How to Keep Kids Curious and Creative During the School Year

As families get back into the busy school year schedules, whether it’s homework, sports, after-school activities or just play dates, it can be easy to leave curiosity and creativity behind. But we’re big believers that those traits should feel just as at home — if not more so — during the school year, as long summer days.

Encouraging your kids to continue practicing curiosity and creativity will help them build the courage to stay true to their ideas and perspectives no matter the subject or pressures.


Image on the left by Robyn Fink of One Lovely August. Image on right: Awesome Animation Tinker Crate project

Keep creativity and questions part of the everyday conversation.

“How was your day?” is a classic, but we recommend trying to mix-up your conversation starters to get more creative answers than “good.”

A great conversation starter for younger kids is a printable placemat where they can draw answers to one of three questions: what did you do today, what made you happy today, and what did you make today. It’s a perfect activity to pull out while you are making dinner to keep the kids busy! Perhaps the color of the teacher’s dress is more remarkable than what was read during story time — drawing is a great way to pull out those wonderful details, and praise those observation skills.

For older kids, we suggest freeform drawing a response to a prompt. Here are a few questions parents at our office use:

What made you happy today?
What made you feel excited today?
What was challenging today?
What activity did you have most fun with today?
Which one of your friends made you laugh the most today?
Which one of your friends confused you today?
If you could invent an alternate ending to a moment in your day, what would it be?
If you could tell your teacher what to teach in class tomorrow, what would you tell her/him?

Another approach is to focus on the questions instead of the answers. My family kept a question journal next to the dinner table. It began with my brother’s knack for asking wildly creative questions such as, “If we could pack all the stars in the universe into one space, how big would that space be? And would you live there?” Stumped, my mom would pull out the question journal, and log the question along with our guesses at an answer. Later, you can do some online research to see if someone has already answered the question. It’s a fun way to engage creativity, especially for tweens who may be looking for every possible way not to talk about their day.


Find small ways to keep inspiring your child.

Unexpected words of encouragement keep children inspired, and help them feel more secure and confident. These gestures may cause a little embarrassment as your kiddos get older, but after the embarrassment fades, the gestures will be remembered fondly.

Try making our banana drawings DIY or printable lunchbox love notes for a quick dose of daily inspiration!


Clear a space in your home to celebrate creativity.

Whether it is a drawing, a masterful production your eight-year-old staged last Thanksgiving (where only 30% of the lines were remembered), or the incredible robot your tween put together that seems to need a jump every time it gets switched on, find a place in your home for these creative masterpieces. Choose a space that works best for your family! We’ve seen a bookshelf, hanging clipboard, picture frame, and masking tape galleries work really nicely.

Experiment with reserving a space for a project that did not work out quite as your maker would have liked, a space for a project selected by parents/guardians, and a space for a self-selected project. Anything is game for the masterpiece wall, from math homework to performance photography, it’s about encouraging the pursuit of curiosity and creativity.

For more guidance on how to clear a space, check out our blog post, “Back-to-School Creativity Tip #8: Make Way for Masterpieces.”


Take advantage of the in-between moments.

Downtime between activities can feel like “dead time,” but when stitched together and focused, a wonderful quilt emerges. There is space to infuse creative practices in those minutes waiting for dinner, driving to soccer practice or standing in line at the grocery store. All you need is a travel kit!

You can make an age-appropriate traveling creativity kit based on what you already have around the house. Leave it in the car, ready to be picked up in those previously lost moments. Gear it for the curiosities of your little maker by including fun math problems, art supplies, or construction materials such as washers and paper clips. For more guidance on how to make your own, check out our blog post, “Back-to-School Creativity Tip #5: Be Prepared for Inspiration at All Times with a Travel Art Kit.


Continue to build new memories of hands-on exploration.

When the school year begins, managing your own schedule plus that of your kids’ can leave little room for building new hands-on memories. Try to build in at least one afternoon or morning of hands-on time every month.

Based on the curiosities that surface from the creative hands-on activities you share at home, plan quarterly family outings. Did they love counting the types of animals and bugs in the backyard? Take them to the natural history museum. Did they fall in love with experimentation in pointillism? Find an art museum or exhibit nearby with paintings that use pointillism.


Carry those summer traditions into the school year, and make every month one filled with curiosity and creativity! We’d love to hear what other tips and techniques you use, please leave us a note in the comments.

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