The word “creativity” means a lot of different things to different people.
To me, creativity is the trait that allows us to look at familiar things in new ways. Often, creativity also involves the ability to present the world in a way that inspires others to see it differently, too!
While many people only think of artists and poets as being creative, that’s not the case. Many dynamic CEOs and excellent public speakers are creative thinkers, with the ability to engage and inspire others in unique ways. The best teachers, doctors, and lawyers are often creative, too: flexible, adaptable, and able to perceive things that others might not.
The truth is that creativity is a valuable asset to anyone: no matter their occupation or stage of life.
Creativity and Homeschooling
While creativity is an important trait for anyone to try to develop, it has a unique role for homeschoolers and homeschooling families. For one thing, some families’ top reason for homeschooling is to better support their children in actively pursuing their creative interests. More generally speaking, many parents choose to homeschool so that they can teach their children how to think for themselves…which often means original or creative thinking!
Also, because homeschooling invites personalized and flexible learning education, finding creative solutions is the ever-present element of the homeschool life. For all these reasons (and more), it makes a lot of sense to cultivate a creative homeschool environment and find ways to inspire creativity on a daily basis.
(Psst: Don’t homeschool, but still looking for ways to spark creativity? That’s okay, you can still use these strategies–they’re really relevant for anyone. Just adapt them into practical applications that work for you!)
Whether you want to foster creativity in your own life, your child’s life, your homeschool (or all of the above), here are 3 simple strategies to spark creativity, every day!
1. Practice Mindfulness
You know how a lot of people say that they get their best ideas in the middle of the night, or in the shower? I think that this is because these kinds of moments give us a bit of solitude to be more mindful of our thoughts.
Our lives can be so noisy–full of multi-tasking, a constant stream of background sounds and pressing to-do lists. Yet, despite the fact that we may feel increasingly tempted to turn the television on for background noise, or juggle numerous tasks at once, the fact remains that creativity blooms when we are deliberately mindful of the task at hand. Perhaps this is why the art of mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular.
What is mindfulness, anyway?
At its core, to be mindful simply means to be aware and in touch with what you’re doing and thinking at that moment. It’s essentially being thoughtful and aware of what’s going on inside that brain of yours.
Mindfulness is also thought to help with anxiety, depression and…you guessed it… creativity. It makes a lot of sense that being in touch with your emotions and thoughts would spark creativity. After all, being creative is all about unique perspectives –which we can’t gain without checking into our own thoughts and feelings every once in a while!
How to Help Your Kids Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness may seem to you like a very “adult” attribute to hone. I’ll be honest, to me, the word conjures up the image of a bunch of twenty-somethings in a quiet yoga studio rather than a bunch of kids.
However, there are definitely some really easy – and yes – kid-friendly ways, you can increase mindfulness and spark creativity in your home (or your homeschool) on a daily basis! Two of the simplest ways to cultivate mindfulness for kids are to:
- Embrace boredom
- Encourage journaling.
Let Them Be “Bored”
Something about the younger generations (and as a millennial, I include myself in this) is that we can be really resistant to quiet, to things not going on all around us. We’re basically over-stimulated noise and activity addicts.
For example, I have a hard time not turning on music in my car. I’m tempted to put a show or audiobook on while I’m doing chores at home. I feel guilty if I’m just doing one thing. The issue here isn’t that music, audiobooks or shows are bad, but rather that sitting in silence is a real challenge. I crave entertainment. However, when I do finally force myself to listen to nothing but my own thoughts? That’s when I really feel like I’m getting to spend some quality time within my own headspace and generally start feeling more creative.
It’s true for kids, too. You know you’ve seen it. Your little one binges on Disney + and then cannot self-entertain the whole rest of the day (tell me I’m not the only one?) When my daughter gets too much TV, she quickly picks up a bad attitude with a heavy side of “entertain me.” Then, when I try to turn OFF the TV? The push-back is HARD.
However, the days when the noise stays down from the very beginning turn out much differently. She might push back initially, but then she settles. She does her work. She draws. She plays. She entertains herself.
She uses her imagination.
Do you feel like the constant need for entertainment is hindering your child (or you) from being more mindful and/or creative? If so, this tip is (deceptively) easy: stop entertaining! Turn the sound off, put the devices away. You might deal with a little push back (and by “might” I mean you definitely will), but then you can watch the magic happen.
(On a related note, check out this eye-opening article to read more about why letting your kids be bored sometimes can be a really good thing.)
Practice Journaling with Your Kids
The practice of journaling can be one of the best ways to let your thoughts flow, unfiltered.
The habitual practice of actually stopping to observe, and write down, your thoughts taps into the essence of what it means to be mindful and creative–to know your own inner voice and embrace the things that make you unique.
Journaling can be particularly awesome for children and teens. For one thing, it’s extra writing practice! Even better than that, it’s writing practice that instills in a child a sense of ownership over language. Obviously, it also fosters self-expression, which is an important part of childhood development.
Journaling is definitely an activity that you can introduce to your children to foster mindfulness. If you homeschool, you could even make journaling a daily part of academics–it might just stick and turn into a healthy lifelong habit!
2. Pay Attention: Observe, Describe and Ask
When it comes to being creative, we’ve established that it’s important to know what you think. However, how can you really know what you think when you haven’t paid attention to some of the great works, ideas, or achievements of others? Your creative decisions will be much better informed if…well… YOU are well-informed. And to be well-informed, you have to pay attention!
How to Practice the Art of Paying Attention
Whereas mindfulness is all about learning to stop and listen to your own thoughts (your inner voice), learning to pay attention to the things outside of yourself is another, more analytical strategy that can spark creativity.
Specifically, in terms of artistic/creative endeavors, this could mean studying a great work in the medium in which you are honing your skills in (such as a painter studying the works of great painters throughout the ages, or a writer studying techniques used in classic novels.)
However, you don’t have to limit this strategy simply to the pursuit of traditionally creative (artistic) endeavors; it’s also useful in fostering creative thinking!
With your kids (or in your own daily life), you can break the practice of “paying attention” down into three parts:
- Observe— look and listen to what’s going on around you. Take in the information. Note the details. You can do this any context–from socially relevant conversations to great works of art or literature.
- Describe–Talk or write about what you see. Be detailed as you do so, and note a few things, in particular, such as: What stood out to me about this? What did I like? What didn’t I like?
- Question— Now that you’ve observed and taken time to describe, stop to think about what stands out to you and ask–why? In any creative study (and in creative thinking) it’s important to understand not just what you think, but why you think it. Once you know that, then you can begin to create your own creative works or formulate your own, unique ideas!
Even Picasso Learned the Rules Before He Broke Them
In writing about these stages of “paying attention,” I can’t help but think about Pablo Picasso.
Picasso, the famous Spanish artist, is most well-known for his abstract, Cubist paintings. (Picasso was, in fact, the father of Cubism.) Unlike the emphasis on realism which had come before it, Cubism focused on conveying geometric (rather than life-like) forms. It was an entirely original, and insanely influential, art style.
Because he is so famous for his Cubist paintings, some may not realize that Picasso was an amazingly gifted artist in realism, as well.
He studied formally from a young age under his father (a skilled painter), and then at a fine arts academy, where he took in great works of art and mastered classic techniques. He was extremely talented. In fact, at the age of 14, he painted the stunning, quite realistic, oil portrait of his Aunt Pepa (below). According to the official Website of Pablo Picasso, this frequently is referred to as “one of the best portraits of Spanish history.”
“The Portrait of Aunt Pepa,” 1896, Pablo Picasso. Image Taken from PabloPicasso.org
So what can we take away from this example about Pablo? Though he is remembered for his unique, Cubist style (for listening to his inner-voice, if you will), his education and observation of classical technique ultimately gave him the strong foundation upon which he built his own contribution to his field. The ability to “pay attention,” (observe, describe and question) is of fundamental importance to the creative process.
Integrating this Process into Your Homeschool
Luckily for parents and homeschooling families, this process (observe, describe, question) pretty much describes a large portion of the way that we teach/learn, already. Whether from books, playtime, nature hikes or trips to the art museum, we generally learn by doing, observing, and asking lots of questions.
So, if you’re trying to cultivate more creativity in your homeschool, simply try to be more aware (ahem…mindful) of this process!
Here are some examples of great situations in which you (or your homeschooler) can practice those “pay attention” skills:
- When reading great works of literature.
- When watching the daily news.
- In studying historical events.
- While visiting the art museum.
- (This one is especially great for aspiring artists): take some of Sparketh’s step-by-step drawing courses to study/observe classic techniques!
3. Get in the Habit of Creating
This third strategy for sparking creativity is the simplest, but can also be the most difficult to follow through on!
Being mindful of your own unique voice + an increased awareness of how others do things = the perfect environment for creativity to thrive.
All that’s left is to make a daily habit of creating.
If you are looking for ways to increase creativity in your own life, your kids’ lives, or your homeschool, consider making time each day to create something. It could be a work of art, a poem, a journal entry…it could even be time spent knitting a scarf or coming up with an original recipe.
I know, I know. It can be hard to create when you don’t feel like it.
Creative blocks (like writer’s block, or holding a paint brush in your hand with your imagination seemingly running on “empty”) are very intimidating and can seem impossible-to-overcome. The only way to overcome the intimidation? (Nike quote incoming): “Just Do It.”
Practice makes possible.
As someone who has several creative interests, here are some things that I’ve found really help me overcome the intimidation of creating so that I can make it a daily part of my life.
- Follow instructions or participate in a challenge. You don’t have to come up with inspiration all by yourself in order to be creative everyday! There are a lot of great resources that can guide you as you make a habit of creating! Here are some great ones to consider for your homeschooler (or yourself).
- Join Sparketh where you can access dozens of online art courses that offer learning tracks, courses, and guidance that you can do on your own time and schedule.
- Got a poet or aspiring novelist in the house? Consider encouraging them to participate in a daily writing challenge like the month-long novel writing challenge, National Write Your Novel Month. You can totally work something like this into your homeschool for the month as part of language arts!
- Set small goals. One thing that makes any creative endeavor less overwhelming is to break seemingly large tasks into small, achievable daily goals. This is true for adults, but even more so for kids who tend to get overwhelmed. If you are trying to get your homeschooler into the habit of creating, remember that small, daily goals keep things fun and motivational, too! Setting a 15-minute timer or challenging your student to write a daily haiku or journal entry are examples of ways you can keep the assignment small and attainable.
- Allow messiness. The creative process is all about discovery. Just as we take inspiration from great ideas that have come before us, we are always taking inspiration from our own creative progress, too! There will (and should) be things about our own creations that we don’t really like—this is what guides us in the progression of creating the next thing and making it even better! In your homeschool, and in your own life, try to give yourself permission to be a little bit messy as you create. This will not only give you things to learn from, but it will also make the habit of creating consistently way less intimidating!
As you can see, there are many different ways you can apply and practice the strategies of practicing mindfulness, paying attention, and making a habit of creating (in your homeschool and beyond!) How will you plan to utilize these strategies?
Written by Kathryn Gustafson