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Your kids... and their creativity


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#1 Overstreet

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Posted 27 September 2010 - 11:58 PM

Okay, parents, I've been talking with a brain scientist lately about creativity, and I've been learning some interesting things about the brain.

These conversations have led me to realize what an unusual childhood I had. I didn't have other kids around to play with until I was about 11. I had a little brother who grew up with me, and we played occasional games together, but our interests were quite different from early on. So I spent most of my time making stuff by myself in my room -- I drew, I invented solitary games, I invented sports where I tried to best my own scores, I recorded readings and songs. My TV time was extremely limited, and we didn't watch movies as a family except on very rare occasions.

Thinking about these things has made me curious: Are your kids showing signs of creativity? Musical? Visual arts? Storytelling?

If so, what are you doing to encourage that?

If you have more than one child, do you notice stark differences in the way they play? Do they make their own fun, or do they need entertainment?

#2 MattPage

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Posted 28 September 2010 - 03:27 AM

Our kids (aged 4 and 2) only get to watch telly for 20-30 minutes before bedtime, with the occasional non-animated film on the odd Sunday. The rest of the time they play together (when Nina is not at school). Nina is very imaginative - she spends half her time dressing up and in a new world. Neither of them has shown huge artistic potential yet, though, like all parents we love their paintings, some of which have been really nice. They both love books.

Matt

PS never quite got around to saying this on the "My Kid Could Paint That" thread, but I don't reckon her paintings were faked. FWIW

#3 opus

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 02:18 AM

Our oldest, Simon, is two-and-a-half, and while he's certainly watched is fair share of Thomas the Tank Engine and Pixar (right now, he's all about Finding Nemo), he's turned out to be quite the musician. He's already crafted several songs -- e.g., one for his baby brother, one for his "papa" (grandfather), one for his mother -- and they're all different and consistent. Granted, they basically consist of one word -- e.g., "Baby", "Papa", "Mama" -- but still, I find the consistency fascinating. That, and he loves to jam away on any guitar that he can get his little hands on.

He's also a fan of books. Not only do we read a lot to him, but he'll also curl up on his own with a book or two. One of my favorite sights from our recent vacation was him sitting in his car seat, legs crossed while slowly flipping through the pages of one of his Thomas the Tank Engine books. Of course, he can't read, but he certainly understands a lot of what is involved in reading (e.g., a comfy chair). Which is a good start, I think.

#4 Darren H

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 08:16 AM

I'm still awfully new to fatherhood, but watching Rory "read" her favorite book at four months was one of the most fascinating things I've ever seen. Each page of the book has a drawing of a single, brightly-colored bug on it--the kind of graphic that an infant's still-developing sight can process. So we'd show them to her one at a time, and she'd talk to each of them. But every time we got to the page with "Check, the Butterfly" on it, she'd squeal and laugh like Check was the comic relief in whatever little story she had concocted. I'm sure it was mostly a biological response to the particular colors and patterns on that page, but seeing the first sparks of a creative imagination in her was a thrill.

Also, until we brought Rory home, I'd never realized how often we leave the tv on as white noise. Even at six or eight weeks she would turn her head to stare at it, and now at five months she'll practically slip into a catatonic state if we sit her down somewhere with a clear view of a tv or computer monitor. It's like a sedative. I can see why so many exhausted parents use it as a babysitter.

#5 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 08:43 AM

I cannot stress enough the importance of unstructured play. I enjoy sitting down with Dom (soon to be 5!) and Eric and just letting them run the show. Sometimes that leads--often it leads--to a free for all wrestling match where I get smashed down by the preschool Rich Franklins, but at other times its wildly imaginative flights of fancy. They'll tell some random free association stories about dinosaurs and tents and stuff like that as we sit on the couch-turned-pirate ships.

Oh, and big-cardboard boxes are a total boon to creativity--as you well know, Jeffrey.

#6 M. Leary

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 08:47 AM

Our 7 month old boy is basically insane, so any signs of creativity he is currently displaying are of the Herzog variety.

I was very prepared to school my 4 year old daughter in all things imaginary, but have been consistently surprised that my role as tutor in this capacity has only required me to stock her play room with the material things that cater to this part of her brain. She began figural drawing at a very early age. She has been writing her own praise songs ever since she could string a sentence together (though the latest, which consists of the refrain: "today is the day that we shall reign" makes me doubt her theological integrity). And I think at around the early threes she began reading to her self. She doesn't actually read the text, but she recreates a picture book by going page by page and constructing a story from the images.

As parents, we really had nothing to do with this. We bought her the crayons, kept her immersed in music, and have given her piles of books. But she seemed to know what to do with them after a few sessions with mom.

So I don't feel like I have to actually do anything direct to form her native creative spirit. She may just be one of those people that are naturally bent towards these types of solitary pursuits. However, I am becoming increasingly aware that this kind of natural creativity is both a blessing and a curse. We really connect with each other at this level, and enjoy playing along these lines. But she also spends time imagining scenarios in which she is lost or endangered, and wondering what she should do should such things occur. I think my role as curator of her creative development involves protecting her, making her feel secure amidst these kinds of thoughts that she shouldn't have to grapple with until she is much older. This does make me limit her TV and literary intake. Why give her more scary material to work with? But it also involves really listening to her and trying to keep tabs on what she is currently thinking. I need to be up in her imaginary business.

Sorry for the long post, but it is an interesting question.

#7 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 09:03 AM

Unless the scary material keeps her up at nights, I say let the scary stuff play out. It's pretty normal for kids to work their little insecurities out in play. We went through a period where the boys were scared of monsters (after we all watched Alien together--just kidding) but we reassured them that they would be safe because we were right there and we wouldn't let the monsters in. And then we combined this during daytime play where we all took turns being the tickle monster and basically playing tag throughout the house. No more monster fears.

#8 M. Leary

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 09:15 AM

With her it isn't necessarily working out insecurities in play. She doesn't think that things like monsters are real, so she doesn't spend much time being scared of fictional things. For her, it is more that in the process of learning how to tell stories to herself, she has discovered that storytellers have all kinds of choices to make. Some of these choices are scary. The idea that there are a range of things that can happen to little girls has dawned on her, and they often play out in her imagination.

So in these situations, I am learning to help her balance the actual scary stuff of life with her ability to conceive of such things at such an early age. I think to let this stuff play out on its own may be ineffective in this case.

We do watch a few survival shows together. She really connects with those.

#9 SDG

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 09:59 AM

Kids are so different. Some are more different from others. The following is relevant to no one but Sarah.

Sarah is somewhere on the Asperger spectrum. She has always has crazy verbal skills, but combined with highly idiosyncratic ways of expressing herself. Anyone remember the "Star Trek: Next Gen" episode called "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra," about a culture that communicated through literary allusion (e.g., "Romeo and Juliet on the balcony" as a way of expressing romance)? That was Sarah at three or four. If you didn't know her picture books, you were lost.

Easy example: Watching my sister-in-law drive away, Sarah whined, "Dogs in cars again going away, going away fast!" (from Go, Dog! Go!) More obscure: When she wanted to get out of the tub, she might say, "Henry was shivering and sputtering" (from a book about a pet duck).

Very obscure: One day when my mother-in-law and brother-in-law were arguing, Sarah became upset and burst out, "Go to the store and get some canned kangaroo!" Everyone stared at her, and eventually I realized that she had picked up on the fact that when I read her a strange little book Kangaroo Stew (by "Clifford" author Norman Bridwell), I liked to give a bit of a snotty tone to my line reading when the older sister sends the younger brother to the store for canned kangaroo. Sarah recognized the same sort of snotty tone in my in-laws' quarreling and didn't like it.

Sometimes she would simply narrate. One day a lady at church asked her, "How old are you, dear?" To which Sarah replied, "...she asked."

Sarah is still both oddly proficient and awkward in her communication skills. She has written numerous stories from historical fiction to epic fantasy. Her most recent composition is a narrative detailing our Italian pilgrimage.

Edited by SDG, 29 September 2010 - 10:00 AM.


#10 techne

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 10:46 AM

SDG - that is absolutely fascinating...

#11 Thom Wade

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 11:43 AM

We went through a period where the boys were scared of monsters (after we all watched Alien together--just kidding)



Of course not, you should always start light. Maybe the Exorcist. :)

#12 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 11:56 AM

SDG, I want to meet your daughter, but I'm almost afraid to. :)

Meanwhile, here's a painting my own daughter made a few months ago (she's four); I love the way the face smiles through the seemingly crap-stained brushstrokes, and there's something about the way it almost seems to have a mane...:

Attached Files



#13 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 12:22 PM

So in these situations, I am learning to help her balance the actual scary stuff of life with her ability to conceive of such things at such an early age. I think to let this stuff play out on its own may be ineffective in this case.

We do watch a few survival shows together. She really connects with those.


that's fascinating. I wonder if there's some gender specific phenomena going on. My boys are concerned about not getting eaten by the coyotes in our backyard or not getting hit by a car while riding bikes, but doesn't sound similar to your daughter's scenarios. We let the boys watch the Star Wars films (not the awful prequels) and Dominic insisted on seeing In Harm's Way, and I have no idea how they have impacted their imaginative faculties. They do talk a lot about death, but it seems pretty normal to me. And it's kind of funny, but probably in a you have to be there kind of way.

Oh, and by the way, we clinched last night. :)

#14 mrmando

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 12:28 PM

Kids are so different. Some are more different from others. The following is relevant to no one but Sarah.

Oh no, Sebastian quotes his story books (and videos and video games) all the time. And perhaps his quotes aren't as random as they sometimes seem.

A current favorite is Tomi Ungerer's "Moon Man," in which the man in the moon rides a falling star to earth and tries unsuccessfully to live among suspicious Europeans. Sometimes when Sebastian reads to me, he's beginning to project himself into his favorite stories. And it's crystal clear to me that he identifies, strongly, with the misunderstood Moon Man.

#15 Andrew

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 03:12 PM

A toddler's memory can be simply astonishing. My youngest child's first lengthy phrase was 'Uh oh, something smells stinky...Oh wait, that's me.' After racking my brain for a while, I realized he was quoting Barney Gumble from a Simpsons episode I had watched days previously.

I agree with what the others have said. From enjoying my 3 kids' creative efforts (which these days include guitar, drawing, writing stories, and enacting dramas with stuffed animals and boardgame figurines), nurturing creativity seems to be mainly a matter of providing the raw materials, supporting and praising their endeavors, not forcing them into vicarious activities in which they have no lasting interest, and then watching them run with what they love.

#16 SDG

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 03:25 PM

Kids are so different. Some are more different from others. The following is relevant to no one but Sarah.

Oh no, Sebastian quotes his story books (and videos and video games) all the time. And perhaps his quotes aren't as random as they sometimes seem.

Well, FWIW, having five other kids, several nephews and nieces, etc, I'm familiar with childhood quoting behavior ... and I think I can say pretty confidently that Sarah's quoting behavior was extremely unusual -- it wasn't just here and there, it was basically how she communicated. But you're right, I should have said "isn't necessarily relevant to anyone but Sarah."

Edited by SDG, 29 September 2010 - 03:25 PM.


#17 mrmando

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 09:46 PM

Well, the quoting behavior isn't all that unusual for kids on the spectrum!

#18 MattPage

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Posted 29 September 2010 - 10:13 PM

Nina's always been good at reciting. I remember driving back from her Grandparents after Christmas, with her going "James James Morrison Morrison Wetherby George Dupree. Took great care of his mother though he was only three..." She went quite a bit further than that but I can't quite remember it. Then a bit later she got most of the way through this tongue twister

"Betty Botter bought some butter
But she said this butter's bitter
If I put it in my batter
It will make the batter bitter
But if I bought some better butter
That would make the batter better.
So Betty bought some better butter..."

(and then we both lost the thread and it's too late to be bothered to Google)

And sometimes she can recite a whole book just from hearing it read a few times, most recently an Angelina Ballerina book that came with the audio version as well.

Not that any of this is very creative.

Matt

#19 opus

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 09:58 AM

I forgot to mention that Simon has also turned out to be quite the little chef. We've got a little toy kitchen set in our kitchen, and oftentimes, while dinner's being made, he can be found furiously mixing away with various implements in various bowls. One of his favorite meals to "cook" is steak, which he'll announce with great pride, and then proceed to give everyone "samples" (even the baby gets one). One day, my wife made popcorn on our stove, and shortly thereafter, Simon was "making" popcorn as well, mimicking my wife's actions on his little play stove.

At this point, I have to confess that I thought it a little odd when he first got that kitchen set (it was a gift from our neighbors). It seemed, well, a little "girly" at the time -- which was silly and foolish of me. Now, the way I see it, this is just preparing him to cook wonderful meals for me when we're both older. :)

Edited by opus, 30 September 2010 - 10:00 AM.


#20 wulaishiwo

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 05:42 AM

I am a grown-up girls, having a child is far away from me. But I remember that Picaso once said:"I'd like to learn drawing from children forever! I think kids are talented gift for human. Cherish them!