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?