article has been adapted from material within her new book, Being Smart about Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change (2021), co-authored with Dona Matthews, published by Gifted Unlimited LLC., and available for pre-order now at For additional resources on creativity, learning, productivity, children’s well-being, and more—and for information about all her books—go to

Being Smart about Gifted Learning provides up-to-date perspectives so that parents, grandparents, and teachers have current knowledge about how to support the development of giftedness, creativity, and talent in the children and teens in their lives. Dr. Dona Matthews and Dr. Joanne Foster address pressing questions and concerns, and share hundreds of resources in this third edition of their award-winning book. The authors focus on helping families find a healthy balance that will nurture children’s exceptional abilities, optimal development, and well-being. Being Smart about Gifted Learning can be ordered here at Gifted Unlimited LLC. (Coming fall, 2021.)

“This tremendous book describes how gifted education resources can be applied to nurturing talent broadly and inclusively across the population. The Optimal Match approach demystifies understandings of giftedness, and brings common sense to conceptions of meaningful learning at home, school, and elsewhere.”

~ Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., Columbia University

This book will prompt re-examination of many long-held beliefs!”

~ Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., Stanford University

“Matthews and Foster highlight the importance of an appropriate education for gifted and talented students with the concept of an optimal match between students and their learning environments…The ideas in this book represent an important conceptual framing that will help gifted and talented programs serve broader and more diverse populations of students.”

~ Frank Worrell, Ph.D., U C Berkeley, American Psychology Association President-Elect, 2022.

“Drs. Matthews and Foster have given us a comprehensive, intelligently designed and brilliantly crafted book written with extraordinary understanding and compassion.

~ Felice Kaufmann, Ph.D., U.S. Presidential Scholar

“Rich with examples, this book highlights the importance of an optimal match between challenging and engaging school and home experiences, and opportunities to develop gifts and talents! A practical, thoughtful contribution by two leading experts!”

~ Sally M. Reis, Ph.D., University of Connecticut

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