Little kids are naturally and unselfconsciously creative. You can help your child stay that way by:
Tolerating "wrong" answers. Creativity depends upon ambiguity, making mistakes, and being playful, says Kyung Hee Kim, assistant professor of educational psychology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Applaud your child's imagination when he draws wings on a kitten or writes using incorrect spellings. The rules will assert themselves soon enough.
Lowering your standards. A spotless playroom stifles creativity, because kids may not feel they can engage in messy experiments or art. (That doesn't mean they shouldn't learn to clean up afterward.) Similarly, always reining in an energetic, talkative, or spontaneous child because you prefer quiet may short-circuit her impulses. "The very qualities that facilitate creative accomplishments can be ones that sometimes make creative children hard to live with," Kim says.
Going easy on the rewards. Research links kids' creativity with their intrinsic motivation; praise or reward them too much and you zap both. Refrain from praising every drawing your child makes, or if you must comment, remark on his originality or effort rather than the results, advises Mark Runco, professor of creative studies at the University of Georgia and editor of Creativity Research Journal.
Expressing yourself. When you model creativity, Runco says, children not only learn creative behaviors—to question assumptions, to be open to possibilities—but also to see being creative as something of value.