Kids & Parents

Instructions Not Needed: Encouraging Creativity in Children

I’ve always been a bit of a rule breaker (more about that here), and although I believe children need guidance and limits, my slightly rebellious spirit has definitely influenced my parenting style. 

I am the parent who, when a craft project is handed out at a library storytime, steps back and lets my child get to work (stepping in only when the entire contents of an Elmer’s Glue bottle is about to be spilled onto the floor).

Does this mean I have a collection of abstract, purple paper panda bears at home? Yes -- absolutely.

But I take a hands-off approach not only because it gives me a chance to take a few sips my tea (bonus!), but because I firmly believe encouraging creativity is incredibly important.

(I am not alone in this thought – more and more people, parents, and professionals agree).  

This belief -- in the importance of creativity, play, and exploration -- is also the foundation of so much of what I do, here, at the library.

You won’t often find a sample project at my craft programs (process, not product), and if your child wants to create a pretend birthday cake out of the materials provided to make a bath fizz – I’m all for it.

Luckily, libraries of today are great places for open-ended, imaginative play that inspires creative thinking in everyone. 

How to Use the Library to Encourage Creativity (a guidebook, not an instruction manual):

Discovery Kit

Check out one of our new Discovery Kits!

In October of last year, the Youth Services Department was awarded a grant from IEEE, Chicago Section to create circulating science kits. We are so excited to announce they are now available for checkout to DPPL cardholders! Each kit was created not only to spark an interest in science, but also to spur exploration and experimentation. Although the kits include manufacture instructions, I highly recommend you set those aside, and let your child figure the kits out on their own. If you (or your child) is not quite ready for this, start with the included Discovery Guides (these guides, written by the library, give you the basics, but also encourage exploration).  

Family Fridays

Come to our “Let’s Build” Family Fridays

Dates are September 15, October 13, and November 10, and construct something using only the provided blocks and your imagination!

Recommended Books

Check out creative play books and other resources

Four of my favorite books, available for checkout from the library, offering ideas for creative play and activities are 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids by Asia Citro, 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) by Gever Tulley, Art Workshops for Children by Herve Tullet, How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott D. Sampson. 

Process Art

Encourage - and allow - creative expression

When craft supplies are handed out at the end of storytime, resist the urge to hover over your child, and let them create their own version of a monkey (boat, whatever). My prediction: whatever they create will be heavy on the google eyes. 


Let them explore

Allowing children the freedom to explore is great way to sneak in a few uninterrupted sips of coffee or check your email, but it is also an even better opportunity to engage. Try asking your children open-ended questions as they play. Need some ideas, checkout this article at Be sure to practice your skills in the library’s early learning area!


Most importantly, remember this is not an instruction manual -- let your children come up with their own way to play (at the library and at home!). 

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