One morning a few months ago, I went into Oliver’s room to wake him up and get him moving for the day, and couldn’t believe what I found.
I had tucked him in the night before, allowed 30 minutes of reading time, and called “lights out” up the stairs by 9pm. Since Ryan and I didn’t hear anything else from him that night, we had no reason to believe that is wasn’t a typical bedtime for our first grader.
But when I went in to greet him the following morning, I honestly didn’t know whether to scold or applaud. There in the corner of his room hung the most impressive installation of white plastic children’s hangers I’d ever seen.
I don’t know what inspired it or how he’d pulled it off. I wasn’t even sure where all of the hangers had come from (until I located a heap of dress shirts tucked into a corner on his closet floor). A white web – a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, like I’d learned in art school – spanned the air space of nearly a quarter of his bedroom. It attached at his desk, his stools, the dresser and the bunk beds. It was… spectacular.
I knew he must have done it after lights out time, while he absolutely should have been sleeping. And for that, I knew there would have to be a consequence. But I also absolutely got where he was coming from – most of my best ideas come to me at night time right before I fall asleep. I imagine that he was laying in bed, winding down, and was struck with a big idea that he absolutely had to try right then.
As parents, of course we addressed the bedtime disobedience, but we were also excited for the opportunity to learn more about our child and how he works, and to learn how to make room for in-bounds creativity in the evening. If you suspect you might be raising a creative, here are a few things you might consider.
5 ways to foster creativity in your child:
- Pay attention to when your child is most creative and make it okay to create during that time. If mid-afternoon is their biggest idea time, aim to do errands and make appointments in the morning so you can be home (or at a fun location!) to play during creative time. If bedtime is their jam, begin the nighttime routine a bit earlier so they can have thirty minutes to roam in their space before reading time.
- Loosen up on some of the “neatness” rules. When I was a little girl, my Mom used to let us drag blankets toys into the yard on pretty days and there was always ongoing story lines taking place in the play room. Creativity is messy – if you’re a tidy person, be intentional about assigning locations or times for your child to let loose.
- Acknowledge and value their creations. If they makes an awesome-yet-crazy hanger installation in their room, tell them they’re creative and praise their work as art! Photograph what they’ve created and if it’s possible to navigate around it for a couple of days, don’t make them take it down right away.
- Let your child pick out their own clothes. It’s an everyday exercise in creativity – I’ve been picking my own clothes since Kindergarten. This can be a challenge for parents (like me) who don’t want to lose too much control, but one easy solution is to shop with this in mind and make available options that will generally work well together. (Last summer, we kept all of Oliver’s shorts in stripes or patterns, and all of his shirts were solids. He got to pick, but it wasn’t going to go terribly wrong.)
- Give them a say in how “their space” looks. You have the whole house to make lovely, so once your kids are old enough to have an opinion, let them weigh in on how their bedrooms are laid out and what is hung on the walls. I rearranged my bedroom at least quarterly as a kid, even in elementary school. And as soon as I was old enough to be tidy about it and use a ladder, I painted my bedroom a new color at least twice a year. I’m sure we probably lost square footage in that bedroom for all the coats of paint on the walls, but it was all worth it when I walked across the stage at graduation to receive my degree in Interior Design!