Let the children be creative

Being a mother of a 10 month old girl, I pay attention to the messages dedicated to parents and I found myself surrounded by products, services and articles, which are suppose to boost children’s learning skills and creativity. I would say that creativity is on the top of the list of abilities which can be developed through interacting with toys, attending classes, playing specially designed games, and even – eating! I recently bought finger food, which apparently has a number of learning qualities, as the text on the bag stated. I pictured a baby, asking their parents who are looking for the signs of learning processes while the child is having a snack: ‘please, let me eat in peace.’

This obsessive attempt to influence and enhance babies’ experience introduces the pressure of competition in very early stage.
The holy Grail of our society is the underlying promise behind all the products and stream of information that as long as parents stick to the certain strategy, they will be able to develop their children in the ‘right direction’.

Lets focus here on the creativity at the early stage of children’s life. Parents want their children to be creative and they easily find the support in their quest of how to make them be more creative. I would argue that this is tackling the matter from the wrong angle and consequently, setting up wrong parental goals.

The most popular definition of creativity states, that this is the ability to generate novel outcomes that are valued in particular context. The playful way of explaining the subject is the ‘Laconic Definition of Creativity’, which focuses on the three types of spontaneous reactions for the creative outcome. These three are 1) Ah! 2) Aha!, and 3) Hahaha!, which stand for: enchantment, understanding and amusement. If we find ourselves experiencing those three reactions, that means, we are exposed to the creative outcome.

We can now recall any encounter with the toddler, playing freely with the world. Inventing words, games and jokes, making sense of the surrounding, discovering new things and giving them meaning – being endlessly imaginative. If we are just engaged with this kid, we can find ourselves with Ah! Aha! and Hahaha!, coming out of our mouth every second minute.

Creativity is the natural way of being for babies and toddlers. They engage with world creatively simply because they don’t know any other way. They don’t have schematic ways of thinking and cognitive paths which are adults’ shortcuts to solutions and quick answers. They make up the answer each time and they have fun doing it. They repeat their mile stone discoveries and they learn. The most spontaneous and obvious way of engaging with the world is play. And children’s free play is a pure creativity.

It can be inhibited though, by stress, emotional and psychological discomfort. This can have many different sources, child is affected by the difficult life events, as any other human being (even if is not able to fully comprehend the situation).
Melanie Klein, child psychoanalyst, discovered that stressed and troubled children played with toys in a very particular way, which was unimaginative, repetitive, and tense. When she named what was going on for a child (offered them her interpretation), the children came back to themselves and they were able to play more freely. We can assume what were the ‘curing’ factors, which allowed children to come back to their creative selves. It was an adult, being able to:
help them make sense of the difficult situation which affect them,
contain overwhelming emotions,
provide safety and trust.

I would draw an analogy between this difficult situation and parents’ goals in supporting children’s creativity. Parents’s objective is to provide comfort, safety, freedom and trust, which are basics for a spontaneous exploration of the world. Our task is also to help the children understanding their emotions and going through emotionally difficult times. This is how we can participate in our children’s development of creativity.

I therefore argue for changing perspective from trying to be an active agent, who provides children with tools for more efficient development, to being a good companion, ready to follow children in their creative endeavours and step in when it is needed.

I would like to make this point stronger by recalling one famous person, who was a genius student of creativity and wisely choose his teachers. Pablo Picasso was fascinated by children’s creativity and he learnt how to truly come back to this purely creative state of mind, which gets lost with time. He achieved a mastery in freeing his imagination from constrains and schemata, which force most of us to think, feel and see things in a right, acceptable by the majority way.
If we could reverse the situation and learn from children, rather then instantly attempting to teach them, both children and parents would benefit. Perhaps we resist this because we have an underlying fear, that as a side effect of creativity, we would become less conformist…. and that would force us to face ourselves in new ways…. Creativity is much sought after, but so is conformity!

20140511-113014.jpg

Pablo Picasso, Female Acrobat, 1930. http://www.studyblue.com

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Let the children be creative

  1. Sarah says:

    Brilliant post Agata! I like to think that I fall into the category of parenting that you are describing (led by children’s imaginations and interests) and I can remember my grandfather commenting about me to his wife 5 or 6 years ago as he watched Annie and me. He said” look at them playing together! its like they are in their own world, Its almost hard to believe Sarah is her mother!” And I think that coming from his generation, this was a very new concept. For them back then,parents were most definitely not playmates.

    I often find that when I get stressed at home or irritated with the kids, if I just stop what im desperately trying to do ( usually 4 or 5 different chores at once!) and just sit with the kids, they calm me down right away whether it be by using me as a hair and make-up model, getting me to draw ( which is something parents seem to often leave behind) or dressing barbies (Ok, I love doing that!;” that bag doesn’t match that shirt! ” where are the turquoise shoes??” ).
    Essentially, they are drawing me back to my creativity where I feel at peace and calm.

    When Annie was smaller, I used to give here a topic and she would make a story up right there and then about it and then rush to get paper and draw it! she’s amazing. They all are.

    Fore me personally, as a young parent ( first child at 24) I think I have learned more about life from my children and how to be truly happy.

    Like

  2. Thank you for sharing, Sarah! I thought it’s a lovely story of you, Annie and your Grandad. It’s very true that between generations we have so different ideas about bringing up the children. Maybe this is one of the reasons for which we more likely look up the advise on internet rather than ask an elder? And you broaden my post by giving your example of learning from your children. It’s beautiful and very real – including those moments when things get tight and difficult. I think we all fall into all sorts of categories, pending on the context and situation. Thanks again!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s