Imagine a baby investigating a treasure basket, and then picture a 12-year-old tinkering on a go-cart. Think of everything that happened in between: the heuristic exploration, open-ended play, constructing, deconstructing, hobbies…
Creativity is a continuum. At first it’s expressed in exploratory play which develops into all kinds of creative activity. Initially the child is interested only in the process; for older children, the end-product becomes increasingly important. What is the thread that runs through these stages of creative development? Firstly, it’s always the child taking initiative and following his or her innate curiosity. When children are self-motivated they have remarkable focus and persistence. The notion of children’s short attention span is dispelled when inspiration comes from within! Another common element is a trusted grownup, to whom the child can turn with difficulties or to share the joy of discovery. This adult is available but does not intrude or take over. Thirdly, consider the materials used in these activities: just everyday ‘stuff’. In fact, the 12-year-old probably got his wheels from the skip.
I’d be willing to bet that most creative people you know found deep satisfaction in childhood pursuing their own interests. Let’s allow today’s children the same!
P.S. For more on open-ended play with simple materials, see I made a unicorn.