Kids hands over a painted rainbow.

How Accepting Mistakes Affects Children’s Creativity

Why should parents be excited about their kids' mistakes? And how do mistakes increase creativity?

As a former early childhood educator and mom of two, I've found that accepting mistakes has a huge impact on creativity. Being able to accept mistakes is important for parenting in general, and it's essential for nurturing creativity.

Mistakes Are the Building Blocks for Creative Problem-Solving.

Mistakes can bring an idea to a halt, cause anger, create frustration OR they can be the building blocks of learning. How we as parents feel about mistakes will directly affect how our kids feel about mistakes.

The way we respond to mistakes can encourage learning or shut it down. That is why it's so important to get a handle on the opportunities mistakes offer.

How to Accept Mistakes and Boost Creativity

1. Recognize the opportunity.

Making a mistake means that you (or your kid) took a risk. You tried something. The outcome wasn't what you had planned but now you are handed a valuable learning experience.

It may take a moment to process feelings of frustration or embarrassment but don't get hooked on those emotions. Instead, let them pass and remind yourself that mistakes are part of learning.

Remember when you make a mistake that your kids are watching and as the world's best imitators, they will imitate your response when they make their own mistakes. Watching you shift gears into learning and problem-solving mode, will help them learn how to do the same.

2. Take a moment to evaluate the situation.

Rather than getting upset with your kid (or yourself), ask stimulating questions.

  • What happened?
  • Why didn't it work the way you thought?
  • What could you try next time to get a new outcome?

Putting the mistake in positive terms takes the negative tone out of it and allows your kid to move into a learning place.

3. Expect and plan for positive ways to handle mistakes. Do you have a few scripts you can say when you witness a mistake? Mistakes become learning opportunities when they are expected and welcomed.

Every properly handled mistake adds a building block to their skill set, and gives them confidence to take important risks in the future.

A Beautiful Mistake

As I was writing this, a mistake was unfolding right next to me. My son jammed a pencil (backwards) into his battery powered pencil sharpener. I watched for a second as panic swept over his face. The pencil came out, the metal casing and eraser did not. But wait!

It wasn't a second later that I saw one of my favorite things. A creative spark popped into his eye. He had an idea! I removed the batteries (we like mistakes but not danger…) and let him figure it out.

I didn't see how he removed the eraser, but I know he did it himself because a new look was in his eye when he returned. Pride.

Imagine how different this situation would have been if I had yelled, taken the sharpener, and sent him to his room. The only thing he would have gained is fear to experiment. Instead, with the room to make a mistake, he was able to practice problem-solving and gain a little confidence in his ability to handle unexpected situations.

Plan for Mistakes

Giving our kids and ourselves room to make mistakes gives us all room to grow and expand our creativity. When mistakes are welcomed we can take the risk to be more creative, knowing we won't be shamed if we mess up.

We can make this a reality by planning for mistakes. They're a natural and important part of learning. And the more you practice accepting your own mistakes and those of your children, the more you'll discover that there's plenty of room for imperfection.

Author: Jillian Riley

Expertise: Parenting, Early Childhood Education

Jillian Riley is the founder of Confidence Meets Parenting, dedicated to helping parents navigate the joys and challenges of raising children. Her blog provides simple and effective strategies that parents can use to build strong, healthy family relationships.