Five Lessons I have Learned about Creativity from Working with Children

Some of you may know, but many do not, I spent nearly twenty years working with children as an adult. That does not count the times, I babysat, mentored, peer-counseled, or tutored from the time I was eight years old. I have spent nearly most of my life working with children and teens in one way or another. What I learned over all these years are some lessons I want to bring to you about creativity.

Five Lessons of Creativity

Inherently, young children are creative. The world has not begun to take that imaginative and creative problem solving side from them yet. I say problem solving because, creativity is the heart of problem solving. It is looking at a situation and seeing as many possibilities  as you can to fix the problem. Have you even seen what an infant will do to get to a toy they want or a toddler make their way up the kitchen counter in an impossible manner to get to the treat they desire. Their minds are open to all possibilities. This why I laugh when they say child proof bottles. There are no such things because a child doesn’t get that something isn’t theirs to have yet.

It’s all about the process. Learning isn’t about the end product. Never has been and never should be. Learning to about LEARNING to LEARN. The more interesting you make it, the more likely you will find children involved in the process. It doesn’t really matter to them that the finished product is perfect. Learning is about the creative experience involved in the process. It is experiencing texture, sight and sound, even taste. It’s not just know that the letter A is A but what it feels like to touch and hold, to hear, and taste.If you ever want to know if letters taste like something, ask a  four or five year old. A tastes like apples, usually, B like bananas. Numbers are the same way….zero is the Hero is what has always been taught because of the value it holds. Learning these skills is process. AND not everyone will experience the process in the same way.

As adults it is also true. You can have ten people all in the same art journal class, working on the same “prompt” and the process is the same but the product will be different. The route they took to get there will be different even if they used the same painting technique. Process is VITAL to our creativity. It is the moving force that keeps creativity flowing when we are not sure where the answer might lead us.

Our next lesson learned from young children, MAKE IT MESSY! Seriously. If we are always trying to contain the mess inside the box, we will never be able to discover what goes beyond the borders we make for ourselves. When we are content to not get messy, we lose out on examining the textures, tastes and smells of our own world. One of the reasons I enjoy cooking so much it the justified mess I can make when trying out a new recipe. I also love getting messy with paint and glitter, mod podge  and tissue paper. If hadn’t gotten messy, I wouldn’t have learned you can make puff paint from shaving cream, glue and food coloring. I wouldn’t have discovered the amazing way flax seeds feel when being played with like a sand tray. Messy requires us to be brave in our creativity and open ourselves up to new experiences.

Impermanence. In a child’s world, things, and ideas are not permanent or stagnant. I am not talking about adult caregiver relationships that need to be consistent and permanent. I am referring to the way a child’s creative play flows from one moment to the next. No one idea tied down to another. The child takes the baby dolls in the shopping cart and then fills it with cars, books and other random things, and then without a concern, park the cart somewhere, take out the book, leave the doll and look at pictures or read. The move through each experience  without connecting it to shoulds, woulds, coulds or have-to’s. They live right in each moment. In the three to five range, even friendship is not permanent. Though it is great to see each other day after day, they often welcome in new faces and will move from person to person not to hurt or slight the other child/children but because it suited the moment. Our adult creativity needs this same kind of flow sometimes especially when we are starting to feel stuck. It needs to move moment to moment fluidly and without our expectations tied to it. Our ruts often come because of our desire to control the outcome or we have attached a should or have to to it.

Our final lesson is HAVE FUN! Enjoy your crazy, messy, loveliness of your creative expression. It is there for the sake of joyfulness and inspiration. Most children, under average circumstances, love to get messy. They don’t get messy to be messy. They get Messy because they are having fun. They are living and breathing and existing In The MOMENT. They aren’t in yesterdays mistakes or worrying about tomorrow. Fun is NOW. Fun is in the present. Our creativity LOVES fun. It thrives on it.

I want you to go back to a time when you had these pieces of magic in you. Do you still have them? Do you want more of this special magic of creativity? Start by following these simple lessons from children. When in doubt about your creativity, spend some time with young children.
Here are some questions for you to ponder: When was the last time you got messy? Where were you? What was happening the last time you were in the moment? Write about the process and not the product of your creativity. Practice impermanence. What does it look like to allow impermanence into your life?