Part I: Spark Creativity

Growing up in the pre-iPhone era, I entrenched myself in an imaginary world of LEGO, Playmobil, and Barbies nearly every day, early in my childhood. Spending afternoons creating stories through my imagination, it was a natural part of my being to construct characters, plots, and drama not only with toys, but the everyday objects around me.

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Witnessing modern childhood as a detached, third party observer, I realize the way I engaged with my imagination as a child is a far-flung reality from how kids engage their creativity today, just two decades after my own coming-of-age. Now, children can create, deconstruct, and re-imagine on computers, tablets, phones, and even 3-D printers. Though using these mediums is surely different from “how things used to be,” modern technology can serve as a wildly successful creative outlet for youth, when employed with that intention.

Unfortunately, research has found that there has been a steady decline in creativity among schoolchildren over the past few decades. This is an alarming development, as one study has found that CEOs identify creativity as the #1 trait that helps them overcome the challenges of their role. With childhood being a pivotal time for kids to explore and mold their concepts of the world around them, mentors can play a crucial role in helping to foster creativity.

As 21st century mentors, how can we engage our Littles’ creativity and, in the process, improve their well-being, sometimes in the face of few tangible resources? Here are some suggestions to help foster your Little Brother or Sister’s ingenuity.

  1. Kids ask a lot of questions. Like sponges, they want to soak up as much knowledge as they can. The next time your Little asks you a question, delay your own answer by first asking them what they believe. This helps them to think critically and evaluate for themselves.
  2. Ask questions of your own. Construct a question jar to fill with all sorts of open-ended and imaginative questions, like “What do you think aliens are like?” or “How would your life change if you could fly?” You may be surprised and impressed with the creativity of the answers they come up with!
  3. Give your Little space to dictate what happens next (within reason, of course- gotta be safe!). Much like how improvisational actors are guided by a “Yes, and…” mantra, you can help foster your Little’s imagination when you give them the freedom to call the shots, and allow yourself to buy into that reality. For instance, if you’re visiting a museum with your Little, ask what they think a painter was thinking when they developed a particular piece. This steers them away from the expectation of having only one right answer, allowing them to form their own conclusions.

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You can put these concepts into action on every outing you have together, because they are all fostered through conversation. In our next blog post, we’ll talk about activities that can help support your Little’s creativity!

Do you use these or other methods to engage your Little’s curiosity and critical thinking? Let us know in the comments!

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