The creative capacity of children extends far beyond coloring inside the lines of an already-drawn picture or recreating the images they see on the Play-Doh box.
Developing a child’s unique creative process, which should be encouraged in children as young as babies, can help with literacy and problem-solving skills and even determine adeptness for STEM careers, says Nichole Myles, executive director of the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry.
Here are seven things to know about children exploring creatively:
1. Creativity Should Be Open-Ended
The museum, marking its 15th anniversary this month, supports process-driven creativity. It’s about the experience – allowing young ones to work with materials such as styrofoam and kinetic sand in various ways – rather than the actual product.
"It’s a little bit about building your confidence and not getting something wrong, but it’s also about the process of bringing your own ideas to fruition,” Myles says.
2. The Process Can Get Messy
Giving children free creative reign means letting them do things like mix paints – up until they create the color brown.
"You won’t know that if you mix all of those colors over and over again you get brown unless you actually do it. So sometimes that creativity is very messy. But we support those kinds of experiences in our space,” Myles says.
"You have to take risks and have those explorations,” she adds. “When children get older, the notion of being able to experiment with something and then try again and develop one’s own design are very important to school success.”
3. It Pays Off in Skills
Such risk-taking helps with building problem-solving and resilience skills – even in very young children.
A fort-building activity, for example, lets them determine structure height and building materials, which in turn develops problem-solving, engineering and collaboration skills.
"That capacity to follow your own thoughts, your own ideas, is really centralized,” Myles says.
4. They’re Never Too Young to Start
The museum has sensory and bonding play activities for babies and parents.
"Those intuitive things we do with children in their early years are so critical to brain development. Ninety-five percent of brain development happens within the first seven years of life,” Myles says.
5. It Isn’t Limited to Painting, Drawing or Music
It also happens through language development, literature and literacy, according to the director.
"We know that literacy, language and social skills are developed in our very early years. Reading books to your children and talking to them is important,” Myles says. “One of the top indicators of whether someone will graduate high school is actually their ability to read on grade level at the end of third grade.”
6. Appearances Can Be Deceiving
"There are brilliant, creative mathematicians that may do things that don’t look the way we think creativity looks,” Myles says, “but if you look at the process of creating with your mind, it applies to all fields.”
7. You Can Try It at Home
If you’re willing to endure a little mess to have a lot of fun, parents can help their children have some of the creative experiences from the children’s museum at home. Participants in the free programs gets tips on how to conduct many of the same activities on a more regular basis to help their kids continue to explore.
The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, at 25 Ann St., is a non-profit resource for families of all backgrounds to explore environments and experiences that spark imagination and stimulate curiosity through play. Call (843) 853-8962 or visit ExploreCML.org for information.