6 Ways to Raise an Innovative Child

How can you raise the next Mark Zuckerberg? Mighty Mommy has expert tips on how to think outside the box to encourage your child’s creativity.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #182

6 Ways to Raise an Innovative Child

Let’s face it—most of us dream of raising a child who will change the world with an extraordinary contribution like finding the cure for cancer, inventing cars that run on water, fostering world peace, or maybe even concocting a chocolate that is actually nutritious, delicious, and able to eliminate wrinkles!

Look at Mark Zuckerberg, co-creator of the life-changing social networking site, Facebook. Many people wonder what was it about Zuckerberg’s childhood that gave him the creative mind to come up with such an incredible concept. In a recent interview with New York Magazine his father, Ed Zuckerberg, admits that he and his wife didn’t profess any special child-rearing skills. “The best I can say is that as parents, you can engineer the life you want your kids to have, but it may not be the life they want to have. You have to encourage them to pursue their passions. And you have to spend more time on them than you spend on anything else,” he shares.

Ed Zuckerberg makes a very important point when he says that the life you want your kids to have might not be the life they want to have. This scenario plays out more often than some parents would care to admit—they longed to be a famous astronaut or perhaps the first woman president of the United States and because those dreams were not fulfilled, they push their own children into fulfilling them instead.

There is an easier way to raise an innovative child other than forcing your unrealized dreams on him or her. Here are 6 ways you can encourage your child’s inner creativity so that he or she can grow up curious and excited to experiment and embrace the world around them:

Tip #1 - Be Open Minded   

Be on the lookout for activities that make your child excited. Does he enjoy assembling complicated jigsaw puzzles? Does she like getting messy in the yard growing her own plants? Maybe you’re running out of crayons and paper because he loves to draw? Or maybe he just has to pull things apart to figure out how they work? Whatever it is, cheer them on and encourage them to keep at it. Look around in your community for age-appropriate classes that can help guide them with this passion, or take them to the library to learn more about the subject. Basically—be supportive even if you think it might be a ridiculous way for them to be spending their free time. I bet Mrs. And Mrs. Zuckerberg thought their son’s fascination with the internet was ridiculous at times, too. 

Tip #2 - Let Them Create    

This may sound like a simple concept, but it’s often overlooked in our busy, chaotic days of parenting. Though we all get tired, overwhelmed, and distracted after a long day at work or being at home, and just trying to manage details like dinner, laundry, and homework, we can’t forget that our kids still need stimulation and creative outlets to help them thrive. 

An easy way to do this is to look around the house and see if you have any empty boxes, paper towel tubes, even a stack of old magazines. Let them “have at it” with no instructions other than “show me what you can make out of this neat stuff.” Last summer, my 9-year-old son came to me enthusiastically asking if he could use some of the cardboard building blocks we had laying around to make a project. When he was done, he excitedly revealed his robot friend, complete with two working flashlights for the eyes. Check him out below! Two years later, he never lets a scrap of material go in the trash if he thinks he can construct something cool.



Tip #3 - Reinvent Favorite Family Games  

If you have board games such as Pachisi, Monopoly, even a trivia game that your family doesn’t use much, let your kids see if they can come up with a new version of the game.  Or, let them come up with their own game!  When my daughter was in 6th grade, she used our old Candy Land game and made a school version of it instead. She glued photos of friends on the board and changed all the cards to reflect things associated with school. She graduated last year and we still have it! 

Tip #4 - Take Books to the Next Level   

There are many kids who just cannot get enough of books. Whether it’s their fascination with make believe, a love of the colorful illustrations, or simply the thrill of going to the library and being allowed to select something that captures their attention, reading opens up hundreds of thought-provoking journeys. Take advantage of the bookworms in your household by challenging them to bring their favorite stories to life.  For younger kids, give them a character, object, and place and have them create their own story. Tape them during the process or let them write and illustrate their own book which you can laminate or simply collate to put on their bookshelf. The process of creating their own book fosters a huge sense of accomplishment and pride.  Older children can act out their favorite book by creating costumes for their beloved characters, or host a theme party with snacks that are inspired by the book.

Tip #5 - Get Messy  

For those who can’t function unless their environment is well-organized and pristine, allowing your kids to make messes can be truly daunting. However, by letting your kids have a little breathing room when they are in the mood to create, you’d be surprised at the outcome. This doesn’t mean you have to let them finger paint while sitting on your cream sofa, but find a spot in your home where you can allow them to get messy. A corner of the dining room might be perfect to set up an affordable easel, poster paints, chalks and crayons, glue, pieces of scrap fabric, and more. We use plastic shower curtains from the dollar store to lay down when the kids want to be artistic—it’s cheap and makes for easy clean up!   This past holiday season my 6-year-old and her friends held an art sale in the neighborhood—completely their own idea. With the money they made, they bought new materials at the craft store and worked on creating more projects.

Tip #6 - Play “What Would You Do?”    

Sharing a meal together as a family has countless benefits. Besides enjoying delicious home cooking and spending time together, it’s often a catalyst for great conversation. Many families play games during meal time, and one that my kids love is called “What Would You Do?”   One of us chooses a topic that needs a solution, for example, “What if we lost our electricity for an entire week? What would you do to save our refrigerated foods and how would you spend your time with no electronics or TV?” This is also a great game to play when driving in a car. It inspires children’s creative juices and keeps their minds engaged.

I hope these tips will spur some ideas of your own to foster the loveable imaginations of your kids. We may not raise the next Mark Zuckerberg, but by thinking outside the box to cultivate our own kids’ creativity, you’ll give them the opportunity to be the best innovators they can be.

If you have a question regarding anything in this episode, or have a suggestion for a future Mighty Mommy topic, e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Mighty Mommy Facebook wall. You can also follow me on Twitter @MightyMommy.        

Have a wonderful week and as always—happy parenting!

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.