There are many ways creativity enters in the picture in the first year (who knew a baby wipe could do so many things) but when it comes to fostering creativity in your kid, it’s not always easy to know where to start. To chat all things creativity and self-expression, we chatted with Danielle Kurtz, Creative Director at Kid Made Modern. “Creativity has always been a huge part of my life, from my own childhood, to raising children myself, to my professional life as a Creative Director,” Danielle says (no surprise there). Here are Danielle’s top 3 ways to encourage creativity—how she got her start, and how she taught her own children:

  • Encourage Curiosity: At the root of creativity is curiosity. Curiosity about the world around you, how things work, why things work. Children are innately curious creatures, as parents the best thing we can do to promote creativity is give them a safe place to explore that curiosity. If you’re cooking dinner, hand them a pot and a wooden spoon. While it may just seem like they’re making noise, they’re actually learning a great deal about cause and effect and the ideas of music and sound. Painting your living room? Hand your little one a large paintbrush, a bowl of water and a piece of cardboard. Let them “paint” the cardboard. Giving them the very tools you’re using day-to-day and letting them manipulate them and see what they can do encourages their desire to explore the world around them.
  • Get Crafty Yourself: Whether you like to bake, draw, garden, let your child see you being creative. Babies learn by imitating the adults in their life. At a very young age, kids know that swiping their finger across a smartphone makes something happen because they see their parents doing it over and over. If you want your children to value creativity and make space for it in their lives, it’s important to show them you’re doing that as well. This may sound like an impossible task with very small children underfoot, but you don’t have to be creating masterpieces worthy of a museum. Even just doodling in a notebook or picking up crayons and a coloring book with them will show your kids that being creative matters to you.
  • Don’t Hide the Art Supplies: As kids grow, they gravitate towards activities that are right in front of them. If all the art supplies are tucked in a closed cabinet somewhere, then crafting will not likely become their go-to activity. Obviously, the type of supplies you can keep within reach depends on your child’s age and personality (you may want to tuck the glitter and glue on a higher shelf in the toddler years!). But, try keeping a jar of colored pencils and some construction paper on the kitchen counter or coffee table. You’ll be amazed at how often they opt for that over the remote control.

And when it comes to self-expression, Pinners beware: that pom-pom turkey might make a perfect addition to your IG feed, but outcome-based projects aren’t doing much by way of fostering creativity. “[Many] creative activities are outcome-based, meaning the focus is on completing a specific set of outlined steps to create a perfect Pinterest-worthy project,” Danielle explains. “This type of activity doesn’t leave much room for creativity, and can also leave a child feeling that their skills are inadequate if their final item isn’t exactly as pictured,” says Danielle.  “To really encourage self-expression, focus on open-ended activities that leave plenty of room for interpretation and exploration.”

We know what you might be thinking: open-ended is a fancy phrase for chaos.  Fear not, Danielle has a plan to give activities enough structure to keep your dining room intact while allowing your budding artist the space to create.  “Gather a range of supplies and set them up for your child with no pre-conceived outcome in mind,” she explains. “You might put out paper plates, fuzzy sticks, pom poms, glue and crayons and just let them go to town,” she suggests.  “One child might draw a picture on the plate, and embellish it with sequins, while another may turn it into a sculpture, and still another might make a stack of fuzzy stick bangles and just use the plate to organize their supplies.”  Provide the materials and space, and step back while your child creates. (Psst…if you’re looking for ideas to use as a launching pad, the Kid Made Modern Blog is full of ‘em.) 

As Creative Director of Kid Made Modern, Danielle knows a good supply when she sees one.  Her major emphasis?  Don’t skimp on quality.  “Children quickly become frustrated with paintbrushes that lose their bristles into their artwork, or watercolors that create only faint washes of color,” she explains.  “It’s definitely worth investing in good-quality supplies.”  We had to ask what her ideal stash looks like:
Arts + Crafts Supply Library: Our Supply Library was designed to be a craft stash in and of itself. It has plenty of different materials for your child to explore including googly eyes, fuzzy sticks, pom poms, glue and more. And, the best part, it all comes packaged in reusable storage case so you can keep everything neatly organized and close at hand.
Wondrous Watercolors: Watercolors are a great introduction to painting for the toddler years. They don’t make a huge mess, and also feel a bit like magic that with just a bit of water you can create brilliant swaths of color. Don’t forget some nice heavy paper to absorb the color.
Paint Brush Library: Paint brushes are a must for any craft stash. This set features an array of brush types and sizes to let little ones explore. Each brush is labeled with its proper name to help educate young artists as they grow, and it comes with its own carrying case to keep things organized.

There’s nothing like being inspired and informed, is there? Thanks, Danielle!