BY CAROL K. WALSH
If you want to help your grandkids build creative muscle read on…
I am on a mission to promote creativity in our youth. After this last election it was clear how many people had difficulty with critical thinking, and instead were easily swayed by family members and the media. In my role as a therapist people asked me, “How can I, as an average citizen, help with this issue?” As grandparents we have a golden opportunity; we can encourage our grandchildren to think creatively.
One might ask, “What does creativity have to do with the election?” Creativity is not just about art, it is about critical thinking – – the ability to think independently and originally. Creativity occurs when we bring something new into existence, i.e. a new idea, a new object, invention, recipe or business. To create something new requires independent and unique thinking, as well as energy.
As an artist, I am well aware how much energy is needed to consistently think and act creativity, so I have defined five sources of creative energy. These I call the “Five C-s”: Curiosity, Courage, Consistency, Commitment, and Completion.
I will focus on Curiosity because curiosity is extremely important in a child’s development. Curiosity requires asking questions, and questions set critical thinking into motion. By having a questioning mind, a child learns about themselves and in turn gains ego strength and self-esteem. Unfortunately, many of our youth have learned to swallow information whole, and either don’t know how to, or are afraid to, ask probing questions. Thankfully we are well beyond the thought that, “Children should be seen and not heard.” I want us to hear our grandchildren, so all questions and answers are both welcomed and encouraged.
I think of curiosity as “the spark that ignites the creative fire”, and as such it’s the most important key to creativity, because nothing is created without a beginning question — even if the question is not totally conscious. As grandparents we have the perfect opportunity to encourage and support creative thinking by playing games that challenge our grandchildren to engage their curiosity. The best part is, we can have fun doing it. There is only one rule in this game-playing process: there are absolutely no rights or wrongs. When children (in fact anyone) feels judged, they will stop participating.
Here are some examples of creative activities or games that we could play with our grandchildren. (Adjust these to fit the age of the child.) There are many more online sites with ideas.
- Give the child a simple object such as a straw, a paper clip or a paper cup. Ask, “How many things can you think of to do with this object?” The objective is to see who can think of the most uses for the object in five minutes. I encourage you to play too.
- With the children’s eyes closed, play a short piece of unfamiliar music. While the music is playing, ask them to imagine a story that might go with the sounds. Then ask them to share the story. Be sure to follow this up with fun questions about their thoughts and stories. (When you ask questions, you are role modeling for your grandchildren.)
- Read a nonsensical poem like the Jabberwocky poem by Lewis Carroll, “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe”. Then encourage them to share their questions and thoughts. Ask them to make up words by combining several syllables from different words, and then define the words.
- Pick out a picture of an abstract painting, and inquire, “What questions would you like to ask the artist about this painting? How does the painting make you feel? Why do you think the artist painted it?
- Go for a walk with a grandchild and ask them to select one or two objects i.e. a acorn or a dandelion, and encourage them to think of as many questions about it as they can. Once home, help the child look up the answers. Or, go for a walk with a cell phone and ask your grandchild to take photos of five things that excite or interest them. Encourage them to take their time. Keeping it playful, and have them tell you about their choices.
- Begin a conversation at the dinner table about a current human-interest story. Be sure it is age-appropriate for your grandchild. Ask them what questions, thoughts and opinions they have about the story.
Supporting our grandchildren’s’ growth by helping to develop their curiosity is incredibly rewarding for them as well as for us. They will mature, and the best part is, everyone feels connected. I experienced this recently when my 12-year-old grandson read my entire new memoir and called me to discuss it. And when, during my recent book launch party, my nine-year-old grandson spontaneously asked a question about my book in front of 60 people. To me, these were examples of curiosity in action and showed me that these young boys were already thinking creativity. The proverbial “icing on the cake” is that we keep forming closer and closer bonds. What could be more rewarding?
About the Author
Carol K. Walsh is an artist, writer, psychotherapist and personal coach, who views all aspects of life through a creative lens. It doesn’t matter what form creativity takes, whether it’s drawing, painting, writing, or building a business, creativity is everywhere. For Carol, the final product or outcome is not as important as the process, which to her is grounding, energizing, and healing.
Carol lives in Maryland with her husband, Tom, and is the proud mother of two daughters and four grandchildren. Discover more at http://www.ckwalsh.com/.
Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma is Walsh’s fourth book; she is also the author of Break Through: Coping Skills for Chaotic Times, Designing for Weaving (a book for fiber artists) and The Art of Awakening Spirit.