Give kids freedom to foster creativity

Give kids freedom to foster creativity

Locked up kids just can’t be creative—and then they can’t solve global problems, either.

If there’s a single trait that is valued most by leaders and scientists, business people and employers, it’s creativity. Everyone is born creative; we simply lose our creativity as we are forced to conform to societal standards. You there reading this—you are creative regarding something. Maybe it’s arranging flowers or planning parties, telling tall tales or building things with metal or wood. You may not even think you’re creative, but you can whip up a gourmet dinner with a bottle of ketchup and two cucumbers. That’s pretty darn creative.

The more we aren’t allowed to practice our creativity, however, the more we lose it. It’s like any other muscle that doesn’t get exercise. And the more we lock up our kids, forcing them to do endless hours of meaningless homework or prepare for stupid standardized tests, the less creative they are. The less freedom they have correlates with, and perhaps causes, the decline of their creativity.

It makes perfect sense, too. If you have two hours each night to yourself and you could spend it playing, discovering, or even reading for pleasure, or you could spend it doing assigned work, which one is going to make you more creative? Do you think if Einstein, Edison, and Franklin hadn’t had the time to make mistake after mistake, learning more each time and creatively developing new solutions and creations, they would have ever made any discoveries? Had our nation’s leaders and innovative thinkers been assigned the homework and standardized tests that modern day children receive, we wouldn’t have half of the inventions we depend upon for our standard of living today.

Am I advocating for no homework? That’s an emphatic yes. I won’t even say, “But I know that’s impossible,” because it’s completely possible. I also think we need to nix standardized tests. If colleges want them, fine—let kids deal with them in the late high school years for college. Otherwise, give them time to be kids and really stretch those imaginative muscles—not just for their own sakes, but for ours, too. The fewer imaginative people we have in this world, the less colorful it is for us all—and the fewer solutions we’ll be able to come up with for the plethora of problems we face in this modern age.

Give your kids a minimum of two hours a day of daydreaming time. Let them play, build stuff out of string, make giant slingshots in your front yard out of jump rope and see what happens when they take apart an old toaster (in fact, BUY old stuff at yard sales for a few cents so they can do this!). What seems like nonsense or wasted time to you is actually genius at work.