How to raise creative kids in Singapore: the benefits of play for innovative, independent thinking

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Many of us spend our adulthoods trying to reclaim our creative side, but we never have to ‘lose’ it in the first place. Anna Salaman, Executive Director of Playeum, shares how you can encourage your child to explore their creative side, and put them on the path for a lifetime of innovative thinking…

Remember those days as a kid when you’d spend hours happily drawing, painting, making your own toys and tinkering? Having room in our lives to play, create and let our imaginations run free shouldn’t be relegated to childhood, but encouraging your child’s creative side now can be crucial in so many ways. It is becoming increasingly evident that creative thinking and doing is the key to navigating life in the 21st century.

How can parents help their kids to stay imaginative and inspired? There are many ways to be creative, and these tips focus on the creative process of making new things, whether they are objects or artworks…

1. Know that your child is already creative
Studies have shown that children are significantly more ‘divergent’ in their thinking, meaning that they have a much deeper capacity than adults to come up with new ideas. If you hold this in mind, you will respect your child for what they are – amazing imaginative and capable creators.

2. Understand the benefits of play and creativity
For decades, studies have proven that creativity brings wide-ranging benefits to children. Amongst others, an exploratory, open-ended and creative approach has been evidenced to:

  • Lengthen the child’s focus and concentration
  • Improve behavioural difficulties
  • Assist children in self-expression
  • Help with memory retention
  • Boost the child’s self-confidence as a learner
  • Develop perseverance and maturity

An important realisation for children during the creative process is that failure is not failure, it’s learning. You can read more on this below under ‘Let them do it for themselves’.

Creating, making and playing doesn't need to get complicated.

Creating, making and playing doesn’t need to get complicated, but we need to be an active part of it all.


3. Allow time for creativity to take place
We’ve all been there, despairing as our child seems glued to the screen, but not quite knowing how to steer them away from it. The first thing you can do is change your mind-set: be determined that this pattern will be disrupted by replacing screen time with creative pursuits. Talk with your child about this so that you make the decision together on how much time they allocate to both activities. As a rule, try to double the amount of play/making time they are used to, and stick to the decisions you make together.

This sounds easier said than done, and it is true that new regimes take time to get established. You may need to be very active at the start, talking with your child about what they may like to create. If they are still reluctant, you can always start making something yourself. You may find that they wander over to see what you are doing, and soon they will have ideas on what they would like to do themselves.

 4. Allocate a space for the activity
If you can, make some room for a permanent space dedicated purely for making activities. This alone indicates that playing and creative activity is worthwhile, but also usefully contains the activity if you don’t have large rooms. A making table is ideal, with a stool that your child can sit on as they work. If this isn’t possible, the floor is also fine but do work hard at keeping it clear and used exclusively for making and creating.

5. Provide resources in the allocated space
A wide range of resources can be inspiring for children and spark off ideas. Accessible, recycled resources are ideal as they are free and readily available. Corks, chopsticks, skewers, card, bottles and packaging – all can be repurposed imaginatively. Paper and art materials are also important, along with fixing materials (tape, glue, string, rubber bands).

Primary-aged children are extremely capable with tools and materials, which means you can provide more sophisticated tools than you might at first think. Along with a good pair of scissors, tools can include an awl, nails and a hammer. With some initial guidance, you could also provide a hot glue gun, which can fix wood together very effectively.

Over time, you could add LEDs, coin batteries and copper tape. Stand back and watch how your child works out how to make a simple circuit or add flashing lights to their creation.

These all take up space, so it’s worth investing in storage such as drawers, baskets and other containers to ensure they’re organised and accessible at all times.

Let your kids experiment and make mistakes – it's all part of the learning process!

Let your kids experiment and work things out for themselves – it’s all part of the learning process!

6. Let them do it for themselves
Assisting your child with something they are physically unable to do themselves is useful, of course, along with getting them started on a project if they are reluctant or lacking inspiration. However, your child will become a more confident learner if you stand back, watch and give positive encouragement, rather than if you actively contribute to the making process. Again, this sounds easy but it’s very tempting to lean forward and tell your child it might work better if they did it ‘this way’. Don’t! Let them work it out for themselves, even if they are getting frustrated.

Why is this so important?
If the child does something themselves, they feel pride and achievement, and they have also learnt the important lesson that continuing to try to do something transforms failure into ‘learning’ and that it’s ‘part of the process’. If you jump in, you run the risk of disrupting that fragile development process.

The successful completion of this process results in a sense of achievement. After achievement, comes confidence. With confidence, comes continued experimentation. With continued experimentation, comes creativity and innovation. Then you probably have a very enthusiastic child willing to try new things, who is not afraid to fail, and who wants to try out some other activities on their own too. So failure is not final; it is part of the process, and as the parent, you can encourage the child through it.

What’s on at Playeum?
Playeum – Singapore’s Children’s Centre for Creativity – is dedicated to creating innovative, impactful and inclusive learning opportunities for children. Its current exhibit, Hideaways, is inspired by the magic of the natural world.

All photography courtesy of Playeum.