So many kids these days seem to look elsewhere for fun and excitement. You know what I’m talking about: all those XBOXs, PlayStations, movies and so many other things, not to mention all the false heroes.
Alone time is considered “boring”. It seems kids just aren’t comfortable in their own skins these days, constantly looking outward for stimulation and gratification. Little time is spent with only themselves, creating the quietness conducive for introspection and true creativity.
When my children were young, I took advantage of the time I had with them before they would be old enough to protest. I knew those days wouldn’t last forever… when they were a lot more open to my way of doing things, instead of everything being “me, me, me”. I thought if I “brainwashed” them young, they’d be good to go when the teen years hit.
The teenage years hit… and I only met that hunch with limited success. But my wife and I did do a few things right and I think our kids are the better for it. One of the things I always made sure of, was that we look at things together — I mean, really LOOK! I exposed them to beautiful design, wonderful storybooks and “adventure” drives where we would make our fun as we went, being open to serendipity and continuously pointing out everything along the way.
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It is also important to nurture dreaming and the imagination — we would make up your own stories together, especially at bedtime beneath the glow-in-the-dark stars covering their bedroom ceilings. Holidays are another great opportunity to dream. For Halloween, we would invent costume ideas and do sketches to plan the pumpkins we would carve later. Everything should be part of the creative/learning process. Even a breakfast with Cheerios was turned into a game.
Once kids truly show an interest in something, I think it’s extremely important to go with their passions. Rather than dictating what they should like, or pushing certain talents we think they possess but they show no interest in, it is much better to nurture what they naturally gravitate towards instead. And then feed those interests by always having the supplies they need at the ready, from simply having enough drawing paper available to buying the right creative software that fulfills their needs.
Fight the good fight
Although we can’t determine what it is exactly our kids will show an affinity for, we can still influence them. And while it may be a thankless job many times, I believe our kids are better off in the long run for the encouragement we provide, enabling them to follow their passions. It is the way to a rich, enjoyable life and offers a myriad of alternatives to the ready-made ways of having fun that are always so prevalent. Forming this foundation for creative thinking is important to establish early on, so children grow up with a creative outlook where possibilities are endless.
There is plenty of time for the world to try and put its own restrictions on things. Most schools do little to encourage individualism and place limits on it by a one-size-fits-all mentality that does little to foster creativity in our children. Companies do the same, where toting the corporate line and appeasing one’s bosses largely keeps the boat from being rocked and provides the best chance for a good review.
But our leaders of tomorrow will be those who see things differently, for innovation never comes from the status quo. Successful companies will depend on them. So will whole societies and the world at large. Bigger populations fighting for a smaller piece of turf will naturally increase competition substantially — successfully navigating this and coming out on top will require even more crafty ways of doing things a little differently and a notch above everybody else. Likewise, the many challenges we face in the world will increasingly require inspired thinking to get us out of trouble. It all begins by raising creative children.
Artworks by Wyatt Biedermann with photography by his father, Paul.
Please join me for Bruce Sallan’s #DadChat on Twitter > 9:00–10:00 pm EST / Thursday, February 16, 2012. I will be co-hosting and discussing Sparking Creativity in Our Kids along with my partner, Peggy Fitzpatrick. We will also be on The Bruce Sallan Show—A Dad’s Point-of-View, broadcast live Thursday afternoon at 2:00 pm EST on KZSB AM 1290 in Santa Barbara and via live stream over the internet.