Creativity helps children develop emotional, social, and critical thinking skills. Parents and caregivers can encourage children’s creativity in many ways.

child doing a craft to flex their creativityShare on Pinterest
FluxFactory/Getty Images

Imagination and creativity are important parts of a child’s life. Though your mind may jump to glue and construction paper, creativity can include various activities, from artistic activities like working with clay or painting to free play, such as playing pretend.

Creativity plays an important role in your child’s development. You can take several steps to help encourage imaginative thinking and play in your children.

You can foster creativity in children with direct involvement in their ventures and through how you structure your home or interactions with them.

As parents or caregivers, you can do a lot to help spark creative expression in your children. To start, you can try some of these strategies.

Encourage art activities

Arts and crafts can be done (and fun) at any age. The complexity of the art projects may change over time, but the idea is the same. You and your children can participate in a project, such as:

  • making a house, fort, boat, spaceship, etc. out of a cardboard box
  • coloring a picture
  • drawing
  • making something with modeling clay
  • putting together a plastic or wooden model
  • sewing
  • making jewelry
  • creating a diorama

There are several other activities you can do with your kids. They’re only limited by their breadth of imagination.

Though you can order or buy just about any supply or tool, you don’t have to spend much money to make it. You can often make fun crafts with stuff you can find around your living space.

Limit screen time

Screen time, which includes TV, computers, phones, tablets, and other electronic devices, takes much time in children’s lives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), finds kids spend about 7.5 hours daily on screens. Daily screen time adds up to 114 days in front of a screen over a year.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recommends much more limited screen time for children, particularly younger children.

For little kids ages 2 to 5, they recommend no more than 1 hour of noneducational screen time per day and 3 hours per day on the weekend.

Among many other issues, they note that screen time takes away from time that your child could be doing other activities for fun or relaxation. Non-screen activities may include creating music or writing their own stories.

Managing your child’s screen time can help encourage them to be more creative and find creative ways to entertain themselves.

Editor’s note

“Interestingly, over a decade of screentime use, I’ve found my son is his most creative when he’s been on timeout or restriction! When he’s gotten the privilege of electronics withheld over the years, that’s when he’s kicked on his creative juices out of boredom and:

  • wrote a comic
  • started to read 300 to 500-page fiction novels in elementary
  • started a yoyo repair business (with a website!)
  • learned how to build paper airplanes and the art of origami
  • learned to play bass guitar
  • self-taught complex theme songs of TV shows (he wished he was watching!) on piano
  • attempted problem-solving and repair of his broken electronics

Kristin Currin-Sheehan, Editor for Psych Central

Was this helpful?

Allow time for imaginative play

When you have children, you may be tempted to get them involved in multiple activities.

While keeping their schedule busy may introduce them to new experiences, you can make sure you still give them a chance to engage in imaginative play or other downtime activities that encourage creativity.

Imaginative play is any form of role-playing or make-believe and can look like:

  • playing with dolls and action figures
  • playing dress-up
  • pretending to fly to space
  • playing restaurant
  • or other similar activities

If they have trouble getting into pretend play independently, you can help encourage this play and participate with them.

Other tips and tricks to inspire creativity

When doing artistic activities, you might try the following tips to help encourage their creativity:

  • Do not stress about the mess.
  • Do not compare their art to yours.
  • Embrace their designs and ideas without making suggestions for change.
  • Share their stories, artwork, plays, and other projects with a broader audience.
  • Give them the independence to choose what they want to do and how they do it.
  • Encourage them to experiment.
  • Give specific praise and ask specific questions about their artwork.
  • Take an interest in the activities they enjoy.

Creativity plays a major role in child development and helps a child grow emotional skills and critical thinking skills.

Experts at Maryville University state some potential benefits of creativity in children include:

  • a higher emotional intelligence score
  • reducing stress
  • the opportunity to practice original and practical thinking
  • allowing a child to explore their identity

Creativity may also help boost self-esteem, particularly when parents, teachers, or caregivers give positive feedback about children’s artwork or other creative projects. Arts and crafts, coloring, painting, and other activities can also encourage fine motor skill development.

Early creativity may also help introduce children to academic concepts. Experimenting can introduce children to scientific methods, while counting, sorting, and making patterns can help introduce a child to math concepts.

Creativity is not directly linked to being gifted.

However, a 2020 study did show that children with good elaboration and high originality scored higher on personal adaptation scales and intelligence scores, indicating that creativity may help give children an edge when it comes to learning.

Most kids are naturally creative, thanks to being naturally curious.

Curiosity and the desire to explore the world drive children to use their imagination and problem-solving skills in innovative ways as they wonder what something does, how something works, or what something would be like.

You can give a child more opportunities to flex their creative muscles. Encouraging a child’s creativity can lead them to try a new way to solve a problem or use a toy. You may even inspire a new art project, story, or a new way of thinking about the world around them.

Creativity may help your child with many aspects of their development, such as:

  • introducing early academic concepts
  • developing new ways of thinking
  • EQ
  • helping with stress

As a parent, you can take several steps to help encourage creativity. They can include making the home environment more inviting to creativity by:

  • not stressing over messes
  • praising work
  • showing enthusiasm for children’s creative endeavors

You can also take steps like:

  • providing models and art supplies
  • encouraging role-playing and imaginative play
  • participating in activities with your children