Being a mother is the highlight of my life. I’m always thinking of ways to help my little guy, for his mind grow and help him explore the world around him. Being an author who works with young children regularly, I think about his same thing too. How can I reach these kids? What can I do to inspire them?
You probably already know how important it is for kids to indulge their creative side, but even when they’re up for being imaginative, many projects are mostly a lesson in following instructions. That’s certainly valuable, but real creativity also involves figuring things out for themselves.
This is something I’ve learned throughout the years of working in classrooms. When collaborating with a class on a project, I give the students parameters but ultimately giving them free reign to complete the task. Most recently, I worked with a fifth grade class on illustrations for an upcoming children’s book I have set to be released next month.
The class was broken up into teams of two or three students and assigned a page to illustrate. I told them roughly what I was looking for, and said the rest was up to them. I encouraged them to brainstorm together, and reminded them they are only limited by their imagination, so set it free and get creative.
This project-based, interactive experience inspires kids like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Read on for tips on how to inspire your children, and see how I implemented these same tips when working in the classroom.
Practice what you preach.
Mentor and coach alongside your children, It’s incredibly inspiring for kids to work with their parents, instead of merely taking directions from them. I always work alongside the students on the assigned projects. And hey, maybe you’ll learn something new, too! The way kids approach things are often different than how an adult would, so they can inspire you just as much as you do them.
Encourage hands-on activities.
Get in there and work with your hands. We have a natural desire to build and create. Put away the computers and smartphones, get some tools––even just a hammer, nails and wood––and create something together.
This was a very hands-on activity with this class. They explored various art mediums. We put away electronics and just let our creative juices flow. Here are some of the pieces they illustrated. Such talent in these children!
Provide the raw materials.
Both at home and in the classroom I provided the materials that encourage imaginative play. By having the students work together on the illustrations Not only did this promote creativity and abstract thinking, but it also provided opportunities to take on new roles and experiment with teamwork and relationships.
Applaud efforts over outcomes.
While it’s tempting to pile on the praise for a job well done, it’s more important to encourage kids throughout the process to recognize and engage their natural creativity and ability. When a child realizes for himself that he has the ability, potential, and know-how to figure it out, his motivation becomes a much more in-depth pool to draw from.
Recognize that one size does not fit all.
Different brains process information in different ways. I am a visual learner, reading directions doesn’t accomplish the same as seeing how to do something. When I checked in with the class on their progress, several had questions about what next step to take. Some asked about color blending. For some students, I needed to verbally explain how to accomplish what they were seeking to achieve. The rest, I had to show them. I even had a video for some to watch as many times as they needed to understand color blending.
So now you might be wondering what happens next? What do I do with the illustrations? Their beautiful drawings will be used as the base idea for the finale illustrations in Little Katie Explores the Coral Reef. I will also display their paintings on my website, and treasure them always!
I hope you enjoyed hearing how I strive to inspire the students I work with. Please, share your thoughts in the comments below for ways to promote creative play both at home and in the classroom.
Before you go, would you please join me in giving this class a big round of applause for their hard work on these magnificent illustrations! 👏👏👏👍🏻👍🏻 This class certainly has some raw talent and budding artists among them!