How Creative Parents Inspire Their Own Kids

Their day jobs require them to think outside the box. So what are these parents' insider ideas for fostering imagination at home? Read on!

Creative Parents, p.1

Put on a show. "When we get together with friends for Sunday lunch, the adults encourage the kids to perform an improvised play. I like the fact that they're using their imaginations, not just to make up characters and stories but also to figure out what they're going to wear and use as props. I think the main benefit is that doing these shows gives them the confidence to express their own ideas."
-- Steve McNicholas, co-creator and co-director of the modern dance show STOMP and the father of two, ages 11 and 4

Be crafty. "My daughter and I have an arts-and-crafts day each week, usually at my flower shop on a slow day. We recently made potpourri, and she loved peeling the petals off the roses. Sometimes I'll invite friends and their kids over too. Last time, we potted miniature spruce trees in silver julep cups and tied bows around them."
-- Meredith Waga Pérez, owner of Belle Fleur, a flower shop in New York City, and the mother of two, ages 5 and 4 months

Transform found objects. "When we moved to where we live now, we had to replace many appliances, so we had a lot of big cardboard boxes lying around. My kids were little, and we let them paint the boxes both inside and out. My daughter even added flowers on the outside, like window boxes."
-- Sara Moulton, chef, host of Sara's Secrets on the Food Network, author of Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, and the mother of two, ages 18 and 14

Plant seeds of imagination. "Digging and planting affect almost all the senses -- touch, sight, smell, even taste if you grow vegetables. Kids love the process of watching a seed sprout. Beans are easy to grow, and a great time to plant them is in March. In the fall, you can plant bulbs with your child so that next spring he can see the flowers pop up. That's an excellent lesson in growth and life."
-- Panayoti Kelaidis, director of outreach for Denver Botanic Gardens and the father of two, ages 17 and 12

Creative Parents, p.2

Let her tell the story of her life. "At bedtime, I start out by saying, 'Once upon a time, there was a girl called Sehar. The little girl was almost 3 years old and she lived in Chicago and she woke up... ' and then Sehar helps me describe what happened to her that day. She's really interested in filling in the details. We make up songs too. I do it in Hindi, because I don't speak the language enough to her during the day."
-- Rohini Dey, founder and owner of Vermilion, a Latin-Indian fusion restaurant in Chicago, and the mother of two, ages 3 and 1

Give kids choices. "I'm a firm believer in introducing children to lots of different things. Take them to a music class or a book-making class or a tie-dye workshop. Just try it. Do it for one or two sessions. After that, follow their cue. If they're interested, keep going. (Sometimes I'll meet kids who say, 'I never knew I liked doing art.') If they're not, don't push it."
-- Jeri Robinson, vice-president of early childhood development at Boston Children's Museum and grandmother of two, ages 9 and 4

Challenge them. "If our children wanted to buy something ready-made, we usually said no. When our son was into collecting baseball cards, he wanted to buy plastic sleeves to put them in. We said no. So he took plastic and tape and made his own baseball-card sleeves. We told our kids, 'If there's something you want to make, we'll find the materials.' When you challenge children that way, they often rise to the occasion."
-- Bob and Michele Root-Bernstein, co-authors of Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People and the parents of two, ages 22 and 20

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