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YOUR KIDS It’s a Brain Thing Expert advice on how to unleash a child’s imagination.

Show and Tell Step one is to demonstrate that you value creativity, Marcus says. “If the parents value it, the kids will value it,” she says. “That’s just the way it works.” A good way to assess what you

value is to look at how you spend your time and your money. How much of your free time or your disposable income goes to creative activities? When you spend your Friday evenings at the ballet and your Saturday afternoons restoring old cars, you demonstrate the importance of creativity.

PRESCHOOLERS ARE WILDLY CREATIVE. They invent games on the spot, role-play countless personalities, and color both inside and outside the lines — sometimes on living-room walls. But then something happens: They go to school. “They’ve been learning at this astonishing pace until they run into the world that’s very linear and very expository,” says Susan Marcus, co- author of The Missing Alphabet: A Parents’ Guide to Developing Creative Thinking in Kids (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2013). Suddenly, creativ- ity is replaced with rote learning, and getting the right answer becomes the goal. “Our schools are focused on


getting kids to remember things, on knowledge and not imagination,” says Christine Carter, Ph.D., a University of California at Berkeley sociologist and author of the blog Raising Happiness at “The rest of the world has moved beyond that. It’s not that we don’t need to teach kids math and to read, but if you look at the darlings of the business world, the people who are really thriving are the creative ones.” The good news is that every child

is wired to be creative — just remem- ber those living-room walls. What parents have to do is simply unleash their kids’ natural creativity. We talked with Marcus and Carter to learn how you can do that.

Go With the Grain Next, Marcus says, spend some time thinking about what materials and activities really attract your kids. The point here is not to pigeonhole them but to build on their natural inclinations. “Look for that,” she says. “It’s visual information, nonverbal information. Parents have to notice the patterns and then trust their intuition.” So what do you do with that

information? If your child leans toward the visual arts, provide art supplies, set up studio space and give him a place to display his creations. You might even cover a bedroom wall with chalkboard paint to give him space to express himself. The approach would be very differ-

ent for movement-oriented children. “They need space to move; they need opportunities to move; they need to go see dancing; they need to try out

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