Creativity Feeds Off Life Experience

One of the most frustrating experiences, as an educator is when you are trying to encourage creativity and imagination and the children are simply not engaging with you. The first few times one goes home and relooks at the lesson plan. Was it too boring? Was it above their heads? Did I expect too much of them?

However when one stops and reworks the lesson, going through it step by step, scrutinising why the creativity simply did not flow one realises that the failure did not lie in the lesson planning but rather within the child’s life experience.

More times than not a child will be asked to describe something interesting that happened to them recently and their response is, “I did go to the mall.” On further prompting and questioning they may add, “We did eat there.” One can keep digging and ask them to explain what they heard, tasted, saw and such and so try to make more of the experience. However most have been there so often for so many weekends doing the same thing over and over that they cannot in fact remember anything very specific as it all merges into the rest of their weekend memories.

A teacher is able to take items to a classroom and ask a child to feel them and write about it or the class may visit a farm and record the experience. However this is very limiting and a child cannot rely on someone always providing a structured, scheduled experience from which they will gain their creativity juices.

As parents it is our responsibility to ensure that our children are exposed to a vast array of situations, places, people and experiences. As they interact with a variety of age groups and visit many places the child is absorbing and processing vast amounts of information. They are experiencing physically and emotionally all sorts of new feelings with which they are now able to connect their creativity.

Our time with our children is so precious and short that we need to specifically choose to partake in activities that will not only form lasting memories but ones that will ignite a passion and fire within their souls. As passion that will overflow into their creativity.

It is obviously much easier to spend our spare time with our children at the mall or letting the children play computer games all weekend. The reality however is that parenting is not easy and often we need to make a conscious choice to choose to do something we may not naturally be inclined to do. However when we choose to stomp through a forest on a rainy day or go catch tadpoles, take a trip to the old age home, play a soccer game in the back yard we are not only keeping our children busy but we are reaching their hearts. This is fundamental, not only in the building of our relationship with them but to connect their emotions and hearts to a world beyond themselves and their needs. As our children reach out and engage with the world, other places and other people they form emotional connections that light the creative spark within. Suddenly they find they do have an opinion, they do have story to tell and they want to contribute to the world of creativity.

So let’s all take up the challenge and ensure that at least once a week our children are made aware of something around them that causes them to question, makes them wonder, thrills them to the core or simply engages their senses in a new and invigorating way. In so doing we are priming our children to create.

 

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Creativity Takes Time

English: Keyskills Centre toy piano model BG01...

Da, dum, dum – Da, dum, dum – Da, dum, dum, dum, dum, Da, Da – dum, dum, Da – aaaah I feel my brain  being  slaughtered by my 9 year old at the piano. Try, try, try – getting it right… error – oops and so we start Waltzing Matilda again and again and again…. Hour after hour, day after day. On occasion I can let it play, other times I walk away, sometimes I encourage “outside time”, and often I declare “silence!” to the furthest corner of the property!

When however I’m in a quieter frame of mind I know that this is all part of the creative and educational process. By choosing the same piece and working it out himself and playing it over and over he’s not only learning to play Waltzing Matilda but he’s  learning about music, sound, the piano itself, composition, endurance and so many other skills but mostly he’s expanding his ability to create. No, he’s not creating his own new piece but he’s looking at a well structured piece of music, breaking it down and, although he doesn’t realise it, he’s learning from this how music works and how to place different sounds together to create beautiful pieces of music.

We teach children to never copy and yet how did all the great masters learn their skill? They were apprentices to other great artist, composers or writers. Unfortunately our children don’t always have direct access to masters but the internet does provide us with a wealth of excellence from which we can work.

I recently watched a You Tube video entitled Deadlines where children were asked to reproduce a creative artwork using a clock face as the centre of the picture. They were only given 10 seconds in which to complete the task. In this time they all managed to draw the clock face only. However, when they were given 10 minutes they produced some great pictures. The concept being that “creativity takes time.” This very simple video had a powerful effect on the way I see human activity. When I see children “wasting time” on “fiddling around” on instruments, drawing endlessly, kicking the ball back and forth, back and forth. This is often not simply messing around but instead brain connections, thought processes and creative understanding are being established through these seemingly pointless and repetitive activities.

First day of school. Little girl with a blue c...

As parents we so often focus on the end product, on excellence from the start and our child progressing forward. However these are times that they need to be able to simply be. To simply make mistakes – some of which are intentional to understand why that doesn’t work or fit together. In order for them to be truly creative we need to allow them the space and time to work things out for themselves. We also need to realise that as humans creativity is often not about the end product but about the process. So as we head into the New Year and our children are tempted to spend every minute after school engaged in a constructive, organised sport or activity we need to step up and say enough. It’s up to us to ensure our children have time to fiddle on the piano, scribble hundreds of cars or to pick flowers and arrange them on the table for dinner.

As I sat and listened to my son play some beautiful Christmas carols, and watched him beam with pride at what he’d figured out, I knew every off note and my head banging moments were so worth it!

Encouraging Creativity at Home

Chalk

I’ll never forget the day when my first born was about 2 years old and he grabbed some wet red chalk that we had been using on paper and headed for the chalk board. The words,”Don’t you dare write on the chalk board with that chalk!” flew out my mouth. As they did so I couldn’t help but notice the obserdity at what I was saying. The reasoning was that wet, red chalk is a mission to clean up BUT he was exploring and discovering and learning and here I was qualified remedial teacher and all standing in his way.

8 years later I daily make it my aim to make our home as “free” as possible. Don’t get me wrong we have very clear boundaries but when it comes to creativity, exploring and learning our rules are simple – “No one is to get hurt (this includes any verbal nastiness, nothing gets broken and you clean up your mess.” Wow these new boundaries freed me as Mom and my kids to be kids they were revolutionary!

However we do still try to create other circumstances which encourage creativity and here are a few easy ideas that you can simply slip into your daily life.

  • Make up stories together. As you drive along and see an old lady and her dog. Who are they? Where are they going? What secrets do they have?
  • As you walk along create new and weird animals and plants.
  • At bedtime create new lands filled with wonderful creatures and characters. We used to live in a place called Albert Falls that had a huge dam. Lord Dad created a whole world for our knights around the Giant Chicken of Albert Falls. They have so many adventures and character ranging from the chicken to a toe called Joe!  It’s all crazy, silly but the boys are learning to create stories and think beyond their daily reality.Create an imaginary play area while the children are asleep. So when they wake they find the dining room table has been transformed by a blanket slung over it, and it filled with pillows and books into a mysterious hide out.
  • Let children be creative with their food. For snack time you can give them pieces of fruit and toothpicks and see what creatures they can make with them. Or use a sieve to spread icing sugar on a table and let them use their fingers to “draw” in it.
  • Provide them with a variety of instruments – even if they are homemade – and let them explore with sound.
  • Let them mix different things such as mud, pasta and flour together. Take some time to make some gloop – this is such fun that my 14yr old even wants to stay home from school to play with it.
  • Don’t always tell or explain things, let them figure things out for themselves.
  • Give them different bath toys – some that sink and some that float, add food colouring to their bath water – but only a little as it can give them a rash. If you feeling very brave and don’t mind scrubbing it clean as it may stain let them draw in the bath with chalk.
  • Make gifts, wrapping paper and cards rather than relying on purchased ones.
  • Plan outings and events together.
  • Let them arrange flowers to set on the table.

The lists are endless so the best thing to remember is to try and step back – give them space to think and explore and discover for themselves and this is the essence of creativity being sparked in their minds. The only real limitation being us providing our children with the freedom and time to create.

 

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Creativity – the Heart of Humanity

Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm” by Earl Nightingale

Whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, the heart of humanity is the ability and desire to create. People are born to reproduce and create what is within their hearts. If the heart is filled with joy or pain, fear or anticipation it’s through the ability to create that one is able to express what lies deep within in such a way that the world outside is able to share it with us too.

From the toddler who squishes some play dough into a rough bird’s nest to the next Van Gough every human carries within them the need to be creative. So often as parents we spend our time, money and effort directing our children to their academic studies and sports that we leave little room for them to develop their creative being. Subjects such as art, music, drama and dance are viewed as luxuries, frivolous add-ones. When in fact these are the core of ones being and if a child is able to develop the skill in a creative area they will often be able to focus more on their academic work as they have a way to  pour out what is bottled up within them.

Somewhere along the line we began to rank and rate creativity. It became boxed and structured stating that only certain forms and methods were the correct means of creativity. We do therefore all tend to shun and pull away from creative forms that we are not fully proficient in. “Oh, I can’t sing,” or “don’t ask me to draw,” are comments that we hear more frequently from adults than we do a 5 year old. Why have we become so hampered? We are much more capable than a pre-schooler and yet we are inhibited by an irrational fear of not being able to create well enough. But well enough for who? Unless we are performing to an audience who has paid a great deal to see a master performer, we are all pretty much on the same ground. We are simply creating for the joy of the creation not necessarily to compare the final product with that of an expert.

Without the freedom, the time and confidence to create we are building a nation upon the fallacy that creativity is of no value and that a strong nation is built upon
the mind and physical strength alone.  However it’s not the functional policies and documents or the number of battles won that build a nation, instead it’s the creative, passion within humanity. It’s the poets writing to encourage young men to a battle, the journalist at the scene creating the image of horror or exuberance within the mind of the reader, it’s the cartoonist capturing a pivotal moment, the solo violinist that holds a single note at the perfect moment, the activist’s voice of passion drawing the people together, the protestors placards, the child’s sandcastles upon the beach and granny’s chocolate cookies that build a nation

Throughout history moments in time have been remembered and captured with a pen, a shout, songs, the paintbrush, musical chords, a photograph or legendary tales handed down word of mouth to generation after generation.

There is no doubt about it, creativity pumps within our blood and beats within our hearts. The question does however remain what are we doing to foster this need of creativity within the life of not only our children but within our lives too?

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