The Joy of Spontaneous Expression
Children need to stop worrying about what they do. The pressure of doing it right can take over and prevent them from being creative.
Parents and teachers should support children in finding their own way naturally by listening inside themselves. When they are not told how to do something and are not asked to follow ready-made tracks, they find inspiration spontaneously and learn to listen to their intuition. There is never a call for a model or a path to follow. Each creation is born out of children's needs and is unique in its expression. Creativity is experienced as pure play, and with that the joy and desire to create can bloom.
"I don't know how to paint a person!'" cried Margaret, a worried, cute nine-year-old in a long brown dress covered with a multicolored apron.
"Oh! I am glad you don't know how!" I exclaimed. "Then you can invent! Make it completely yours. I keep the paintings here in the closet like a secret. You can play and invent your own without worrying about people criticizing them, and you can give your images any size, any shape, and any color. You can paint, not to copy things as they look but to reinvent them and have fun doing it. You can make a person any way you want. Okay?" I asked, looking in her doubting eyes. "I love painting people myself," I added. "I paint the arms as long as I want and the head any shape I want. Once I even painted a square one . . ."
She laughed then.
That's all that was needed: a sense of play about painting, not a sense of work or accomplishment. "I want to paint a skyscraper but I don't know how to do it!" complained Victor, a robust nine-year-old boy who always filled his pockets with gadgets. He seemed quite restless; he must have had a difficult day at school.
"You can be your own architect! These days architects build all kinds of buildings. Some are even made with tires or beer cans, all sorts of sizes and shapes, and some are very strange. I am sure you must have seen some unusual ones. Why don't you invent your own? You are the creator of your building and are allowed to do anything you want. It's fun to follow your fantasy," I told him with excitement.
He looked back at me with dull eyes.
"You can construct your own building. Can you imagine a special one?" I insisted. I had to talk to him for a few more minutes before he was willing to try.
Victor painted the most amazing modern-shaped building. Built on green posts, it had a round solarium station on top. Alien ships were circling around it. Victor was grinning with satisfaction, He had found a way to enter his own world where there was no need for help and where nothing was missing. I was glad he didn't force himself to paint what he first thought he should do: a stereotypical building that had nothing to do with his present dream.
It is very revealing to witness children being afraid to explore on their own. It points to the fact that we have made our children dependent by constantly showing them and telling them how to proceed. In certain activities, like math or science, it is a necessary step, but it is very important to offer them at least one activity in which they can fend for themselves and find their way, an activity in which they can invent, express, and create freely. If we don't give them that option, they may become afraid or hesitant to experiment, and their creative spirit may fade away. Their only other choice would be to copy, repeat, or follow instructions, but never to trust the immense possibilities of creation.
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From Kids Play: Igniting Children's Creativity by Michele Cassou. Copyright © 2004 by Michele Casso. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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