Did you know that 90% of brain development occurs in the first five years1? It's only natural to want to focus on our children achieving high IQ scores and emphasise their reasoning and problem-solving abilities during this key period. But could this single-minded focus on academics be deterring creativity?
We spoke to Dr Wendy Liew, a Paediatrician and Paediatric Neurologist, to find out more and see how we can help our kids get their creative juices flowing earlier on in life.
According to Dr Liew, nutrition and parental stimulation both play crucial roles in encouraging creativity early on. She says, "Your child's diet lays the foundation for well-rounded development, while stimulation strengthens the connections within your child's brain to encourage cognitive, emotional and communication skills. This enables your child to have better problem-solving abilities, recall, memory, verbal fluency and creativity2".
Why is creativity important and how does it impact my child's development?
From young, children have a natural curiosity to figure out how the world works. It is an eagerness to explore, learn new things and discover. Curiosity is key as it helps children develop a healthy imagination and at the same time, stimulates creativity3.
Did you know that fostering creativity not only helps your child develop mentally and socially, but emotionally too4? In fact, children who are encouraged to think creatively generally exhibit higher self-esteem and motivation5; are better problem solvers and are more adaptable to changes6. They are also more confident individuals, feeling good while creating7.
Creativity can even help develop your child's cognitive skills, that is your child's ability to think, understand, remember, imagine and work out what might happen next8. It involves imagination, communication, physical development and even enhances future literacy skills. For example, working with art materials can help improve your child's fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, whilst engaging in creative play can help your little one learn new vocabulary and associate pictures with words9.
Dr Wendy Liew shares, "The experiences that children have during their first few years of life can significantly enhance the development of their creativity. Creative experiences not only help your child express their feelings and learn communicative skills, but also enable them to develop, practice and improve hand-eye coordination and motor skills. It further fosters mental growth in children by providing them with opportunities to try out ideas and problem solve."
The most important meal is breakfast. Start the day with a nutritious and well-balanced meal, one that incorporates all the food groups, including milk. Supplement your child's diet with milk formula which contains important nutrients like DHA, vitamins, minerals and prebiotics. Starting the day with a nutritious, well-balanced meal helps your child better concentrate and learn to their full potential10, especially at the start of their creative journey.
Creativity is a learned skill, so how can parents help inspire creativity?
Is creativity a learned skill or an innate talent? Many people assume that creativity is an inborn talent that their children either do or don't have. The truth is that creativity is more skill than inborn talent, and it is a skill parents can help their kids develop11.
Dr Liew says, "As the brain develops at its fastest pace in the first few years of life, there is scientific evidence that providing good health, the right nutrition and parental stimulation, during this time, will help form the foundation of your child's capacity to learn. Therefore, the first few years of life is a window of opportunity to provide these vital elements to enable a child to allow their brains to develop to their fullest potential."
So, don't worry if your child isn't showing creativity at the start! Like every other skill, some have more natural talent than others. With the right environment and training, parents can easily help their child increase their creativity12.
How to inspire creativity at home
During the early years, your child spends more time at home than any other place. The home is still the predominant source of most experiences, so having a creative environment is important to nurture your child's creativity.
Whether it's drawing, painting, pasting or make believe, all children love being creative13. Here are some practical tips to ignite your child's creative spark:
- Keep your child's life creative in simple activities like making breakfast. Try getting your child to help in the food preparation process. This helps them express their creativity and stimulates their interest in health14. That smiley made from pancakes and fruits can make that meal a whole lot more appetising and enticing for your child!
- Let your little one take inspiration from their natural surroundings! With a little imagination, flowers, leaves, twigs can be transformed into artworks. This could also be a great way to bond with your child too! Make the most of local options by organising weekend visits to Singapore Zoo or the Botanic Gardens to expose your child to the tropical flora, verdant landscape and an array of animals and species.
- Encourage children to read for pleasure. Limit TV and screen time to make room for other creative activities. Reading is known to stimulate the mind, so start young! Visit children bookstores like Kinokuniya and Littered With Books15 to help your little one improve memory and concentration16. You can also encourage your child to act out stories with puppets to boost their creativity and encourage engagement. It's a wonderful way to make lasting connections with your child and even helps them develop communication skills more quickly.
- Allow kids the freedom to explore their ideas. What your child learns and discover during the process, albeit challenging at first, is vital to their development, shares Dr Liew. In fact, external constraints like making them colour within the lines can curb thinking17! Children learn by exploring their environment, but make sure these happen in a safe place. Tag team with your other half while doing weekly chores so that your little one can explore and interact with other children at safe play areas.
- Give children the opportunity to make their own decisions. Dr Liew recommends encouraging your little one to make their own choices. Try starting with simple choices like what they would like to eat for dinner or activities they would like to do during the weekend.
She adds, "Parents can provide their children with opportunities for creative play and thinking through exposure to different experiences and various materials, textures and colours. Activities such as drawing, painting, photography, music, role playing, imaginative play and working with different textures like playdough, clay, paper and glue can further build your child's creativity"
To foster good meal habits, let your child participate in grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation. These are great opportunities to teach them about good nutrition18!
How nutrition can support your child's creative journey
"Proper nutrition plays an essential part in your child's development. For example, deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals have been shown to affect cognitive abilities and mental concentration. In the first few years of life, as the brain consumes, more than 50% of energy is absorbed by the body from food and thereby inadequate nutrition can affect brain functions. Proper nutrition is thereby necessary to help facilitate your child's journey towards creativity," says Dr Liew.
Creativity requires a great expense of energy so it's important that your children have a nutrient-rich diet. DHA, found in milk formula and seafood sources like salmon and sardines19, is an important building block for the brain and eye development. Together with other nutrients such as Vitamin B, Iron, Zinc and Iodine, help support your child's overall development during their creative journey. Together with stimulation, this combination of nutrients are integral to support your little one's continuous learning; shaping and enhancing your child's cognitive, motor, emotional and communication skillsets.
Fueling Their Creativity
The more your child learns to be creative, the more energy they need to support their progress. It is incredibly important that you choose a diet that provides a balanced blend of nutrients to support their creative journey.
Dr. Wendy Liew
Paediatrician; Clinical Interest: Child Neurology
SBCC Baby & Child Clinic
t: +65 6732 2292 f: +65 6738 3793
290 Orchard Paragon #17-12 S(238859)
Paediatrics. Child development. Obstetrics & Gyneacology