I attacked that toy in its Alcatraz-esq packaging with every bit of ingenuity I could muster. Ten twist-ties and the stickiest tape known to man later, and I finally had it free. Then out of the corner of my eye, what do I see? The box. He’s playing with the box, y’all.

It’s a universal phenomenon, you know. There’s nothing that screams “play with me!” more than a plain, empty, cardboard box.

You see, creativity is just waiting to burst out of our kids. Creative thinking is in our nature!

But sometimes our children can begin to lose that innate ability. It’s screen time, distractions, an unpredictable routine. All of these things can sneak in and start to erode that natural creativity that our children were born with.

So today, mama, let’s get it back! I’ll show you my two favorite strategies to boost creative thinking in your children. Oh, and by the way, you’ll also wage war on those two little words, “I’m bored!”

Ready to encourage creativity in your own kids and kick boredom to the curb? Let’s do it!

Kids stuck in the "I'm bored!" cycle? Learn how to boost creative thinking in your kids right at home with these insanely simple strategies!

Why is creative thinking important?

Merriam-Webster defines creativity as, “the ability to make new things or think of new ideas.”

Um, ick! To me, this standard definition of creativity doesn’t even come close to grasping the aliveness, the humanness, the connectivity, and the elasticity that comes to mind when I think of the creative geniuses in our history.

We can’t limit creativity just to art or music. Creativity is thinking holistically about the schema of everything you’ve ever learned or experienced, and making those connections work for you to solve a problem or make something meaningful. In fact, the word create comes from the Latin creâtus, which literally means “to grow.” (sourceWhen you think about creativity, think “organic,” not “mechanic.” Still with me?

Creativity is hard to define simply because it’s a characteristic we share with our Maker, He who is Undefinable. “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” We’re made in his image, and that’s a beautifully creative thing!

As your child grows, creative thinking can help him solve problems, get along with others, and succeed in school. Creative kids don’t get thrown off when something doesn’t go right. Instead, they know they’re capable of finding a solution. Creative thinkers thrive where others may wither. It’s never too early to start encouraging creative thinking in your child!

Creative Thinking Tip #1: Start Simple with SCAMPER

As a teacher for many years, creativity was a cornerstone of my classroom. Kids can struggle with the idea of being creative, though. We often want to jump straight for the “invent the lightbulb” moment; when in fact, creative thought grows much more organically for most people. For my students and my son at home I use the SCAMPER strategy. My own Gifted and Talented teacher taught me this in elementary school. It’s simple and easy to remember, so I’ve used it ever since, both in the classroom and at home!

Use one of the actions in this strategy to take any topic or object and remix it in a creative way. Here’s the rundown of this awesome creativity-boosting mnemonic:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate
  • Rearrange/ Reverse

This creative thinking tool is easy to use at home with your children! Try these ideas for creative kids.

  • Play the SCAMPER game to kill time in the doctor’s waiting room. Topic + SCAMPER = Brainstorm! You’ll be amazed at the crazy ideas your creative kids come up with.
  • Have a dinner REMIX night. Use SCAMPER to invent a new recipe!
  • Create a new SCAMPER inspired board game for family game night.
  • Use SCAMPER to create a faster/better/easier way to get a chore done. (Anyone ever used white vinegar to clean your sinks? Put to another use! See, I told you this would be fun!)

Related: Try these genius creative toys for your little builder!

Creative Thinking Tip #2: Steal this Formula for Creative Kids

In addition to using the SCAMPER strategy, it’s easy to build a creativity-packed environment in your home!

Here’s my go-to formula: Passive toys + unstructured play time = creative kids!

Passive Toys: Fill your toy baskets with open-ended and creativity boosting toys like blocks, animals, dolls, and dress up clothes. Is there only one way to play with it? Then it’s an active toy. As Magda Gerber said, “Active toys make for passive children. Passive toys make for active children!” 

Related Reading: Why You Can’t Afford to NOT Declutter Toys

Unstructured Play Time: Choose a block of time where your kids can just PLAY. Don’t jump in and try to show them the “correct” way to play. Let them get creative and learn to problem solve, make connections, and imagine! One of my favorite memories as a kid were the times my sisters and I trekked the epic journey through the back yard, equipped with kitchen spoons, an old canteen, and mom’s pillowcases as our sleeping bags. We weren’t scheduled for anything on those afternoons. We were just allowed to let our creativity grow!

Struggling to get your baby, toddler, or preschooler in a routine? You’ll love my mama-approved tips for finally getting the peace you crave in your daily schedule. Find out more about my eBook, Everyday Calm!

How can you use this formula for creative kids in your own home? The simplest way is to set your child down in a safe spot for independent play. Provide two or three open-ended toys that they can combine. Step back and watch what they create!

Your child is craving this type of play. Learn more about how to encourage play-based learning in my free email course!

Action Steps to Boost Creative Thinking

  • Print out this free SCAMPER cheat sheet. Click to Print! Slap it on the fridge as a reminder to think outside the box this week!
  • Teach your kids the SCAMPER game:
    • Topic + SCAMPER strategy = Brainstorm!
    • (ex. elephant + Combine with a fish = an elephish! Draw fun scrambled animals!)
  • Take a look at the toys in your house. Are they mostly passive or mostly active toys? Weed out a few of the active toys to give away, and display more of the passive/open-ended toys to inspire playtime!
  • Make a goal for 30 minutes per day of unstructured play time for your kids. Go for more if your schedule allows it!
  • Mama’s SCAMPER: Can you apply the SCAMPER strategy to a problem or issue in your life? Maybe it can inspire you to find a solution!

Share below: What’s your motivation for encouraging creative thinking skills in your children? What’s your biggest struggle for raising creative kids?