Willow Hewitt encourages parents to let their children enjoy creative free play.
Summer in Hong Kong brings a wealth of incredible drama camps, coding classes, chances to try new sports, and much more. When children return to school, it can feel like the end of these exciting learning opportunities. But creativity and curiosity are essential tools for learners, and building up skills in these areas will help them do better in tests as well as make learning more enjoyable. Keep that sense of summer fun going throughout the year, and you’ll see great results.
Take some inspiration from the ideas below on how to stimulate your child’s curiosity through creative pursuits.
Unstructured – As a teacher, I find it hard to see a child messing around rather than doing something productive and learning. But, especially for young children, ‘messing around’ is a form of learning. They’re figuring out the rules of the world and how things work. If you micromanage their playtime or overschedule them so that they’re never able to try on a sieve as a hat or pour water in and out of cups and bowls, you risk blowing out the spark of excitement that all learners need.
Stimulate – Engaging all of a young learner’s senses is a great way to stimulate their curiosity. Active learners can teach themselves things, so try to encourage this sense of curiosity in your young learner. In the park, smell flowers, touch leaves, listen to birds and talk together about what you find. In a museum, draw pictures of the things you like and explain why you chose them. This interactivity gets children experiencing and understanding new stimuli in the world around them.
Create – Engage your child in every aspect of a creative task. Rather than setting up paints and paper for them, take them to a craft shop and look at all of the creative pursuits available. Choose something new you can discover together, and stick your artwork up around the house to create a fantastic atmosphere of creativity.
Explore – Challenge your child’s mind by finding new ways to explore the subjects they’re curious about. It’s great to read books together, but that should only be one thing you do. If your little one loves trains, create a chart together of the different types of trains in Hong Kong, research the history of trains in our city (the Kowloon–Canton Railway Corporation’s website has great information on this), and plan your own new MTR lines.
Interrogate - Ask open-ended questions to stimulate your child’s thinking. Children love asking their parents ‘Why?’, but parents can turn the tables and ask this as well! ‘Why do you think there are no dinosaurs anymore?’ ‘Why do you think cars have four wheels?’ ‘Why is the colour red lucky in Hong Kong but not in other countries?’
Model – As children get older, they naturally pull away from their parents, but this doesn’t mean they stop noticing what you do. Show your child what a creative and curious person looks like, and they’ll follow your example. A secondary student recently told one of my colleagues that he loves expressing himself through art because he always sees his mum painting at the weekends. This modelled creativity can apply to other habits as well, such as reading, writing and playing music.
Adapt – It can feel discouraging when children drop things they were once passionate about. It’s not only annoying to have spent time and money on your child’s hobby only for them to stop pursuing it completely, but you also don’t want to encourage them to quit things. Have a clear discussion about the consequences of giving up on something, and try to encourage them to take their passion in a new direction. Perhaps your once-eager musician would like to learn how to edit music videos, or your one-time swimming enthusiast can write sports articles for the school magazine.
Willow Hewitt is the Head of English for i-Learner Education Centre. She has been teaching in Hong Kong for several years. She also leads the Publishing Department at i-Learner, which creates engaging storybooks for young learners of both English and Mandarin.