You know your child has a creative spark. You’ve seen it when they play with dolls or tell you stories about their imaginary friends. You think they could be something great, and not just because they’re your kid (OK, maybe a little because they’re your kid, but that’s allowed to a certain extent). There are both big and small things you can do now to ensure your child reaches their full creative potential.

Nurture Your Child’s Creativity

First things first, pay attention to what kind of art interests them the most. Do they love to read books? Sign them up for programs at the local library. Many libraries offer seasonal reading programs with prizes, so your child may be able to win something for their love of reading.

If they’re mesmerized by the expensive painting at Aunt Shirley’s house, consider a membership to your local art gallery. They may want to explore classical art or modern art, or perhaps they’d like to know about the differences between oil paintings and watercolors. If they get really into the art scene, consider gifting them an oil painting reproduction from a place like 1st Art Gallery.

Is music more their thing? Sign them up for lessons on an instrument. Learning an instrument takes discipline and focus that will serve them well later in life, even if they don’t end up playing in the local symphony orchestra.

If you treat their love of art and creativity as something worth respecting, then your child will treat it similarly. There’s nothing worse than telling a kid that their hobby is dumb or stupid, so don’t do that. Remember that children grow and change a lot between now and young adulthood. You can shape them, but you shouldn’t crush their dreams in the process.

Once you’ve taken the first steps in exploring your child’s creativity, it’s time to decide if more drastic changes are warranted. While a traditional school environment works just fine for many children, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are other options, namely Montessori schools. Places like the Richmond Hill Montessori School offer a more progressive, personalized environment that focuses on each child’s unique strengths. The Montessori system was pioneered by Italian educator Maria Montessori, and it’s now used in schools all over the world. If you feel like a typical school environment risks stifling your child’s natural abilities, it may be worth it to start exploring Montessori centers.

Whatever your approach, it’s important to remember that your child is still a child. You want to nurture them, not indulge them excessively. You want to raise a talented, empathetic child, not an entitled one who can’t look outside themselves. There are plenty of stories about “stage parents,” aka parents who project their own hopes and dreams onto an innocent child. Make sure the goals you set are for your child, not for you. Persistence is important, but there are limits. You don’t want your child to flit from activity to activity without any real focus or purpose, but you also don’t want to be the parent who forces their child to take violin lessons for ten years.

Above all else, make sure that your child knows that you’re proud of them, and that your love for them does not depend on them winning an Oscar. If they choose the creative life, they’ll have a long road ahead of them, one that will probably include a ton of rejection and very little money. They need to know that their family is on their side. That doesn’t mean you never question them, but it does mean that you love them unconditionally. You should always be your child’s first, and biggest, fan.