When our children are young, it can be easy to focus on what they don't do (like sleep) and what they can't do for themselves (like a lot). Because it's what our children can't and don't do that impacts on what we do for them – like feeding, dressing, bathing and settling, to name a few.
But it turns out your one-year-old may be more capable and creative than you think.
Creativity is an important life skill. So many jobs of the future will require creative and innovative thinking rather than rote learning and following instructions. That's why the question "Are one-year-olds creative?" is a very interesting one. And apparently they are.
A recent study looked at whether a one-year-old can display a measure of creativity called "divergent thinking". This is about how many ideas you can come up with when faced with a task or a problem.
With older kids you might ask them, "How many things can you think of that are round?". But when it comes to 12-month-olds who don't yet have the verbal skills to answer those questions, you need another way to measure divergent thinking.
In this study, they used the Unusual Box Test. It's a colourful wooden box that has blocks and ledges, strings and rings attached, and holes and rooms and stairs inside the box. With the box comes five objects: an egg holder, a spatula, a rubber toy, a hook and a shaker.
The more actions a child creates in different areas of the box with the various objects, the greater their divergent thinking.
How did the kids go? They ranged from finding six to up to 28 different ways of playing with the objects and the unusual box. This suggests that even one-year-olds can be very exploratory, experimental and creative.
This study also discovered something else very interesting. They didn't just measure children's divergent thinking, but also the parents' divergent thinking. Instead of the Unusual Box Test, they asked parents to complete the Thinking Creativity in Pictures test –in this, parents had to create drawings out of incomplete lines, a bit like Mr Squiggle used to do.
They discovered that there was a connection between the children's divergent thinking and their parents' divergent thinking. The children may have inherited some genetic abilities from their parents, but they have also probably learnt creative thinking skills by watching and interacting with their parents. It's also possible that experimental and creative kids can ignite parents' creativity.
All up, this is really good to know. Our children are creative from a very young age. They are interested and exploratory and experimental. And we can encourage their creativity in very simple and organic ways. We can:
give children a safe space to explore and experiment. They don't necessarily need a lot of expensive toys. Household objects, plastic kitchenware and cardboard boxes can be just as stimulating for kids and their creativity.
use everyday items in different ways. You can use pegs to hang out washing but also in craft or to clip together paperwork. You can use tea towels to dry dishes but also to keep food warm or to wrap presents. You can use crayons to draw with but you can also recycle them into candles and playdough. Talk to your child about what you're doing so they understand that items have many uses.
be musical. Have fun making musical instruments out of objects from around the house. Come up with new lyrics for a favourite song and sing them with your child. Make up some crazy dance moves and get active together.
Kids are naturally creative. If you get in there and have some fun with your child, you'll get their creative juices going and you might just reignite your own as well.
Jodie Benveniste is a psychologist, parenting author and intuitive parenting specialist. You can get your free gift 'Unlocking the secrets of intuitive parenting' at jodiebenveniste.com.