Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Exercising the Creativity Muscle

I had the pleasure of speaking once again to a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group this week. I love the MOPS theme this year!


Fierce = intense, wild, tenacious, determined
Flourishing = thriving, prospering, blooming

When my friend asked me to speak several months ago, and then asked me to choose a topic that fit in with their theme, "creativity" is what came to mind.
Flourishing with Creativity.
Because to me, really thriving doesn't mean following a formula, doing what everyone else is doing, and playing it safe.  Thriving requires imagination. It requires originality and thinking outside of the box and blazing a trail that is true to the creative spark that is within you.
Flourishing requires creativity.

What is creativity?
The dictionary definition is  "the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, etc., and to create meaningful NEW ideas, forms, methods, interpretations,"

Do you think of yourself as creative?

I bet you are creative and don't even know it.  
  • creative in getting your kids to eat vegetables
  • creative in stretching a paycheck from one payday to the next
  • creative in finding time to be alone with your husband when you have little children in the house
  • creative in adapting recipes to your family's unique nutritional needs
  • creative in making your home warm, welcoming and comfortable with yard sale finds and  DIY projects 
When you think OUTSIDE THE BOX, when you find NEW and ORIGINAL ways, methods, ideas for dealing with everyday tasks and obstacles, you are being CREATIVE.

Do you know how else I know you are creative?
I know you are creative because GOD is the ultimate Creative Being and He created you in His image!

Genesis 1:1  "In the beginning, God created...."
Genesis 1:27  " So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

Just think about the enormity and beauty and variety of God's Creation!!  Think about it.
He could have made everything black and white.
He could have made all food taste the same.
He could have made just one kind of flower.
But he didn't.  He was lavish and bold and expressive in his creation!

Young children are extremely creative.  Anyone with a toddler has been amazed at the ingenuity displayed when he pushed a box up to a chair so he could climb on the counter to get to the shelf where you hid the Oreo cookies behind the box of brown rice.   How many moms have walked back  into a room that they had just left a few minutes earlier, surveyed the disaster and thought, "I never would have thought of doing that!" ?   Creative geniuses, I tell you!
Think of the imagination that is typical of children under age 5. Imaginary friends, dress up costumes, blanket forts,  made-up songs, stories of dinosaurs and princesses and pirates and aliens, tea parties with stuffed animals.

Do you know that measures of creativity and imaginative thinking fall drastically once a child starts school?

"Sir Ken Robinson, chair of the UK Government's report on creativity, education and the economy, cites a longitudinal study on divergent thinking given to a group of 1600 children starting in the late 1960's.  When first administered to the group of 3-5 year olds, 98% of the children scored in the "genius" range for creative thinking.  Five years later, the same group was tested again and only 32% scored in the top tier for creativity.  Another five years and the number dropped to 10%.   When adults were given the same battery of tests, only 2% received top scores for divergent  thinking, or "the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question".   This is the result of more than just "growing up".  It is the result of an educational system that overly focuses  on tests, conformity, following the rules, and getting the right answer, and discourages imagination, individuality, and risk-taking. 

Another killer of creativity is the lack of unstructured time to play.  Children need to daydream, come up with their own entertainment, and make their own rules, yet between school and structured activities in the evenings and weekends, children have precious little free time that is theirs to use as they wish.

According to various researchers, practicing creativity improves both emotional and physical health, not just in children, but in adults too!
  • increases feelings of positivity and well-being
  • reduces stress and anxiety ( which contribute to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems)
  • improves ability to resolve conflict
  • increases self-confidence and sense of purpose
  • increases spontaneity  
  • increases earning power
  • improves social networking

What mom doesn't want these things for her children and also for herself?!

You can do some things to make your home a place that fosters and nurtures your child's creativity, natural curiosity, and sense of adventure.
  • engage your children in regular discussion, asking open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no"
  • read lots of stories and poetry; act out stories; make up stories.
  • listen to music; dance to music; create music.
  •  limit screen time to 2 hours per day or less
  • encourage free play - outdoors when possible!
  • let your children help you in the kitchen
  • provide SPACE  and TIMES and SUPPLIES for crafts and artistic expression -  lots of kinds of paper, crayons, markers, paints & brushes, scissors, old magazines, glue sticks, yarn, paper punches, stickers, play dough, glitter, feathers, chenille stems;  ***not just craft KITS or paint by numbers that control how to arrive at a pre-determined outcome - that teaches following directions, but doesn't exercise the imagination
  • look for toys and activities that exercise the imagination;  a coloring book is fun but a pad of colored paper or an endroll of newsprint is even better!  puzzles, various kinds of building blocks, cardboard boxes of assorted sizes,  puppets, musical instruments, dress up clothes and accessories, books

Now this is IMPORTANT advice from a veteran mom.
Seriously, get over it.
Creativity can be quite messy. But messes can be cleaned up.  
Buy 2 plastic tablecloths and put one on top of the table and one under that table.  Dress your kids in old ripped t shirts.  Kids and tablecloths can both be hosed off when they are done. 
Teach your kids a "Clean Up Song", and after they are done playing in the blanket fort in the living room, everyone sings and puts back the couch cushions, kitchen chairs, bedding, etc. 
Do not sacrifice your child's physical and emotional development and health for a clean house!
Enough said.

What about you?  It is never too late to exercise your "creativity muscle", and get it back in shape!
I know that sometimes even thinking about adding one more thing to your day can lead to a meltdown. But it might be that you can just adjust something you already do. Or maybe letting something in your routine go and carving a sliver of time for a creative activity that will bring you joy and a host of other benefits might be a worthwhile trade-off for your and your family's well-being!  
  • garden
  • write -  letters, a blog, a journal, an article, a novel
  • draw - in a bible, in an art journal, on envelopes, with your kids
  • make homemade cards & gifts
  • experiment in the kitchen with new recipes and foods
  • play that musical instrument that is collecting dust, or learn a new one
  • redesign your laundry system so it works more efficiently
  • sew, quilt, knit, crochet,
  • decorate a room in your house

Remember, when you think OUTSIDE THE BOX, when you find NEW and ORIGINAL ways, methods, ideas for dealing with everyday tasks and obstacles, you are being CREATIVE. 

 Another benefit of creative activities is the ability to bless others with the fruit of your labors.  You are typically "producing" something that you can share.  This turns what might be a solitary activity into something that touches the lives of others, building community.

Now, being creative can be hard work.  Children and adults both, especially those of us who tend to be perfectionists,  can be very critical of their efforts and inclined to give up easily. This is where encouragement is so important.  If you want to be better at gardening or drawing or growing vegetables or playing the guitar, you must PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.   When I ask my runner friends why I can't run from my driveway to the end of the street without feeling like I'm going to die, their answer is that I need to start slow and build up my muscles.  It isn't because God didn't give me "running ability". I have the ability to run, I just haven't used those muscles in so long that they are very rusty.  I may never be a marathoner or Olympic runner, but I could stretch those muscles and strengthen those muscles and enjoy running, even a little bit, for the exercise and health benefits.  The same is true of any creative endeavor.  You have the ability to develop enough skill for your own personal enjoyment, and don't have to compare yourself to anyone else!
Comparison is the thief of  joy! 


Sir Ken Robinson "Do Schools Kill Creativity?"

1 comment:

Angel said...

Very good post. I have always thought that we are all creative because God is the Ultimate Creator and we are made in His image! :)