Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Two Conditions for Creativity

Creativity requires 2 conditions: opportunity, and a feeling of safety. 

There is a crisis of creativity in our world. Why? Because creativity does not have so much opportunity, and because our world is filled with fears and anxieties. These two things are the cause of the dearth of creativity.  

Several recent articles point to the relationship of widespread portable electronic devices and decrease in creativity. ( When we, and our children, are allowed to be bored from time to time, with no devices that entertain and occupy, our imagination is free to be active. The children need these times to develop their own creativity that will be their lifelong capacity. Boredom is the medium that creativity can develop within. Children that are allowed the opportunity to daydream without being constantly entertained develop powerful muscles for self-generated creativity and happiness. (see the late Burton White, Ph.D., Harvard Univ.)

To nurture the development of imagination in young children the essential ingredient is play and lots of it. To create a foundation for adult capacities of creativity, innovation and imagination, make sure that child gets plenty of time for free, creative, unstructured, improvisational play. Play in which the point is the playing, the process. Play where the real world falls away and the experience seems to make time stop. Play that is self regulated by the children and is free of adult direction and goals.

The important thing is that the young child’s play must be self-directed and allowed to proceed without adult intervention (unless safety is compromised). When the child in fully engaged in his play, totally gone from the ‘real’ world such as we adults know it, he is making discoveries and connections and laying the foundation for creativity and innovation that will be a lifelong capacity. True early childhood play has no goal or product intended, it is pure improvisation.

Adult fears and worries interfere with the young child’s possibility of play. Fear and anxiety pervade the adult world. Politics and advertising rely on fear as a persuading tool, and it permeates our culture. The children of today are surrounded by the fears of the adults, and the world of the adults is filled with more and more fears and anxiety. Adults' fears interfere with play, the children’s avenue for developing social skills and mastering their own fears. 

As we know, the young child as wholly sense organ experiences not only the sense-perceptible world, but also the feelings and even thinking of those in her surroundings. Fear and anxiety in the adults is experienced in an immediate way by the young child. Fears in the adults around them yield anxious children. 

Anxious children have difficulty entering into free creative play with others. True play can live when the environment feels safe to the child. Then protective and defensive behaviors are at a minimum, and the child can be vulnerable. One has to feel safe to be vulnerable. Play is based on vulnerability. A tense and anxious or fear-filled atmosphere for a child evokes defensive and protective behavior. The nature of play involves risk. So we adults have to establish a foundation of safety so play can arise.

There are so many fears that affect adults in our time. I will not list them, suffice to say that the adults' fears and anxieties can result in the child being unable to let go into play. The nature of play involves risk. Children need a lack of outer control over their play. Yet out of fear, how much adult controlling of the children's play happens? 

Are there ways to decrease our anxiety and fear? Can we learn to let go of control and allow the children to freely play? There is no recipe for these, but we each owe it to the children and the future to find the way. One part of the answer is in finding our own joy so we can create an environment of love and joy. Then the child can play and his capacity for creativity is strengthened.

Play allows the child to control their own fears. It can be a safe environment in which to deal with fear issues. And play can only be in an environment where the child feels safe.
We adults need to create a safe space for the child where they feel cared about, loved, and allowed to express themselves and without our anxiety rising up, so the children can open up and embrace the universe through their play.

There is a crisis of creativity in our world. The way to change that is to nurture an environment of play, play, play for young children.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

“Grandpa, can you see what’s in my mind?”

It’s easy to take things for granted. I was reminded of that when my 6-year-old granddaughter recently said to me, “Grandpa, can you see what’s in my mind?”

As an adult, I experience that the world of my own thoughts is mine and mine alone. (Of course, there are some people who have access to others’ thoughts, but that is rare.) A young child does not have this experience. She can sense what others are feeling and thinking. We all have had experiences when a young child somehow received our unspoken thoughts or feelings. Adults have filters that are not very developed in young children. Additionally, the neurology of the young child is not mature so the capacity for reasoning and understanding abstract ideas is minimal. (See my previous recent posts for more on this.)

Alongside neurological development a complementary process is taking place in the young child. The experience of the separateness of her own self is arising. The newborn experiences a oneness with all sense experiences. That experiencing is of the sense perceptions themselves, but not of a center, a self that is having those sense experiences. You can say it is perception without conception, of experiences without thinking about those experiences. You could say that the newborn lives fully in her periphery without an experience of a center, a self. Relating to the world from a ‘self’ develops slowly over years and is not complete until one is in her twenties.

When I wake up from a dream, I am aware that I have had a dream. When my granddaughter, or any young child, wakes up from a dream she does not have the same awareness that it was a dream. Dreaming and waking experience have the same sense of reality for the young child.

So, the combination of an immature neurology and an immature sense of self leads to my granddaughter’s questioning of whether her mind is her own private domain. And I celebrated her curiosity and questioning of what she experiences and her reflections on that experience.

I am going to keep this post short and sweet and I hope you take away this important thought:

Young children experience the world differently that adults do. In part it is because of the developing brain, and in part because of the developing sense of self. Your young child experiences the world differently than you do!

Repeat after me;

Your young child experiences the world qualitatively differently than you do!