“Snoop’s power is mind control, and his weakness is ants.” “Glue guns are useful for everything in the world, except for gluing two planets together.” “This animal is afraid of ketchup.” “All flies are tiny, except the bigger ones.” “We don’t call her weird. We call her rainbow.”
What do all these quotations have in common? Three things: all were delivered by kindergartners last week, none are clichés, and all reflect the creative power of the young minds entrusted to our care.
CREATIVITY IS IN CHILDREN AT BIRTH AND MUST BE WATERED, FED AND WEEDED.
Creativity cannot be done to kids any more than education can. Creativity is in children at birth and must be watered, fed and weeded. We create the conditions for creativity by wondering at that wonderful little engine inside that is causing the child to say and do outlandish things, understanding that this inspiration floods their brains, building complex dendritic structures, increasing the probability of more wonderful ideas. In The Having of Wonderful Ideas, one of the most important books on education, Eleanor Duckworth spells all this out for us.
To be stewards of this creative power, we have to pursue a three-part strategy: simultaneously beam love, challenge decision-making, and define boundaries.
Beam Love: The bedrock of supporting the blossoming creative power of our children is our unconditional love. Delight, wonder and amazement are all excellent responses to a child. What does that look like? Think back to when your child first said, “Mama.” You didn’t say, “Nice try dear, but the correct pronunciation is “Mom-my.” Your eyes got wider, a smile burst onto your face and you exclaimed something. Widening the eyes and dropping the jaw are good for a child’s soul.
Challenge Decision-Making: Let their enthusiasm lead us. Education is a messy, creative dance as educators and students engage together in the process of learning. For instance, one could respond to these kindergartners with any old crazy thing such as “Tell me how mind control works?” “Can you glue two balloons together?” or “If it’s afraid of ketchup, is it also afraid of mustard?” If we see children as creative beings, we are more likely to support them in a creative decision-making process.
Define Boundaries: Our children are building their brains by doing action-research on the world. They act, notice the reaction, change their minds accordingly, and record what caused what, thus creating a causal map in their brains of how the world works. Self-respecting brains can’t be sure that something is true until it stands up to reality-testing. Think of “No,” as an essential part of strengthening the reality-testing mechanism.
Humans are decision-makers, investigators and creators. A large chunk of the job of supporting our children as they make decisions is to clarify the requirements of the environment. The young human brain is ready for anything and will try anything. Stating these requirements often points to the learning that needs to take place. Asking “Did you get the reaction you wanted?” “What would be some other options?” “How did that work for you?” “Was that a good choice?” are all good ways to say “No,” because they deliver two messages simultaneously: “No” and “I respect you as a decision-maker.” There are dozens of good ways to say “No.”
WE ALL NEED TO KEEP SHAPING OURSELVES AS WE PARTICIPATE IN THE SHAPING PROCESS.
We do not shape our children; they shape themselves decision by decision. We all need to keep shaping ourselves as we participate in the shaping process. Children’s creative thinking provides endless opportunities for us to think creatively, ourselves, and to build relationships at the same time. Life is a process of creating. Practice, practice, practice.