Cultivating creativity, if you must know

Whenever I talk about my kids’ sustained effort to drive me to the very brink of madness creative endeavors, I get asked questions like “What did you do to encourage such imagination?” and “What is it about your kids’ childhood that has encouraged creativity?”

I have labored to convince you that you do not want kids who do “creative” things. That you and your home will profoundly regret ever asking this question. Apparently, my warnings are destined to go unheeded.

Fine.  Against my better judgment, I will answer your question.  Since you refuse to take my word for it, I will let you make your own bed (which will quickly be unmade in order to be transformed into a space capsule).  Caveat parentor.

In our parenting, here’s what we do not do:

  • Cultivate or nurture.  Inspire or instill.
  • Get on Pinterest.  I’m not going anywhere near that contemporary purgatory.  I need fewer ideas in my life, not more.
  • Buy toys that are touted as inspiring creativity.  We just pick up whatever we find at garage sales and Goodwill.
  • Clean up every night.  What, do I look like Sisyphus to you?  It. just. doesn’t. work.


Here’s what we do:

  • Act like it’s 1982. Like my mother before me, I leave my kids to their own devices while I talk on the phone and make elaborate shushing gestures. Until loud screaming erupts or there’s blood, I let them manage themselves. I have things I need to get done. Occasionally those things involve vacuuming and re-caulking the tub. More often they involve discussions on Facebook and online personality quizzes.
  • Give our kids lots of free time.
  • Use the library and Netflix. From Fancy Nancy to the Chronicles of Narnia, from Star Wars to the Bible, we have fed our kids a steady diet of rich stories with interesting characters. Everyone from Han Solo to Harriet Tubman is apt to appear in their creations. I can take very little credit for this. It was mostly Rick’s doing.  My only contribution was to pretend that we were in a fierce competition with the Goerkle family, fighting to see who could check out the most books from the library. Who are the Goerkles?  Beats me, but their book requests get stacked right next to ours on the Reserved shelf and like us, they are Hard Core Library Patrons. Unbeknownst to them, they are getting their butts kicked.
  • Surrender to the tide of genetics and temperament. As normal as we may seem, Rick and I actually descend from creative people.  Two of our kids’ three uncles are creative professionals.  Three of their grandparents approach life from a “why not?” perspective. Rick and I each like to be left to ourselves sometimes so that we can tinker with ideas. Putting our kids in a bunch of structured activities was never an option. They would not have stood for it.


As a final note, let me encourage you to surrender to the tide of genetics and temperament, too. Massive creativity may not be your kids’ inclination.  It may be musicality or athleticism or number sense.  Those are equally valuable attributes.

Yes, my kids can create something out of nothing, but they could not hit a musical note if the cat’s life depended on it.  Nor could they perform a routine on the balance beam.

Like mine, your kids probably have very strong inclinations of some kind. Go with it. Let them show you who they are.


© Laura Goetsch and Thinking About Such Things, 2015.

8 thoughts on “Cultivating creativity, if you must know

  1. Love the plug for local libraries and the reserve shelf. Why do people BUY books? Then you have to manage them. Isn’t that what you pay your local library to do FOR you? I have to blog more about our love for libraries.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Karen

    We strive for a 70’s/early 80’s childhood over here = striving to create “a sense of carefree timelessness.” That phrase resonates with me. I also think it’s extremely important to let children become bored. They need that bored lull, that time to reflect and come up with their new *creative* idea. If you leave them alone and don’t try to entertain them, they always come up with something I would never have thought of– a total expression of themselves. (I think I read about the importance of boredom in Simplicity Parenting and was like, “YES! That is what is totally going on there!” It’s the only parenting book I ever enjoyed reading.)


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