How to Raise Creatively Courageous Kids


creativity kids imagination parents

Creativity has been a misunderstood and overlooked skill for decades because many of us associate creativity with artistic endeavors. It’s often assumed that creativity is a special skill that “creatives” like painters or designers have and the rest of us just don’t have it. 

That is actually not true. Creativity is something we were all born with. Creative courage is necessary for any job that requires problem solving, innovation, and leadership. In the Jobs of the Future Report published by the World Economic Forum in 2020, creativity, originality and initiative, is once again one of the top 10 skills of the future.  

As technological advances become more pervasive in our daily lives and more of the repetitive work we do today gets automated, creativity and problem solving will be even more important for future generations to thrive in life and at work. Our children will need these skills to solve the complex social, technological, and environmental issues they inherit.

We can’t just count on schools to prepare our kids for that future. With awareness of what’s to come, we can make small changes at home to help our children prepare and thrive in this new world. 

Raising Creatively Courageous Kids at Home 

I have spent over two decades working in the field of design thinking. After becoming a mother, I got even more interested in studying creative courage. Today, I want to share some simple yet powerful things you can do in daily life to help your kids build their creative courage. 


1. Engage in imaginative play

Imagination is an important innovation skill and kids are natural experts at it. When encouraged and supported, they carry this skill into adulthood and they will be good at coming up with ideas to solve complex problems and be courageous with their creative thinking. When stifled, they lose it. 

Parents can help them maintain this very important skill by engaging in imaginative play with them. 

Kids are doing imaginative play all day long—in the bathtub, at the breakfast table, on the playground... And they love telling us the stories they are imagining. If we pay attention, we will notice that they’re inviting us to participate. By taking the time to participate, we’re signaling to them that imagination is important.  

Engaging in imaginative play with our kids when we’re running outside on a beautiful day is pretty easy. On days we have to get places and check off the to-do list, which can seem like a lot of life, it’s much harder. But what if we can turn those moments into imaginative play too? 

One often overlooked opportunity for imaginative play is during activity transitions. Like when it’s time to leave the house, time to get in the car, time to eat breakfast, time to take a bath, the list goes on. 

As parents, we find these transitions difficult and mind numbing at times because our kids often don’t cooperate when transitioning from one activity to the next. 

When I’m frustrated with my daughter’s delay tactics, I try to remember to ask myself, “Do I want to struggle through this and get upset with her, get emotionally drained, and inevitably more tired than I already am? Or, do I make this imaginative play time?” I don’t always succeed at this behavior modification for myself but when it does I’m always glad I made the effort. I am signaling to my child that imagination is a valuable skill by spending time doing it myself and modeling it for her. 

To turn those transitions into imaginative play time, think about the things your child is currently into. Is it dinosaurs, dragons, fairies, outer space, or something else? What games are they playing on their tablets? What shows are they watching? What are they studying at school right now? At the moment, my daughter is into all of the above and also a show she’s watching called Sunny Bunnies. So, I try different ways of mixing things up and use narratives to engage her. It’s bath time, how would Sunny Bunnies go upstairs? Which one do you want to be and which one am I?! Our alien friend wants to learn how humans take a bath, can you show him? 

Imaginative play makes transitions more fun for them, easier for you, and helps them exercise that muscle they need for the future of work. Give it a try and let us know what ideas you come up with. 

2. Support the fearless child's mind

Children are naturally creative and courageous. The moment they’re born they need to try things to learn about the world. So they’re masters at learning by trial. Trying things without having certainty in the outcome is a key innovation skill. Trying things without fear is a problem-solving superpower.

Our job as parents is to create containers for our children to experiment so that they keep that fearlessness with them for when they need it the most, into adulthood.

To do this, look for moments when your child is trying new things, even if you know the outcome or you perceive it to be possibly a little dangerous. 

Do your best not to tell them what you think will happen, instead, engage their curious minds. 

Ask them what might happen if they did the thing. And then ask them how they would feel about the various outcomes. Agree on a way to try and then debrief it. And most importantly, let them try things! Let them problem-solve the challenges along the way, so they can build their own creative courage. 

Obviously certain things are too dangerous, like the time my daughter asked me what would happen if she jumped from the second floor of a building. We were standing there, looking down, she asked: “Would my dragon friends come and catch me?” We engaged in some really awesome dialogues about death, real world vs. TV world, and how different size owies feel like. She decided since dragons don’t live in this world, she’d get hurt so she didn’t think it’s a good idea.

Most of the time though, when I’ve examined my jerk reactions to the new things my daughter wants to try, my adult mind is often way too fear-based and if I went with my protection instinct 100% I wouldn’t let her try anything. So it’s helpful for me and her to go through a series of inquiries together about what might happen, we can often arrive at something she can try to explore her curiosity with support from me that wouldn’t stifle her creativity. 

Once, she wanted to go down a cliff that was about a class 3 climb and go to a pebble beach below. After exploring it together a bit, we decided it’s ok to try it as long as she lets me be right behind her. I was surprised that something I perceived as too difficult for her ended up being really easy. She went up and down about ten times. Each time exploring a new path and solving new problems. 

Every time I get to witness the fruits of that fearlessness and curiosity, it gives me so much joy to see her problem-solve and witness the visible increase in her confidence as a person. 

3. Kid zone is always No Judgement Zone

Imagination gives birth to ideas. Expression puts ideas into the world. The two go hand in hand. What stops this beautiful loop of human creativity is perfectionism—the fear of being judged. 

When we are engaged in perfectionist behavior, we tend to judge ourselves first before anyone else can judge us. This is what stops us from trying anything new. 

Creative courage requires us to imagine something new in our head—things that haven’t been done before—and then go make them real. It’s a very valuable life and business skill. 

Perfectionism kills creative courage. 

Kids are constantly trying new things. They’re naturally courageous. When we judge their attempts, we are actually teaching them perfectionist behavior. Even when we’re trying to be positive and encouraging like when we say “your painting is beautiful!” We imply that they could’ve made it not beautiful. 

Here’s the thing about perfectionism, we don’t tend to know what the definition of good enough is. It’s a constant moving target that leaves us feeling not enough. The only way we can be free of perfectionist behavior is having the skill of non-judgement. 

No judgement zone is hard especially with things we’re already good at or have training in. For me, non judgement is always hard when it comes to doing arts and crafts with my toddler. For example, I have training in color theory, so when I watch my 3 year old paint, it’s hard not to cringe when she mixes all the colors together, all her paintings turn out muddy and brown. It takes every ounce of my being NOT to tell her “the right way” to mix colors. 

If you find yourself going into a judgement zone about what your child is creating, here are some things to try: 

1. Ask questions. In my case, I ask my daughter questions like: “Is there a story here?” “How does the paint feel?” “How do you feel when you make art?”

2. Instead of passing judgement on her creation, acknowledge her courage in trying new things. Say things like “I see that you tried a new color this time.” “I see that you tried mixing blue and yellow together, tell me what happened when you did that!” 

3. Notice her persistence,  focus, or other problem solving skills. Say things like “Wow, I am so proud of you, you spent so much time on this painting,” “I see you tried mixing new colors together this time. It must be fun to try new things!” Or “I see you were frustrated the brush broke, but you figured out a new way to paint with the stick!”

Wrapping up…

Which of these strategies on raising creatively courageous children do you think you could us with your child? Is it imaginative play, fearlessly trying things, or the No Judgement Zone? 

If you want to learn more about Creative Courage, check out Liya’s post on “The Power of Creative Courage”.

We’re curious what you’re doing to give your child creative courage. Share your stories below!


- Liya James, author of "The Get Real Method" & Mother of one

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