10 Low and No Cost Ways to Nurture Your Child’s Creativity

by Tracy · 12 comments

It’s not enough to teach your children the basics of personal finance. Nobody will deny that it’s crucial that young people be taught how to manage their money and resources, however it’s also important to nurture their creativity and emotional intelligence to help them grow up to be creative, resilient adults who can weather any storm.

Exposure to the fine and performing arts is important for all children, not just those who show signs of being artistically gifted. All of these experiences will add to your child’s bank of inner resources and help them grow emotionally and intellectually.

The good news is that even parents on a tight budget can provide a childhood full of the arts with a bit of planning. Here are a ten suggestions:

1. Visit your local library. Libraries not only have a wealth of wonderful literature for children, but also music and films that parents can borrow. Most libraries have a resource center for parents and early childhood educators filled with books and other instructional materials that detail activities that incorporate art, music, dance and wordplay.

2. Ask around to find the best places to buy art supplies in your area. Dollar stores can be a good source of some arts and crafts supplies, however some of the materials might be very low quality and frustrating to use.

Most larger areas will have teacher supply stores where you can buy paints and paper in bulk and save. Stock up on crayons, pencils and papers during back to school sales.

3. Get on the e-mail newsletter list of local museums, galleries and performing arts centers or follow them on Facebook/Twitter to get the scoop on low or no cost activities. Many offer a limited number of pay what you can performances, family days or special demonstrations for the community.

If friends and family members ask for gift suggestions, steer them in the direction of experiences for your child. Depending on their budget and prices in your area, you could suggest tickets to a play or musical performance, classes or lessons, a session at a local paint your own piece studio or an annual membership to a museum or gallery.

Don’t think you are limited to professional level exhibits and performances, either. Take your child to an older cousin’s school play or high school art exhibit. Look at the art in local coffee shops and take a minute to listen to street musicians before going on your way.

4. Music and dance lessons can be expensive. Local community centers, places of worship or colleges might offer lower cost alternatives or charge on a sliding scale. If you can’t get discounted lessons, find out if buying used instruments and/or other gear is an option. Be sure to understand how much notice you are obligated to give if you decide to cancel and the instructor’s policy on missed lessons.

5. Make your own art supplies at home. If your children are old enough to help, be sure to include them in the fun. Here is a good list of links to instructions on how to make your own play dough, gak/flubber, sidewalk chalk and paints.

6. Spend plenty of time outdoors and let your child have plenty of time to putter and observe. Do take the time to talk to your child about what they see, point out interesting and beautiful things but also take a step back and let them experience the joy of scratching the ground with a stick and daydream.

7. Turn off the TV. Television not only encourages children and adults to be passive consumers of entertainment but it can also promote materialism and obesity. A little planned viewing is okay, but screen time should be limited and monitored for children.

8. Choose toys that promote creative play like blocks and lego bricks over things that only do one thing. Help your child keep them well organized and instruct them to only bring out a few things at a time and to tidy up before pulling out the next things. Giving a child reasonable boundaries can help them not feel overwhelmed by a pile of toys and art materials and encourage more imaginative play.

9. Ask a lot of “what if”, “why” and “what do you think would happen if”questions and don’t be so quick to jump in to correct them or provide the right answer. Children should be encouraged to ask questions and to not be ashamed that they don’t know something. The stupidest question is the one you don’t ask because of pride or shame.

10. Let your child see you enjoying your hobbies and trying new things. Children want to emulate their parents and will learn from your example that you don’t have to be perfect at things to give them a go. Just as importantly, if you let your well run completely dry, you won’t be the best parent you can be. Make sure to devote some of the family’s resources to nurturing your creative side, too.

If you are a parent, how do you encourage your children’s creativity while keeping on budget? Does anyone have any memories of how their parents encourage their creativity without spending a lot of cash?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Sustainable PF March 21, 2011 at 5:48 am

This post sounds like my youth.
Last winter Mrs. SPF and I went to Cuba and picked up some really basic wooden toys to give to our cousins’ kids as Christmas gifts. Lo and behold these toys (a string/dowelling wind up turtle that would scoot about 4 ft on a single wind and a squeeze toy that would make a wooden “girl” swing around on a mock trapeze bar) were a total hit. The gadgets and noise making battery powered toys were opened and looked at briefly but the kids always went back to the wooden toys.
Basic, requires imagination but totally cool.

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Tracy O'Connor March 21, 2011 at 7:20 am

I think giving kids modest amounts of simple toys will ultimately give them more joy than a ton of fancy ones. I’ve noticed with electronic toys, my children get bored and then want to up the ante with something even more flashy.

My personal opinion is that children have so much creativity in them and our job as parents and involved adults is to provide them with a safe, secure place so that they can explore to their hearts content and be free to daydream and pretend.

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Determined March 21, 2011 at 8:24 am

I go for runs with my jogging stroller. At the end of my workout when I am cooling down, I will let my 3 yr old out of the stroller and she will run alongside me. (We go running on a paved trail, so I feel safe letting her run next to me) We get to see different aspects of nature (lots of ducks, geese, and dogs. One day we even saw a buck and doe). She also sees me enjoying exercise she is beginning to love running.

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indio March 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

We are frequent users of our local library and they always have events or activities going on after school or on the weekend. In the past month, we’ve attended a lecture on beekeeping and the kids got to roll their own beeswax sheet candles and a jazz concert teaching kids about the instruments. We are also avid outdoor enthusiasts so hikes and walks are daily occurrences. There is a sculpture park nearby so we see the art ad then check out a book at the library on that artist.
A while ago, I read a study that said the average person spends 20 min per day outdoors and I’ve been determined since then that it won’t apply to our family.

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KM March 21, 2011 at 10:37 am

Thanks for the tips. My son is still a bit young, but I am trying to absorb all possible information for the future – I can’t wait until he is at the age when I can explain things to him, he can ask questions, we can go exploring and learning. I know our local museums and botanical gardens have free days every month, so we will be sure to visit those often – they also have activities for kids (the space exploration area at the museum of nature and science is especially exciting since that’s my passion and I am hoping it rubs off).

Also, definitely bookmarking the link on how to make play dough.

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retirebyforty March 21, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I think the estimated cost of raising a child is way overblown. We’ll take the kid to all the free events in town – zoo, museum, garden, and other places. There are so many things to do, we shouldn’t have to spend a lot to show him cultures. I spend a lot of time at the library when I was a kid so I am on board with that.

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@justinstoddart March 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm

My wife and I are parents of 3 beautiful children ages 4, almost 3, and 1. We have a busy little home, as you can imagine. I’m also engaged in a technology start up in which we help people save for what they want, faster. Being a dad of 3 little kids and engaged in a start up, we are always looking for new ways to engage our children in things that will help them reach their potential without detracting from our other savings goals. Great article–thanks for sharing these tips. My wife will love them too.

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Zach March 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm

These are some great suggestions. So often the library is forgotten, but it’s such a great resource. Many times kids are given videos or books that are read or watched once and left for the dust mites.

I love the range of ideas offered on here. Each of these options addresses the needs of multiple learning styles and needs. Blocks and legos are great for the mathematical mind, creating art supplies obviously for the artistic, etc.

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Cindy March 22, 2011 at 7:41 pm

We enter all kinds of children’s contests. My daughter loves it. She has yet to win anything big, but she is having fun and learning in the process. Just google childrens contests, some are drawings, photos or essays. I like to enter the ones within her age (7) and you would be surprised at the companies offering these contests. We are working on one right now for Miss Matched Socks that is due April 1st. Of course I am hoping sometime she will win big & we can put toward her college fund, but that is the last thing on her mind right now.

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WR March 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Might sound draconian to some but we found that a complete hiatus from ‘media’ (TV, Internet, Movies and Videogames) for a few weeks created a surge in creativity in our kids. I do not advocate cutting a kid off from their peer group’s interests, I simply think that periodic self inflicted media blackouts are healthy. We walked, built things, shot off a rocket, planted a few trees, played Battleship (the boardgame), drew picture and read books to each other.

We love Zelda, Mario and Survivor as much as anyone. What was interesting about our little experiment is that my wife and I ‘re-emerged’ into the real world not knowing what all the fuss was about Charlie Sheen. I would pay in pure gold to avoid the next “Charlie Sheen”

-WR

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Betty LaVerne March 29, 2011 at 9:24 am

Very good suggestions. Kids today get way too much material things and way too little in the way of time, activitees, and learning to live. I like the group 4H, for giving kids quality activites to learn from. And , children can learn about money by managing their own allowances. It is never too early to teach them about money, even the tooth fairy has to live on a budget.
http://www.smartaboutmoney.org/tabid/943/aff/19/Default.aspx

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JAB March 29, 2011 at 10:17 am

If you live near a college or university, take your kids for a walk around the campus, which is probably very pedestrian- (thus kid- and stroller- and wagon-) friendly. Perhaps there is a library or an art gallery you can stroll into; even if there isn’t a gallery, you’ll likely find student art projects on display somewhere. You might catch a music or theater rehearsal, or watch a sports team practice. Maybe there is a museum that is open to the public as well as to students; even if there isn’t, science and engineering buildings often have neat models or specimens in cases in the lobby or hallways. The geology department might have cool 3D maps and fossils on display. If it’s an ag school, you might be able to visit greenhouses or barns (ask first, though). Read bulletin boards and pick up flyers to find out about upc0ming kid-friendly cultural events, which are probably cheap or free. And somewhere there will be a place to grab a cup of coffee or an ice cream cone….

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