Nurture Creativity in Your Grandchildren

grandma showing creative mailbox

Newsweek’s July 10, 2010 issue had a fascinating article on America’s “Creativity Crisis.” Until 1990, creativity scores for U.S. children had been steadily rising, along with IQ scores. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. A researcher at the College of William and Mary noted that the decrease is very significant, particularly among children from kindergarten through sixth grade.

The article stated it’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing video games, rather than engaging in creative activities.

Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children. The article concluded that creativity can be taught.

And that’s where we grandparents come in. According to research, children excel in creativity when they have a supportive teacher who is tolerant of unconventional answers, occasional disruptions, or detours of curiosity. Now that sounds like an accurate description of most grandparents!

The parents of our grandchildren are so caught up in daily maintenance routines that they may not have the time or patience to devote to creative projects. But grandparents often have lots of those resources, as well as the energy to indulge and nurture our grandchildren’s creativity. In fact, we thrive on it.

At a recent meeting of the GaGa Sisterhood, our members shared some of their favorite creative projects they’ve done with their grandchildren. These projects demonstrate that our grandchildren can inspire us to go to our most creative places to entertain and delight them. Here are two of my favorites:

  • Carol’s four-year old granddaughter, who lives in Boston, loves to receive mail.  So she bought her a pink mailbox from Pottery Barn Kids and painted “Chloe’s Mail” on one side. Carol decorated the other sides with a castle, flowers, and ballerina dress. Carol writes to Chloe twice a week and asks her daughter to put her letters in Chloe’s mailbox by the front entry.
  • Barbara made her granddaughter a picture book for her 7th birthday. On the first page she wrote: 7 is a powerful number and you are a powerful girl, so this year is going to be very special for you. This book describes some of the wonderful things about 7. The book included pictures of the 7 Wonders of the World, colors of the rainbow, the notes on a musical scale, chakras, days of the week, dwarfs, seas, and deadly sins, which she had to “clean up.” She ended with 7th heaven, which she explained is an expression to mean great joy as in: Nana is in 7th heaven because she has such a wonderful granddaughter.


The key to nurturing creativity is to let go a little, to back off and leave artistic and inventive decisions up to the child. Creativity flourishes in a non-evaluative environment. Don’t get too attached to outcomes or details. The joy is in the process, no matter what direction it goes. Let your grandchild know that you value her creativity. Give her the freedom to create to her heart’s content and in her own unique style. Let your grandchild know how great it is to be different and you’ll build her creative confidence for a lifetime.


  1. Whitney Ferre' says

    Hi, Donne! I am so glad you posted this info. from the “Creativity Crisis”. I have three kids 11, 9, and 7. They are very creative! I am also the author of The Artist Within, A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit (great for grandmas!) AND 33 Things to Know About Raising Creative Kids–which is totally tailored for busy families! Thanks again! Our kids’ creativity is close to THE most important skill to develop in this rapidly changing world. Cheers! Whitney

  2. says

    I also read this excellent article in Newsweek. When we think about creativity, we often think about the arts–what the article calls the “art bias”–but the keys to creativity are actually divergent thinking and problem solving. These are skills that can be taught. Two of my granddaughters participate in Future Problem Solvers, and they tackle problems in a similar way to the “noisy library” problem attacked by the fifth-graders in the article.

    It’s very tempting when interacting with the grandkids to guide them too much. We want to answer their questions. We think that they should learn to follow the rules of games, and we want their craft projects to turn out beautifully. But the truth is that kids learn more when they have to find answers, when they modify the rules and when they experiment with different techniques.

  3. says

    Wow! I am so impressed with your blog and the community you have created. Your grandchildren are truly lucky to have you investing so much love and time in their well being. This post is wonderful. I love those ways of nurturing a child’s creativity and coming from a dear grandparent…these are mementos and moments they will carry with them throughout their lives.