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How to Encourage Creativity in Your Kids

All children have some type of inner gift. Whether it is drawing, writing, making people laugh, or some thing else, child psychologists say it is the parents’ job to nurture that talent as soon as it is recognized.

“Being encouraged to do something they like, and praised when they do it well helps with self esteem, which is one of the building blocks of success later in life,” says Kristi Stoll, co-owner of PlanetGiggle, an online company with resources that encourage kids to find their inner gifts and talents. Stoll and business partner, Gidget Clayton, have made it their missions in life to encourage others to follow their dreams. Both left the corporate world after deciding to do just that.

“My dream, for a long time, has been to create a world of people who know that life is meant to be fun and full of laughter,” says Stoll. “Last summer, Gidget and I packed up all our stuff and took an RV across the country seeking out kids with inspirational stories everyone should hear. We’re in the process of writing a book called “KidVision,” and have posted portions of the stories online already, along with resources we have found for helping other kids achieve their goals.”

Stoll credits her parents with helping her achieve her dream. “They taught me I could do anything I wanted to do and that nothing stood in my way,” says Stoll. To help other parents lead their children down paths that will help them develop their inner gifts, Stoll and Clayton have come up with some thought provoking, creativity building activities they can try.

* Host an Art Contest Party

If your child enjoys coloring or drawing, you may want to host an art contest party. Gather all the pens, pencils, crayons, markers, paint and paper you can find in the house, or go out and buy supplies, such as PlanetGiggle’s Artist Dream Box. It includes an assortment of acrylic paints, brushes, canvasses, pencils, drawing paper and a journal.

Once you have your supplies on hand, come up with a theme. Have the kids design a piece of artwork that fits that theme, using any format they choose. To make the contest enjoyable for all the participants, make sure each drawing receives a prize, such as most abstract work, most lifelike work, or most colorful piece of artwork.

* Treasure Hunt

To encourage your kids to explore the world around them, parents can initiate a treasure hunt. “Make it exciting for them,” says Clayton. “Send them outside in search of a particular kind of leaf, a pine cone, lady bug or butterfly. They’ll have just as much fun finding all those things as they will studying them when they get back.” On a rainy day, the game can be played inside. Stoll says you can send the kids in search of socks, paper clips, or a particular book, but don’t feel limited to just those kinds of things. Be creative.

* Host a Story Writing Party

If your child enjoys writing, encourage them to invite friends over, and have a story writing party. Pass out blank books to each person with as many pages as you have people. Set a timer for ten minutes and have the kids start writing. After ten minutes, have them pass the book to the person sitting to their right, and reset the timer for another ten minutes. Keep doing it until everyone at the party has had a chance to write a page in each of the books; then hand them back to the person who started the story and let them see what their idea evolved into.

“They’ll have to play off each other, which naturally encourages creativity,” says Clayton. Parents can make the experience even more enjoyable by providing their kids with fancy paper and writing instruments, which they can find for purchase on PlanetGiggle’s Web site.

* Perspective – How Do You View the World Differently Than Others?

To open your kids’ eyes to the differing views around them, have them play interviewer for the day. For this game, have them write down their answers the following questions, then go out ask the same questions of five other people:

What is your dream? What is your biggest fear? Name two people you admire most and why. Name two places outside the United States where you would most like to visit and why. Name three famous people -- living or dead -- you would want to meet and why. Do you like your school? Why or why not?

After they have interviewed all five people, look over all of the answers, and talk about how they differ from one another and from yours. For another way to explore the concept of differing perspectives, log onto www.planetgiggle.com/illusion/htm and have your child try out the ten optical illusions posted online, then get five friends to tell them what they see.

* Community Service Day

For kids who always seem to be stepping in to help others, seek out a community project that will be of benefit to your neighbors. “A good way to get the ball started is to call all the kids in your neighborhood and invite them over for a planning party,” says Stoll.

Chances are good one of the kids who comes to the party will know of an elderly neighbor who needs help painting their house, or of a vacant lot that needs sprucing up. Once you come up with a project, pick a date everyone agrees upon, then come up with up a list of everything you’ll need to get the job done. Have the participants pledge to bring at least one of the supplies so expenses won’t get too out of hand.

After the project is done, write up a story about your experience and submit it to your local newspaper. You can also submit it to PlanetGiggle.com.

* Have a Giggle Party

And remember, laughter is the best medicine, so when people are feeling down, hold an impromptu party where the guest of honor is laughter. Stoll says you can invite as many people as you want, and ask each of them to bring along something they think is funny. “Once everyone has arrived,” she says, “have them sit in a circle so they can see each other, and then start by having the host stand up and make the silliest face they can think of. Continue around the circle until all of the guests have also had a turn, then have everyone show off the funny thing they brought to the party.”

During the party, hand out smiley face stickers, sit down on a whoppie cushion, or spray silly string into the air, all items available in the PlanetGiggle Giggle box, which you can buy online. “Do whatever it takes to set the mood. Happiness is what makes life so fun,” says Stoll.

You can log on to www.planetgiggle.com or call 310-864-5806 for more creative ideas and kits for projects, laughter, creativity, and dreams.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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