In this age of Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I am worried that the pressure to keep your house neat and clean at all times will have ill effects on children’s creativity. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a clean house, but remember it shouldn’t come at the expense of children being able to play creatively, explore what they’re curious about, and make a mess once in a while.
This topic has been near and dear to my heart since my children were young. In fact, it was a piece of the inspiration for my first book, Aliana Reaches for the Moon. Some of my favorite parenting memories include walking around the neighborhood with a child or two in tow for the express purpose of examining leaves, insects, and other treasures suburbia had to offer. We were the family who always had a bag of homemade Play Doh in the refrigerator, building toys of all varieties, and we cooked together on a regular basis.
We spent considerable time reading together every day and were practically celebrities at the library which was our favorite place in town. What I didn’t focus on, was keeping my house immaculate like the one I grew up in. In fact, one time my mom stopped by, a very regular occurrence in those days, while my son and I sat reading on the couch. He was probably 3 and fully engaged in whatever book I was reading. My mom waited while we read. She was taking inventory of all the dust that hadn’t been removed, and I’m sure some other housekeeping shortcomings of mine. She relayed this story to me years later. She wanted to comment, but bit her tongue. She understood reading to her grandchild was more important work.
These two examples of my time parenting children should strike a chord with anyone who is currently raising or has raised children. There are only so many hours in the day and choosing to use them to clean is something I can honestly say has never been my priority. The other side of that is when my children made a mess, which happened ALL THE TIME, I didn’t worry about it. The creativity involved was the important element. It was fun to watch them build, explore, dissect, and collect.
There have been numerous studies of how important creativity is to child development. Creativity is not limited to art. Building, tearing it down and rebuilding based on observation and improved planning is an example of divergent thinking. This is an important skill. It’s creative problem solving, and studies show that these skills are on the decline, likely due to increased screen time at home and standardized testing at school. How can you encourage your child in these endeavors?
Less scheduled time allowing for pretend, free choice, and imaginary play time.
Allowing children to build using objects around the house, not just following the directions on the Lego package.
Tactile play such as finger paint, using shaving cream to draw or make shapes on a table.
Baking cookies or making meatballs together to allow your child to see how mixing ingredients changes each one as the become something new.
Playing with sand or snow without guidance from adults except for safety concerns.
Encouraging curiosity is also vital to raising children. Answering “why” questions may be exhausting, but remind yourself that it’s your child’s way of telling you they want to know more about a specific subject and the world in general. This is great news! It helps them create neural pathways as they go from questions of wonder, to exploring answers. It is the sign of an active mind and encourages observation and the desire to learn. Being curious about people helps build empathy and leadership skills. Often questions are related to how things work or observations in nature. These are skills that lead to engineering and science.
About the author:
Laura Roettiger has enjoyed working with children ever since she was no longer considered a child herself. She was a reading specialist and elementary teacher in Chicago, IL before moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where she worked in Environmental Education and is now a mentor for reading and writing at a STEM school. She is a member of SCBWI, 12x12 Picture Book Forum and has participated in 12Days4Writers and StoryStorm. Her superpower is encouraging curiosity in children and letting them know she believes in them. She has three children of her own whose curiosity and creativity led all of them into STEM related professions. ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON, will be released by Eifrig Publishing in February 2019. For more, you can find Laura online at: www.LauraRoettigerBooks.com. You can also find Laura on Instagram: www.instagram.com/alianareachesforthemoon/ and on Twitter: @ljrwritenow