4. Let them set their own rules.
Encouraging such a shared interest doesn't mean parents should impose a reading list or require their child to finish a book a day. "We want people to grow up with a love of learning, where they're excited about trying new things," Resnick says. "If you're pushing them to work in a regimented way on things they don't really care about, that's going to steal that away to the point where they come to see learning as a chore." Instead, build on children's motivations. Find out what they are passionate about and gently nudge them in the appropriate direction.
5. Prevent piano lesson fallout.
You can't schedule "improve Suzie's imagination" on the calendar. Give kids time, and don't expect immediate results. Don't worry if progress isn't made right away. The classic case of the child who takes piano lessons and then quits, never touching the keys again, is often a direct consequence of parental pressure to meet heightened expectations. When children lose interest, don't assume they'll never again be interested. "We all go through plateaus, but then something will happen and we'll charge ahead," Resnick says. They might be messing around, consolidating what they've already discovered or just dwelling on their next steps.
6. Respond the right way.
Support and encouragement do more for a child than any nifty toy. But don't confuse recognizing success with recognizing passion. "Focus more on acknowledging the effort as opposed to the achievement," Resnick says.
7. Harp on hard work over natural talent.
Spend more time saying, "Wow, what you created is really interesting" instead of, "Wow, you're so good at [fill in their innate ability here]." This form of reinforcement can lead to quite a burden: Because they are good at, say, calculus, they're expected to enjoy it too. Of course, people have special capabilities in some areas over others, but Resnick indicates that success in the future comes from finding an interest, regardless of skill, and working at it.
8. Expect frequent failures.
Things don't always work the first time around. We have lots of failures, and we should have lots of failures, Resnick says. "When you work on something, it's a process. Look for new paths that arise out of what went wrong, and try them next."
9. Get in gear with the latest in technology.
To describe technology, Resnick often uses a riddle: Which of these three things is not like the other? Computer. Television. Paintbrush.
The brush, right? Not a chance. "Too many times, people think of computers like TV — something to just deliver information, but if we use computers the right way, it's more like a paintbrush." So, when you're looking for a computer game or an electronic toy, buy it only if it's like a brush, if it allows your child to express herself. Some uses of high-tech products can be counterproductive, such as when the software runs the show, asking the questions or manipulating the experience instead of enhancing it. Ask yourself, "Can my kids be in control of this new technology?"
10. Turn passive into active.
Once your child comes home from school, if she plops on the couch to watch afternoon cartoons, you can do something. But don't scream "No TV until you're 18!" at the top of your lungs. Instead, make sure they have the chance to see the active potential of that passive activity. If, for example, they love watching Nickelodeon, they can design their own theater production with a performance about their favorite shows along with others in the neighborhood. Or, they might create a new show and write a script for an episode.
No matter how parents and teachers promote creativity and curiosity in children, Resnick believes that it all comes down to keeping kids actively engaged in designing and creating as well as helping them to find their passions. Only then will they be able to understand the world and make a difference in it.