The Creativity Crisis

I was just talking to one of my friends about this today.

One reason creativity is declining is that middle-class children are put into such rigid, structured environments from the time they’re born – Baby Einstein, “Mommy & Me” gym classes, baby swimming classes, toddler soccer, dance classes, martial arts, T-ball… you name it. Some kids don’t even get a moment to breathe, let alone create.

I didn’t do any of that crap. Okay, (one season of T-ball and soccer for each kid, and then nada.) One time this other mother was pushing me, pretty much implying it was maternal malpractice that my kids didn’t play organized sports and that they would suffer for it. I sniped back: “I guess maybe the kids who aren’t that smart need a lot of extra stimulation.” (Mea culpa. That was mean.)

But as I’ve said before, my kids had no “insert battery, turn on and watch” toys. They had stuff to build with: Erector sets, Lincoln logs, blocks, Legos. They had crayons, clay and paints — and lots of paper. Oh, and music, too. They seem to have turned out smart enough — they tested out with 150-plus IQs.

You don’t actually need to have all that stuff, although it probably helps. But I remember sitting in the dirt for hours, making imaginary cities out of mud, stones, sticks and bottle caps. It was huge fun for me, and the most important thing my mom did was to leave me alone. She didn’t say, “Susie, get out of that dirt and wash your hands!” She didn’t decide I should be doing something else, she gave me the time I needed to imagine. But then, she wasn’t making plans to get her five-year-old into Harvard, either.

What about you? Were you a creative child? Do you still have those dreams? Do you support them by making time for creativity?

10 thoughts on “The Creativity Crisis

  1. Mom used to say, “Go out and play. Dinner’s at six.” I rode my bike everywhere, played in the park, built forts, imagined this trail in the woods was an old Indian trail and acted accordingly. No TV’s or telephones in our bedrooms – and both my kids were similarly raised. The bedroom is for your head space (books, music, deep thoughts), I’d tell them.

  2. one of the best things for Sam has been going to camp with Franklin and Oscar. His mom and step-dad work a lot and don’t have friends with kids Sam’s age, so outside of school (which is highly structured) he doesn’t get much unstructured playtime. at camp, he’s been able to better develop his social skills with kids his age, have relatively unstructured play as well as teacher-led activities.

    sam loves his legos, which today are a little too structured for my taste (we didn’t have star wars and indiana jones themed sets when i was a kid) but he finds ways to think outside the little box.

    oh and as little TV as possible.

  3. i remember too making floor plans and designing whole houses from things that washed up in the sand with my best friend.

    video killed a whole lot more than the radio star.

  4. We spent a lot of time with my grandmother because my mother worked.

    Grandma never bought a toy. She saved empty spool threads, empty lipstick containers, decks of cards with some cards missing, sheets of paper, old pencils, catalogs, and anything else she could think of. We always had a great time at her house.

    Carolyn Kay

  5. One of the best things we’ve done for our daughter is getting rid of the cable. Not to mention the benefit I’ve gotten from not having the constant noise machine of the news outlets. She is great at dreaming up games and using her mind. One thing that drives me nuts is how much some parents use the tv to tame the children, from the home to the car, to I actually saw a parent pushing their child in a stroller with a portable dvd player.

  6. Sometimes I remember how kids used to use large empty boxes as playthings and the highest form of technological toy was the fiberglass horse outside of grocery store that could be rode for a quarter. Good times.

  7. Wow! All your kids tested at 150 or higher? They are all geniuses? Congratulations, that’s a big accomplishment.

  8. I was on the Cos plan, and I loved sitting in creeks and building dams and harbors and doing all kinds of shite with the water. lots of model building too–along with blowing them up when you were done and sick of them. Mot parents now think that telling your kid to go out and play is akin to handing them off to a pedophile with a van. I think the current plan is creating a lot of monsters. I was amazed when I was teaching how little jimmy and janie couldn’t comprehend that the world didn’t revolve around them and their needs.

  9. There were only two of them, so it’s not “all” my kids. It’s fairly typical for siblings to test within five points of each other.

  10. I really liked playing with the model trains at Christmas. We would build over the tracks and then we’d slam the train into them. That was fun! If you did it now, your parents would take you to someone for “anger issues.”

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