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5 Ways Mama-Writers Can Foster Creativity in Kids

Every time I take all 5 of my kids out shopping, I invariably get a store clerk who says something like this, “Wow, are all these kids yours?” To which I always sweetly reply, “No, three of them are, but I kidnapped the other two while I was shopping.” Okay, not really. That’s only what I wish I could say! Usually I try to reply, “Yes they’re all mine and I’m totally blessed.”

I guess most people aren’t used to seeing a mom with 5 kids. They can’t believe someone would actually choose to have so many children. They raise their eyebrows and get that look in their eyes—the one that says, “You’re nuts.”

Then when people find out I have 5 kids AND I write books, they think I’m totally insane. Either that, or they think I’m superwoman with the ability to operate without any sleep.

One of the most common questions I get is, “How do you do it? How do you manage your large family and write books?”

I don’t claim to have all the answers. In fact, some days I don’t feel like I’m “managing” very well at all. And there are times when I grow weary of trying to juggle everything. It’s not easy. I really am NOT superwoman. But . . .

One of the things I think I’ve done right is this: I’ve fostered creativity in my kids. And when we have creative kids, they’re able to play and entertain themselves, without needing constant parental involvement. When kids can occupy themselves in healthy, creative ways, that gives us more time for mom-duties and writing-work.

Don’t get me wrong. My kids aren’t perfect. They aren’t out in the backyard building a space-shuttle out of shoe boxes. But here are a few of the things I’ve done to help them move toward creativity:

1. Emphasize that creativity is important.

We’ve always told our kids how much we value creativity in our family. When we see them being creative we make a point of telling them how much we like it. When kids live in an environment that encourages and recognizes creative efforts, then they’re likely to strive after it more.

2. Limit screen time.

My kids like movies and video games as much as the rest of the population. They also like cookies and candy. But that doesn’t mean I give them an unlimited supply. I want them to develop healthy eating habits—getting large doses of what’s best for their bodies and much smaller amounts of the junk-food. Same with their minds. I want to make sure they're getting enough healthy brain-food and not gorging themselves on fluffy mind-desserts.

3. Allow them plenty of down time.

Often we’re so busy running all over town taking our kids to great activities that they lose out on the opportunity to have endless hours spread out before them with nothing to do BUT be creative. Sometimes we have to let our kids get “bored” before they have the chance to find their creative bent. But they won't get bored (and subsequently creative) if we're too busy.

4. Give them the space and supplies to be creative.

I’ve filled a closet with baskets of all kinds of supplies—paints, beads, fabric scraps, stamps, stickers, etc. Yes, my kids often make a mess (and I’m challenged to help them learn how to clean up after themselves!), but they have the freedom to create in any way they desire. From books to toys, from bedrooms to basement, we’ve worked to surround our kids with an environment that beckons them to live creatively.

5. Challenge them to use their imaginations.

Even with all the right supplies and the most creative toys, our children have to take that next step to use their imagination, to engage in the act of visualizing, participating, and pretending. Sometimes we can prompt them with “what if” scenarios that help spark their own ideas. Sometimes they can draw inspiration from movies or books. Recently my daughters watched Hotel For Dogs. Then afterward, they created a “hotel” for their stuffed animals with all their own inventions and services for their “pets.”

All of us want creative kids, who grow up with the capability to pursue their dreams. By nurturing creativity within them, we not only help them achieve more, but in the process, as they’re occupied with their interests and pursuits, then we’re able to achieve more too!

What other ways can parents foster creativity in their children? Do you find that when your children are creatively occupied that frees you up for more work time?

41 comments:

  1. This is a super awesome post! I love when you write about your childen and give us a glimpse into what works for you - a mommy of five! (I said hi to you in my post today - it has to do with big families).

    Anyway, I just realized I forgot to put the link to your blog....now my mind is going off on a tangent.

    Back on track! Yes, I want my son to be creative. And these are excellent ideas!!

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  2. Great post. And for the record I love that you have so many kids. I'm a teacher and have always worked, so my husband and I stopped at three (my blessing, for sure), but if I had been a SAHM, I would have had half a dozen! God bless and be happy!

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  3. I do love when my kids are being creative but it doesn't always translate over into writing time for me. Sometimes it needs refereeing. Or a judge...etc. But I'd much rather do that and sacrifice writing time than have them watch 3 hours of tv a day!

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  4. Great ideas and I am going to try and make more of an effort to do this. Thank you so much for sharing. :O)

    And yes each one of your kids is a blessing!

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  5. I ask a lot my kidlets a lot of questions (does that surprise you?).

    This is awesome. I think fostering our children's imaginations is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

    ~ Wendy

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  6. Good for you, sweetie. I admire you, and how you're raising your family. I think it's no one's business how many kids you have, btw.

    We read to our kids since they were infants, and they are both prolific readers. We also limited tv time, and helped them explore their natural talents.

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  7. Judging by the lovely creations our twins receive from yours, I would say that you have definitely succeeded in teaching them to use their creativity!:-) It is definitely more rewarding in the long-term than passive entertainment. Thanks for a great post!

    ~ Betsy

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  8. If parents want creative children, parents have to be creative themselves. Children need to see parents doing. It's not enough to hand a child a box of crayons and paper. Helps too if parents and child share the same enthusiasm for a creative medium

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  9. It's helpful to see this laid out like you have it. Thank you, Jody!

    I think it would do my family wonders if I'd just get our supplies organized!

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  10. My kids learn by example, and so often I catch them "writing" their own stories, or even better, acting them out. One time, my five year old dictated his zombie story to me, and I typed it up, although I did recommend a happier ending that he's still considering! Point is, we encourage creativity by just being writers ourselves, although we rarely think about it. You're blog is so inspiring. Thanks.

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  11. People ask me how I have time to write and work full-time and I always say, "I don't have any kids." Well, now I'm a stepmom but it's only every other weekend. Five kids...WOW! It is through playing the old-fashioned way (not video games or board games) that kids develop that creativity. It's far too easy to sit them down in front of the TV and let it babysit them.

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  12. I love this post! I grew up in a family of five kids, and I'd love to have that many. (I'm on baby #2 and taking it one baby at a time right now.) Anyway, I love this because sometimes I sort of resign myself to the fact that once I have MORE kids I'll have LESS time to write. Apparently it's possible, so yea!

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  13. I'm an only child, but my hubby is one of five children. And his mom raised those kids pretty much herself, because their dad was a farmer. Then he died when the oldest was 17 and the youngest was 10. Your children are very lucky to have you as a mom, Jody. Raising healthy children is the hardest job any of us will tackle. And to do it well and be a successful writer is mind-boggling. Love hearing how you raise your children.
    Karen

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  14. Hi Jody! This is sooo amazing. I sometimes feel so overwhelmed with trying to work and write and take care of my kids and it's so great to hear from other moms like you! Plus, I've always wanted four of five kids so God willling, that's what we'll end up with. :) Anyway, thank you for this WONDERFUL post. Hey, also, I just got an email from Christian Book that your book is backordered... I'm hoping and praying that means you've sold so many advance copies that they're already having trouble keeping up!! I can't WAIT to read it!

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  15. Creativity is a must! My kids have to, at the least, be creative enough to figure out what to do with themselves once home-school and chores are done, because I'm not going to entertain them--or even help them, most of the time. If they want to build an adobe house, they have to figure out how to do it on their own (yes, they did, with the help of a family of boys). After our last TV broke, we didn't replace it. They still watch movies on the computer occasionally, but that's it. No entertainment in this house, that's for sure!

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  16. My mom always got the same thing in grocery stores and had the same reaction as you. (There's six of us!)

    Big family bonus: the kids entertain each other a lot. My childhood memories nearly always involve two or three or more of my siblings. We invented games and worlds together, we built forts and coloured and made Lego worlds together. (And rarely watched TV.) I wouldn't change it for anything.

    I really like this post because that's what I want to do: have a big family and write books. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  17. This is something I definitely strive towards, but often fail at with my boys. My daughter is way more creative and can play for hours making up stories or creating art.

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  18. This is great! AS the new school year fast approaches I plan on fostering my children's creativity any way I can. Excellent post!

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  19. Downtime is essential. So much of life involves waiting, empty hours, and the like. It is so important for kids to learn ways to entertain themselves.

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  20. Hey Erin,

    I WISH it meant they were having trouble keeping up with pre-orders. Wouldn't that be totally awesome? :-)

    But apparently "backorder" is kind of a generic term that companies use for anything that's not immediately available. It really means that the company will ship the book as speedily as possible when they receive the book from the publisher. And my publisher is going to be shipping out my book to distributors, etc. in early Sept.

    Thanks for your encouragement and excitement! It means a lot!

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  21. Hi Jody,

    Though I've only raised 3 kids, not 5, I can attest to your methods. I agree that screen time drains kids of imagination. I think we have an entire nation of kids addicted to entertainment.

    Also, my kids were only allowed to be involved in one sports/activity at a time. I SO agree with their need for down time.

    2 things I always encouraged my kids (and now my grandkids) to do: (1) play outside and (2) read, read, read!

    Blessings to you!

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  22. Cutting down on TV time is so hard. I limit my son to a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon. Some days I go over that limit, though, when I have a lot on my to-do list. :)

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  23. Wow, Jody! You're a supermom and superwoman. You amaze me.
    I have only one kid. She's sweet, loving, caring girl, but she demands attention all the time. I mean she can certainly entertain herself, but after some time she becomes bored and comes to me, or she turns on TV. She's 7 by the way.
    Sometimes I think the problem she's the only one, so she has no company of other kids at home. I wonder how your five kids feel about each other.

    And another question is extra activities (not home activities). I'm taking mine to music, art, ballet, tennis. Lots of driving around.
    I'm still a SAHM and school time is my writing time (mostly). But now I'm looking for a day job, and I cannot help thinking that the only time I'll have for writing will be a night time.

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  24. Love this! I'm always looking for ways to engage my kids AND balance writing time. IT IS A CHALLENGE! These are great tips, Jody!

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  25. Great post! People thought I was nuts, but I didn't let The Kiddo have coloring books. I just gave her plenty of blank copy paper, and she scribbled on those -- I was actually disappointed the day she came home from kindergarten with perfectly colored within-the-lines coloring sheets.

    We battle Disney with the rest of the world, but I do try to limit screen time.

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  26. Actually, I think that you are supermom. Encouraging, creative, and steady on the path!

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  27. Nice post. I think giving our kids the tools to be creative and use their imagination is one of the best things we can do. I remember so many fun things I did as a kid that were just spur of the moment made up games that kept us occupied for hours. We keep busy with pens and paper and markers and such for awhile around here. One thing my youngest (and sometimes my older daughter, too) likes to do is pretend to do. She has food and silverware and plates and such, but sometimes when it's warm out, I'll put a big bucket of water for them to pretend is food and they'll stir and create and cook and serve. It gets them out of the house and they get to play in water without making a mess.

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  28. Great post on fostering creativity in children. I think it's marvellous how you bring up your children -- AND write!

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  29. Great post! I'm teaching at a writers conference with cool writer Michelle Rayburn, who shared at lunch that a writerly type is sprouting in her family.
    Isn't that COOL?????

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  30. You've made amazing points. All of them so true and perfectly put. Some days you have it, some days you don't but every day you try and live by the rules you know have worked in the past.

    I think it's amazing you are able to do all you can, however as a person who doesn't have several children but a busy life of her own I understand not always having the answers on how you do what you do in a day!

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  31. I agree with you on every single point! As a homeschooling mama to four, all of errand running/activities are limited to Tuesday and Friday afternoons. Weekends are for family time, relaxing together, creating together. Each day after school and lunch, we have quiet time. I work/blog/balance check book, etc. and they read, draw, write, create. I love having these long stretches of time for them to just be and relax into themselves, feeling free to create or pursue creative play.

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  32. Sasha Vilchynskaya asked: Sometimes I think the problem she's the only one, so she has no company of other kids at home. I wonder how your five kids feel about each other

    My answer: Sasha, I think you're on to something. My five really do find inspiration from each other, especially my younger ones watching their older siblings. When my 11 year olds made their "Hotel" for their "pets," my 4 year old played with them and had an absolute blast! So they really do find creativity from each other. But my 4 year old has also learned to play by herself creatively. And she's reaching the point where she can do that for longer and longer stretches of time, which really helps!

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  33. Hi Jody -

    You may not think you're not Supermom, but you are to your children. :)

    Great ideas! While I didn't raise any children, I did grow up in a creative environment. I inhaled books, dolls, crocheting, crafting, coloring, and making up stories.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  34. I TOTALLY need to do this more. I have such issues with, 'Mom, I'm bored, there's nothing to do' ... and it makes me want to pull out my hair sometimes!! And I confess... I rely on "screen" time way more than I should. *sigh* I WILL improve on this, I WILL!

    And I get the *gasp* 4 kids?? thing now too! Many times it's because people don't think I look old enough to have 4 kids (I'm 29... it is shocking to people these days to be so young and not be just starting a family!)

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  35. Ready to head out here in a minute for 2-3 hours of errands with 5 kiddos (3 of my own and 2 I kidnapped. okay so maybe I'm babysitting them for the day.). I don't think I'm going to survive.

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  36. This works for grammas, too.

    We have a Yamaha full-size keyboard, and Gracee can turn that baby up as loud as she wants and experiment with all the sounds (as long as Papa's not home.) She dances and writes songs.

    I also wrote about her in one of my last posts on ideas--how I jabbered on and on to take her mind off things all screens in cars, and we ended up dreaming up stories about fire hydrants.

    I'm a lot more lenient now about messes that I used to be. :)

    When my own kids were young, they were required to put on an impromptu play on Christmas Eve. What fun it was to hear them preparing.

    Great stuff, Jody!

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  37. Hi Jody! I'm also amazed by that comment at the grocery store (I have four children). As if I felt that my grocery shopping wasn't exciting enough that I had to invite other children to accompany me!

    Great ideas on promoting creativity. My dh is great at asking wonderful questions at the dinner table such as "if you had one day to live, what movie would you watch?" or "if money wasn't an object, where would you take the family on vacation?" It promotes such great conversations around our dinner table.

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  38. Wonderful, wonderful advice! It is key, I think, to have an environment that fosters creativity. Children need time and the tools to be able to express themselves creatively. I think this helps them as they grow into adulthood, causing them to think independently and outside the box as necessary.
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  39. I'm a huge fan of this post Jody! :) I love inspiring kids to be creative and am usually pulling out crafts for my boys. If only they'd clean up without so much struggle. lol

    We have our boys keep a journal (for a year now) that they use to write about what happened during their week. Art supplies always are easy to find. We have plenty of costumes and creative toys too.

    What other ways can parents foster creativity in their children? Play along! If they want to be Batman or princess for the day, go with it.

    Do you find that when your children are creatively occupied that frees you up for more work time? Unless they need help with a project, yes!

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  40. Awesome post! Creativity IS important. Looking back on my life, I came to realize the importance of creative expression. It's a cornerstone of happiness. What a wonderful gift to give your children.

    And HEAR HEAR for free time to be bored! Seems like kids are way too busy these days.

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