Today, we're joined by Kami Kinard, author of THE BOY PROBLEM and THE BOY PROJECT.  Kami's touching on a subject near and dear to my own heart: creativity and children.

Creativity! It’s one of the best words in the English language. It’s powerful, imaginative, and a whole lot of fun. If we can empower our children to think creatively, we’ve done them a great service. This is true not only because they will experience the joy that goes hand in hand with creating, but also because empowering children to think creatively will help them in all types of fields. In fact, creativity was selected in an IBM Global CEO study as the “most crucial factor for future success.”

I feel so lucky that my mother valued creativity, and I know that became an author largely because I was encouraged to create. We had a walk-in closet sized room in our house that my mother called “the sewing room.” The room housed her sewing machine and scraps of fabric, but also all kinds of other things like old magazines, container lids, glitter, glue, and broken bits of random objects. This was before there was a Michaels or Hobby Lobby in every city.  

The craft supplies my mother kept for creative projects were mostly things that couldn’t really be used for anything else.  These bits and pieces came in handy. Every time I complained about being bored, my mother would say, “Go make me something.” And I did.

I learned to look at the scraps before me and ask myself, “What if?”  What if I try to do it this way? What if I add this to that? What if I start over and approach this differently? I remember creating a doll that boasted a walnut head and had elbows and knees constructed from the bendy parts of straws. I remember making a duck with Gingko leaf feet whose body was made out of clean, fluffy, white, sculpted toilet paper! I remember creating my own magazine copy for the pictures my mother cut from her magazines and kept in a box.

Today, as an author, I am still asking myself, “What if?” What if my main character does this instead of that? What if I add another character to this scene? Even what if I start over and approach this a different way?

When trying to channel creativity, ask yourself the question “What if?” Then think about possible answers. You’ll soon find you have multiple choices!  Pick the answer you like best and you’ve aced the test! For me, that test is a completed manuscript.

My mother helped me develop a creative mind, and the best way I can repay her is to do the same for my children. In a time where we hear that America’s CQ (Creative Quotient) scores are on the decline, and that testing is pushing creativity out of the classroom, it is crucial that we step in and make sure our children are encouraged to think creatively.  

There are so many ways to do this! In addition to the years I spent in the classroom, I have worked to inspire creativity in children through coaching Odyssey of the Mind, sponsoring a Creativity Club, and working as one of my state’s Teaching Artists. Through these experiences I discovered that no matter what the creative endeavor, there is one simple secret to teaching children to successfully embrace creativity.

You must put tools into their hands.

That’s it! My mother didn’t just throw me into an empty room and tell me to make something. She gave me the tools. The scraps I found in the sewing room were the keys to unlocking my imagination.  At Odyssey of the Mind meetings students don’t create something out of nothing. They are given objects such as paper plates and handful of rubber bands and invited to create something. In other words, they are given tools.

Whether I am teaching poetry, art, or creative thinking, I always supply my students with tools. These tools can be words, objects, or sometimes even a set of simple rules that students must follow during the creative process. For example, a student may be asked to write five lines with a repeated word in the last two lines. Rules like this don’t box students in; they give them something to hold onto as they begin their creative climb!

Student work: Found object fish
Encourage the children in your lives to embrace creativity.  Give them tools and cheer their successes! In doing so, you will unleash creativity’s power!

Kami's daughter's sand art

Kami Kinard values creativity to the extent that in both of her novels THE BOY PROJECT (Scholastic 2012) and THE BOY PROBLEM (Scholastic 2014) the main characters are creative, and their creative thinking helps solve their conflicts. An award-winning teacher, she is the co-founder of Kidlit-Summer School www.nerdychickswrite.com. Find out more about her by visiting her website www.kamikinard.com.

Kami is teaching an online class, Crafting the Kidlit Novel, with fellow author Rebecca Petruck starting October 6. The class will cover the elements of solid novel writing from hook, to pitch, to plot structure, to market discussion. Students will have opportunity for individual feedback from both instructors. (They should count on being asked, “What if?”!) A free critique is being offered to those who register before September 20. Kami would like to extend this offer through September 25 for readers of this post. Send her an email KamiKinard(at)gmail(dot)com with critique in the subject line if you are interested. Click here for a more detailed description of the course: goo.gl/RAFXg9




  1. I Love this post Kami. Your childhood sounds a lot like mine. We had shoe boxes of scraps and doodads that we used to create "works of art". The kitchen table was our workbench and finished projects were displayed throughout the house with pride. I tried to instill that in my own children, both of whom value creativity.

  2. Thanks so much Darlene! It was a great way to grow up!


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