How to Create Creative Kids

Invent Fun

Creating Creative Kids

Photograph by Shannon Greer

Joshua Glenn coauthored Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun with Elizabeth Foy Larsen.

His Philosophy:
"You don't want to be the over-involved parent on the one hand or the slacker parent on the other. Creativity is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. If you're a little helicopter-y and do the prep work but then leave your kids alone, creativity will happen."

His Creative Tips:
1. Set it up. Keep a mental list of things the kids need for their pursuits. Have we got enough paper? Are there batteries in the flashlight? Are the bike tires pumped up? Monitor those needs--but that's all you have to do. "The kids will gravitate toward the things you've prepared," says Joshua.
2. Put limits on TV and screen time to force kids into the opportunity zone. Joshua doesn't ban his kids from having games on their iPad, but he makes them ask him--every time--if they can play. The point is to be thoughtful about it, so they're using the tool instead of the tool using them.
3. Kick the older kids outside. Joshua tells his 13-year-old and 15-year-old, "Get on your bikes and ride around the neighborhood and don?t come back for an hour." Or "Here's ten bucks, walk into town with your friends and get yourselves a slice of pizza." The kids may moan and groan, but they're always very happy the second they're out the door, he says.

Inspiring Idea: Game Hacking Joshua's family plays a lot of board games, but they refuse to be constrained by the rules. Or the board. Or the pieces included. "You can buy old board games and draw on them, make new rules, revamp the old," he says. Consider adding Sorry! pieces to Candy Land, or assigning special powers to character cards such as Queen Frostine and Gramma Nut. Make a Risk-Monopoly mash-up where you can use your real-estate earnings to fund your armies. Or simply make up games from scratch: bring plastic figures to the beach and play on squares drawn in the sand, adding dice and rules. Start with a game you have or know, and identify the problem. What parts of it are boring, and why? If it's good, what could make it even better? What if you added dice or other game pieces? What if you dealt the cards out instead of drawing them? Examples:

- Chinese Checkers. Invent other legal marble moves.
- Candy Land. Deal out the cards and add a trading element--or, to hack this preschool game for older kids, include a marauding horde of plastic zombies.
- Yahtzee. If you don't use all three rolls, take a penny for each forsaken roll and redeem them for extra rolls during another turn.

Explore Your World

Creating Creative Kids

Photograph by Shannon Greer

Keri Smith is the author of The Pocket Scavenger, Wreck This Journal, and ten other books.

Her Philosophy: "Small children are naturally creative. It's all there, there's no need to try and find it!"

Her Creative Tips:
1. Kids are interested in how things work. Assemble a little inventor's kit with broken devices (an old calculator, say) for kids to take apart and try to put back together.
2. Dress the part. One of Keri's favorite things is simply putting on some kind of costume or uniform. Take a cap and say, "Let's put on our scavenger hat!" Or how about an inventor's vest? It transforms the experience.
3. Get excited. Try to incorporate your interests. As Keri says, "Kids really respond to your passion. If you get excited about something, they get excited, too, and that's invaluable."

Inspiring Idea: Anywhere Scavenger Hunt "We approach life as a scavenger hunt," Keri says. "We go out and see what we can find. But it's also about developing a story about each object, whether it's real or imaginary. Sometimes scavenging will turn into a mystery: where did that come from and who left it here and why? This week we discovered a bunch of holes in the ground, and we created fantastic stories to explain them."

- Go for a walk around your neighborhood. Find five trees. Give each of them a name. (Keri's son Tilden named some trees Henry, Fergus, Moses, and the Secret Pine, which is hidden, of course.)
- Collect three of the smallest things you can find.
- Find something that is shaped like an animal.
- Find a smell you've never smelled before (a flower, a spice).
- Find four things that are in the shape of a circle.

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