It’s natural for children to be creative

I’m blessed to be on the mailing list of Kauai Design Graphics. I’ve used their services, and love the blogs, which can be about marketing, how the mind thinks, or in this case creativity! I found a Huffington Post article re-posted on Kauai Design’s latest blog, “The Graphics Grapevine: all about graphic design, marketing and the creative process.” You can use either of these links to access it: kauaidesign.com (or graphicsgrapevine.com).

The article is by Carolyn Gregoire, and is titled “18 things highly creative people do differently.” It was published in the Huffington Post on March 4.

I was a special education pre-school teacher, and I can honestly state that all the children, with whatever disability they had, were creative in one form or another. So were their “normal” peers. If you believe that we were created by a loving Creator, and we are His kids, then it’s a logical conclusion that we are creators as well. And billions of people demonstrate that.

I’ve also taught upper grades in regular education, and when I presented a creative project I’d hear, “I’m not really creative.” What happened to those kids between their first expression and upper grades? We happen to them. I distinctly remember being in third grade ages ago, and hearing my teacher reprimand someone for coloring an apple green and not red. Wow! Now we have green, red, yellow, and peach colored apples!

When little kids are learning how to make their hands do what their mind wants them to do, they may make a baby look like a star, or a horse look like a dog. They probably won’t stay in the lines, but you can help them. Draw over the outlines in a wide marker, so they have a bigger chance to succeed.

Make sure that you tell your child something you love about their work. If you are clueless about what they’ve made, ask them to tell you the story of the artwork. You can usually figure it out that way. Encourage your child to try new things.

The Huffington Post article begins with stating that creative people may be a little more complicated than non-creative people, but I believe that with encouragement we can all become a little more creative.

So here is the list of the characteristics and behaviors of highly creative people.

• They daydream, allowing ideas to grow.

• They observe everything, taking in information that can be used creatively. To draw a flying goat, we’d first have to see a goat, and then something with wings in the air.

• They work the hours that work for them.

• They take time for solitude, to get in touch with themselves and even figure out what they want to express.

• They turn life’s obstacles around. You’ve heard the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” There is an emerging field of psychology called post-traumatic growth, and they’re finding that many use their traumas for substantial creative growth.

•  They seek our new experiences. They’re the ones who will order something they’ve never had before on the menu, or who love to travel. “Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement.” states Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University.

•  They “fail up.” They’re not afraid of failure, and keep working at something until they’re satisfied. They’re resilient.

•  They ask the big questions. They are very curious, not unlike a young child. So answer those questions, or better yet, lead them to the answers. When they are old enough, teach them to Google … with parameters.

•  They people watch. Where did you think that novelists got their wonderful character descriptions from?

•  They take risks. “Creativity is the act of making something from nothing,” says Steven Kotler. Flops happen, and sometimes publicly. But oh thank you, Wilbur and Orville.

•  They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression. Kaufman states, “Creative expression is self-expression. Creativity is nothing more than an individual expression of your needs, desires and uniqueness.”

• They follow their true passions. They are not the kind of people who have to do what the crowd says to do. They are motivated by their own feelings and thoughts.

• They get out of their own heads. This allows them to expand their perspectives and explore other ways of thinking, which leads to more creativity. (Kaufman)

• They lose track of time. When an artist is “in the zone”, also called the “flow state”, they transcend conscious thought and things become effortless and calm. They do this when they “have found the thing they love, but they’ve also built up the skill to be able to get into this state.” (Kaufman)

• They surround themselves with beauty.

• They connect the dots. They can see possibilities where others don’t.

• They constantly shake things up. “Diversity of experience, more than anything else, is critical to creativity…Creative people have more diversity of experiences, and habit is the killer of diversity of experience.” (Kaufman)

• They make time for mindfulness. That’s being in a state of active focus on the now, and observing your thoughts and feelings neutrally, without judgment. Meditation is a form of mindfulness. “It has been linked with improved memory and focus, better emotional well-being, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved mental clarity-all of which can lead to better creative thought.”

There is still some summer vacation time left. Try some new things! Hike to a new place. Eat a food you’ve never tried. Color things in different perspectives and unusual colors. Watch a movie that’s not one of your usual types. Create a game to play with your friends. Wear a shirt in a color you wouldn’t usually wear. Try a new ice cream flavor. Go to a new beach. Meditate. Watch the clouds for awhile. Keep something beautiful in your room, even if it is just a flower or a card. 

Play the game “Balderdash,” it’s all about making things up. Debate with a friend about a two-sided issue, then switch sides. Notice when you are doing something just to please others, or because you really want to. Make a lei with plants and flowers you find in an abandoned field. People watch until you see someone do something you’ve never seen a person do before (Hint: watch kids. 

They are more creative!) Ask some big questions about things that are important to you, like peoples’ rights, and caring for our world. Laugh it off next time you fail at something, and take the gold from it. Learn to love being with yourself alone, with no agenda. Do you know who you are, or do you think that you are what other people have told you are. Observe some creative folks. Give yourself challenges sometimes, to keep yourself sharp.

I honestly think that if you tried some of these things it would boot up your creativity at least a notch, and you’d have a lot of fun. Kids learning how to dig, put the dirt in a wheelbarrow and move it to another place are thrilled because they are learning a new skill for themselves. It feels good to do it. But by the time we’re teens, and our folks want our help in the garden, and we have to do the very same thing, we feel resentful, unless perhaps we can do it in a creative new way!

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Annaleah Atkinson is with Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i, a support group for teens and their families. Email your questions or concerns to aatkinson@haleopio.org.

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