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Growing Reader

7 Ways to Help Your Kids Consume Less and Create More

by Jordan Raynor

tips-help-kids-create-not-consume
Photo credit: Westend61, Westend61 Collection/Getty Images

I love Bluey as much as the next parent. But I don’t want my kids watching Bluey or any other TV show or game all spring break or summer long. So how can we as parents help our kids consume less and create more? Here are seven things that have worked well with my three young kids.

1. Welcome screen time that leads to creative activity. I think we all know that if we want our kids to create more, we will have to implement limits on screen time. That said, some forms of screen time encourage kids to create. YouTube channels like Art For Kids Hub and Babble Dabble Do are brilliant at teaching kids how to draw and craft at home. Alternatively, invite your kids to join you on the beloved tablet or smartphone to search Google Images for craft ideas.

2. Let them be bored. When I see my kids lounging around the house, my first instinct is to suggest something for them to do. But I’m learning to resist that urge because, according to the Child Mind Institute, unstructured time “can actually help [kids] develop skills, creativity, and self-esteem.” So, before you prescribe a solution to your kids’ boredom, see what they come up with on their own!

3. Keep an “I’m still bored” list on hand. If you let your kids be bored for a while and they still can’t come up with something to do, pull out what I call an “I’m still bored” list with several creative activity ideas. Our list includes “Build LEGOs,” “Go to the park,” and “Make a movie.” It’s overwhelming for kids when you tell them they can do “anything.” That’s the genius of the “I’m still bored” list. It presents kids with a simple fixed menu of options — designed by you — to combat boredom.

4. Designate a creative space. Creation is messy and requires physical space. That’s why it’s helpful to designate a specific area—a desk, room, or one end of the dining room table — as a space to create. If you can, keep creative materials like crayons, paper, boxes, and toilet paper rolls in this spot to make it easier for kids to choose creation over consumption.

5. Take advantage of kids’ love of physical mail. If your kids are like mine, snail mail fascinates them. Use this to your advantage by encouraging them to make something and mail it to a friend or relative. And keep in mind that as much as kids enjoy sending mail, they often love receiving it even more. So, consider subscribing to services like KiwiCo or AllTruists, which ship innovative, creative activities to your door.

6. Offer to create with your kid. Yesterday, I asked my seven-year-old if she wanted to build her Millennium Falcon LEGO set, and she said “no.” Minutes later, I asked if she wanted to build it with me, and she uttered a quick “yes!” Sometimes, our kids just want to spend time with us. Use that to engage your children in creative activities!

7. Read books about inspiring creators. Some of my kids’ favorite books are about inspiring creators, such as the Walt Disney, Dolly Parton, and da Vinci books in the Ordinary People Change the World series. This is part of the reason I published my own children’s book, The Creator in You — to inspire kids to create by observing the work of the Creator of the universe.

Let’s do everything we can to help our kids consume less and create more. I hope the seven ideas listed above will spark inspiration to that end!