Inspire Creativity in your Child with Coding

It’s no secret that every genius invention begins with a brilliant idea—one that transcends traditional thinking built upon layers and layers of creativity. Take Steve Jobs, for example, a creative who turned a small company based in his parents’ garage into one of the leading tech corporations today. Or even more recently, the creators of Pixar’s Inside Out, who made a movie with a refreshingly original take on children’s films, enthralling parents and kids alike.

Creativity is an important skill that needs to be nurtured. Parents, including myself, have eagerly signed up their kids for art classes and music lessons, hoping to inspire creativity. But there is a new avenue to achieve this goal that educators are starting to talk about. with technology and computers leading the way, perhaps the wisest approach to inspire creativity nowadays is to teach kids to code. Here are four reasons why coding inspires creativity in your child.

1.    Coding brings imagination to life

Computer programming allows kids to tinker with their imaginations. Anything they dream of—Superman rescuing three princesses in a bamboo forest or Russell Crowe as a gladiator fighting at Stonehenge—is possible in the coding world. And with the right coding tools (fun platforms such as Tynker or Scratch), kids will be even more motivated to bring their ideas to life.

2.    There is unlimited freedom in coding

There are no bounds when it comes to coding. What’s more, the kids themselves are in control of what they want to create, and they are free to explore their own innovative ideas, solutions, and concepts. This allows them to explore new ideas without having their imaginations restricted. Who knows what they’ll create!

3.    Coding prepares kids for a tech-savvy world

The world today is largely dominated by technology. Meeting the demands of a tech-driven society is no simple feat—it requires critical thinking, drive, and most importantly, creativity. Building a robotic arm that aids a surgical procedure or designing the most efficient search engine requires thinking outside the box. Teaching kids coding challenges them to exercise creativity while building a strong foundation for future endeavors, tech-related or not.

 

4.    Kids can explore creativity from a new perspective

Creativity can be expressed through a multitude of channels: art, literature, music, and dance, to name a few. But the 21st century calls for a new item to be added to that list: coding. Like any other language, it’s a way for people to turn ideas into creations, whether artistically and technologically. Coding can also incorporate creative aspects of visual art or storytelling through animations, game development and more.

Through coding adventures, kids can delve into their imaginations, explore new ideas, and bring them to life. They will be introduced to fundamental programming principles, all while fostering their creative spark. Coding will allow kids to take their positions as the future leaders and innovators. What’s more, coding is fun!

Nurture a Love for History

It’s hard to appreciate history by just reading a book.  It is far more interesting to go back in time and experience history, and much more relevant to put yourself in the shoes of people who are like you who lived long ago.

Young children have a hard time relating to timelines.  For them, two decades ago and two centuries ago feel the same – ancient news.

How do you get an understanding nod from kids when it comes to history? How do you make it fun?

1.       Pick a local spot that has a story to it, and explore it with your kids. Every city and town has some historical aspect to it. Discover it for yourself and bring your kids along. Ask questions to get them thinking or turn the day into a scavenger hunt.

2.       Tell the story in relation to someone they know.  “Your grandmother would have been your age when this happened to her.  How do you think she would have felt? What would she have thought?”

3.       If your community does an historical reenactment, make a point of checking it out. If costumes and props are involved, there is nothing like bringing history to life. There are also living history museums across the country that may offer free days or events to explore. Here are a few I know of:

·       Mission San Juan Bautista (California)

·       Battle of Lexington & Concord (Patriot’s Day -- Massachusetts)

·       American Revolutionary Battles at Sturbridge (Massachusetts)

·       Plymouth Plantation (Massachusetts)

·       Jamestown, Yorktown & Williamsburg (Virginia)

4.       If there is a place you would like to visit that is represented in a children’s novel or story read it before taking them there.  A few favorites:

·       Read “Little House on the Prairie” before visiting Mansfield Mo.

·       Read “Johnny Tremain” before visiting Boston

·       Read “Call of the Wild” before visiting Alaska

·       Read “Felicity An American Girl” before visiting Williamsburg

·       Read “Taking Liberty” before visiting Mount Vernon

·       Read “Diary of Anne Frank” before visiting Amsterdam

·       Read “Farewell to Manzanar” before visiting Manzanar CA (for high school age kids)

If you have examples of how you’ve brought history to life for kids, please share below!

Explore the Arts at an Early Age

For many children, an art museum, concert hall or theatre can be stifling -- not at all conducive to exploration and discovery. However, with the right context, you can ease them into enjoying these venues early so that when they are ready, they possess a deeper appreciation of the arts as a medium for communication and expression.

viewing the masters can inspire kids to want  to create their own works of art. On a trip to the museum, My kids carried sketchpads and markers with them and started drawing when they felt inspired to do so. i watched them from afar, but let them drive the timing of what they wanted to do and see.

viewing the masters can inspire kids to want  to create their own works of art. On a trip to the museum, My kids carried sketchpads and markers with them and started drawing when they felt inspired to do so. i watched them from afar, but let them drive the timing of what they wanted to do and see.

Fine art. Many art museums offer free family days and hands-on activities for kids. Age-appropriate programs for kids offer an opportunity to explore a theme or a specific aspect of an exhibit. For example, after viewing an exhibit entitled “Impressionists in Winter”, my daughter turned a shoebox into an “ice museum” complete, paper snowflakes, cotton snowballs, and ticny posters of "impressionist works". And my son adorned himself with glittery regalia he fashioned out of foil paper and mardi gras beads before he toured an exhibit of King Tut artifacts. As kids get older you can ask them to observe lines and shadows, evaluate mood and color, compare works or observe differences between media, but it might be tough to get kids excited if you wait until high school. Best to make them feel at home in these spaces early – then the learning moments will come.

If kids programs aren’t being offered, you can still make a visit fun by turning it into a game. Pick up an exhibit brochure on your way in, and ask your child to find the art pieces or paintings in the brochure – like a scavenger hunt. Or I let them look at the postcard in the gift shop, pick a favorite, then have them read the map to figure out where they can find the real thing. Don’t worry if the game only lasts 30 min before they start asking for the café. Follow their lead and make the experience enjoyable. Curiosity will get the better of them if they are allowed to wander freely and explore at their own pace.

Symphonies and Operas. Family concerts tend to be shorter (some are offered at reduced prices or free), and include pieces that appeal to children. I would introduce the instruments to my kids ahead of time, so they were familiar with the sounds and styles of music played by them. Or we would read up on the story, characters or the life of the composer. Before a piece started, I would ask them to listen for something – a particular instrument or melody. Or afterwards, I would ask why they thought a composer created this particular music, what story he was trying to tell or how he might have wanted to make people feel. When kids are older, you can engage them in a discussion about major and minor keys, and compare/contrast styles of music, but in the beginning, plant the seeds of enjoyment by letting them enjoy an afternoon at a magnificent concert hall.

Live Theatre. We are fortunate to have free Shakespeare in the Park in our neighborhood every summer, and we’ve made it to a performance at least every other year. Usually held in a park with plenty of open space, the venue allows squirmy youngsters to run around without penalty (to you or to them) when their attention spans start to wane. They can return when they’re ready for a rest, and have the capacity to be more focused as a result. While young children may not yet be ready to understand the entire story, the costumes, sets and actors may garner enough interest for an enjoyable family evening out. As my children got older, we would borrow the text or DVD from the library beforehand, casually previewing any of the most popular lines or scenes. My children were delighted when they saw a familiar scene, or observed similarities or differences between the live performance and the movie. And the early exposure made school assignments feel much more accessible.

Enjoy the arts as a family. When the kids were young, we often put in all types of music into the CD player (classical, pop, jazz, Broadway) and have “dance parties”. Or we would let the kids put on shows in the living room. But my favorite moment of enjoying the arts as a family was when we painted on the rim of the Grand Canyon. We set up easels, chairs and gave each child a canvas, a palette of acrylic paint and a selection of their own brushes. And we painted what we saw. 

Camps and Classes – Encourage Your Child Try Something New!

Sometimes you need a break. You can't be expected to orchestrate every new experience for your child. And with the right curriculum and instructors, you might get a few new ideas you can build on at home. Here are some things my kids explored in summer camps and classes. No prerequisites; easy for beginners to be successful at many ages (age 5-12). Very hands-on with a performance or presentation at the end.

·       Shakespeare

·       Robotics

·       Creative Writing

·       Solar Energy & Electricity

·       Coding

·       Ceramics

·       Sports basics (basketball, volleyball, tennis, soccer)

·       Dance

·       Musical Theatre

·       Wildlife & nature

·       Playing in a rock band

·       Cooking

·       Painting

I also appreciated camps with themes that were woven into crafts, outdoor activities and hands-on experiments. Some of the unique themes that my kids thought were really cool:

·       Knights and Medieval Times

·       Land Down Under

·       Galileo & Solar System

·       Roller Coasters

Can’t fit in or afford summer camps?  Get together with other families and form a weekend club to explore these areas with the kids. Each parent can pick a topic to research and plan, and lead the kids in the activity.

How to Nurture Scientific Curiosity

Remember the book “How Things Work”? Nowadays, it’s easy to bring the book to life. There are so many wonderful museums (with family free days) and university-sponsored family science events specifically geared toward giving kids hands-on experience with science.  Not only are these experiences the best way to build familiarity and confidence with topics that they will later learn in school -- an open-ended environment promotes the experimentation and “what if?” investigation that leads to creativity.

The best way to let young minds experience the exhibits is to follow their interests (read: follow them around the museum and let them explore activities at their own pace).  Occasionally you might suggest a special program that is happening at a specific time, but for the most part, let them drive the agenda for the day.

Watch them explore – you’ll learn a lot about their learning style, interests and how they interact with others. If you find yourself getting restless, try a few exhibits yourself. Then you can authentically express enthusiasm when you turn to your child and say, “Hey, try this. It’s cool”!

As kids get older, a trip to the science museum may seem juvenile. But often what kids are learning in school is excellently illustrated in the exhibits that the museum has constructed and geared toward younger children. Challenge your older “know-it-all”s by asking them to explain the science behind an exhibit to a younger sibling, or to find a display that they would improve to make it “cooler” for kids their age. You can also ask them to seek out an exhibit that teaches them something new, or tell them to think about topics or ideas for their next science fair project.

If you want to turn your backyard or kitchen into a hands-on science lab, there are plenty of websites with suggestions for activities you can do at home and in your neighborhood to spark kids’ curiosity about (and confidence with) science. Here are links to a few of them (they are great sources for science fair ideas, too):

http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-activities

http://www.education.com/activity/science/

http://www.babble.com/crafts-activities/25-at-home-science-experiments/