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Category Archives: Brilliance of Babies and Children

Creativity.. here’s a couple sad statements

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A quote from Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, and contributing editor for Scientific American Mind: (Highly recommend reading the current edition focused entirely on creativity)

“When children are very young, they all express creativity, but by the end of first grade, very few do. This is because of socialization. They learn in school to stay on task and to stop daydreaming and asking silly questions. As a result, the expression of new ideas is largely shut down. We end up leaving creative expression to the misfits – the people who can’t be socialized. It’s a tragedy.”

Quote from my six year old granddaughter yesterday upon returning to school after the Christmas Holidays: (She is half way through Grade One)

“Nana, my whole classroom was changed!  It’s because we’re older now, so now we just have to work, write and sit all day. Just work and write all day!”
“You still get to play and make things, don’t you?”
“No, I think we just work all day now. Because we are older and some of the kids already turned 7.”

I don’t know what’s really going on in her class. She is in an arts-based school. But, it frightens me that this is her perspective. I hope today is different for her. I really don’t want either of these quotes to be true anymore.

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On Being Nervous, by a Six Year Old.

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Phone call to my granddaughter before I went to be on the creativity panel, (billed as a ‘Creativity Expert’) at the Thrive Festival:

ME: Hi Sweetheart, you know what I get to do today? I get to speak in front of a lot of people about creativity and I’m nervous.

GRANDDAUGHTER: Really?

ME: Yes, I phoned for you to wish me good luck.

GRANDDAUGHTER: I know what to do. When I was going to my very first day at my School of the Arts Elementary School, I was very nervous. So what I did was just say Hi to people. And as I went along my way, I got happier and happier. Soon, I was even able to say more.

ME, with jaw dropped, heart smiling:  Honey, that’s beautiful. I will try that. And I will write that down and share it with others to help them, too.

(ps. It worked like a charm)

Portrait of a Nana (aka How to be an Artist)

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Oh precious children.  Yesterday I felt pretty crappy. I asked myself “What do you need?”  I needed a grandkids fix.

Courtney said she’d bring them over… She’ll do anything right now for me. And really? She’s pretty good that way at the best of times. But in amongst her final deadline of pulling together her magazine, in a week where her usual support systems with kids during this 14 hour/day work week are flailing (and others stepped in!), she brought Evalee and Lainey over.  Pretty thoughtful, me thinks.

I knew just the fact that Court and the girls were coming would energize me enough to be ‘okay’ while they visited. Oh, it’s true, I did debate that with myself, but the option to visit won.

And oh, the visit was delightful… look what evolved! Drawings! Including a portrait of me by Evalee! Amazing in its finished product, but also so amazing watching the process!

 

 

But first, photos of the little ones in the studio.. drawing and visiting.

Look at Lainey.. so involved in her drawing, a drawing now brightening my fridge and my day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And she’s also so talented at ‘posing’ for photos..
just like her big sister.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I  asked  Evalee if she’d like to draw a portrait of me.  She pondered that as I pondered that drawing portraits is one of the techniques many artists are most afraid of.

I said, “You know, doing portraits can be tricky, but it’s a great thing to try out and it can be fun.”

I didn’t need to say that. I wasn’t finished before I realized her “pondering’ was really her observing me  as she made the plan. Pencil to paper, she began…

 A circle for the face. Eyes.. with eyeballs!  A smile added.

And then, Courtney and I couldn’t quit smiling as we watched her figure out how my arms were being held.  I was posing one hand resting against the side of my face.  She drew that hand.. and it’s curious where it came from and went, since her arms begin at the side of the head!   She placed the other arm.

Then, as an observant artist does, she got off the chair, and glanced under the table to see how my legs and feet were sitting.. and sure enough, she drew them cross-legged, just as they were.

Observing me, pencil tapping her chin, she then announced, “teeth!” and added those.  “Oh.. your hat”… and on went my little cap.   And finally, ears.  (Because my ears definately show up these days). “Oh they’re a little funny,”  she said with a smile as she drew them.  But unlike the adult artist, ” a little funny” was perfect. I thought she was finished, and I had phone call…and  I came back to see she had also included the telephone!

I couldn’t help but notice how much:

1. Evalee got right into the zone with the process.

2. how she felt parts of the drawing were quite accurate and she liked that.

3. how she felt parts of the drawing weren’t quite accurate and she liked that, too.

4. How it simply was not a big deal to draw a portrait of her Nana.

  • No second guessing the choice.
  • No fear.
  • No words playing in her head that she ‘can’t’, she’s ‘not good enough’, or that she really ought to ‘clean the house first’ or she should do something ‘more productive, or that makes money, or is an otherwise good use of time.’
  • No hidden limiting beliefs she’s acquired as the result of what others have said about what an artist is, or isn’t.
  • No words of one (or more) person who’s opinion she respects who has subtly suggested she steer away from her creativity, or out and out said she doesn’t have what it takes. (Ringing bells? Teachers of the past? Loving relatives?)
  • Nothing that has her misinterpreting even supportive comments because she’s become far too sensitive as a creative being.

Oh, how I wish for all of us that we could create like Evalee.  And even more, I wish for the ways to support her and all children to be their natural and amazing creative selves without developing the blocks and barriers that so often lead to children not believing they are creative beings, inspired thinkers, and intuitive wonders.

And on that note, I’m going to share this now. Because, in truth, it has led to a most exciting adventure in writing about how we really can support the children.  It’s turning into a workbook!  No, it’s turning into a novel….   Soooooooooo delighted where this is going. More soon!

As tears of joy roll down my face…

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♥   Megan Is Pregnant!!   

Today, May 11th, lunch with Megan and Brian at the Ploughouse Restaurant –

Megan looks over at me and says, “I’m pregnant.”

A moment to comprehend, “Did she just say she’s pregnant?”

A stunned, “Oh my gom, she did!”

She sat looking at me with that impish smile of hers.

Brian smiling.

And the tears started to flow.. the joy, the wonder, the miracles, the magic.. a new baby… and Megan is becoming a mommy.

Sharing stories, thoughts, concerns, excitement, and baby names. Meg hase even bought a baby name book.  (For tis true, the one Brian has chosen for a boy is going to need some alternatives to convince him otherwise! ha!)  So fun, so lovely.

 and wouldn’t you know, Don played Rolling Stones, Wild Horses. 

And I cried some more.

And most of the day, I keep crying, smiling, laughing….. that beautiful euphoric feeling of truly beautiful news.

I had to ‘be normal’ at Courtney’s..

until Megan and Brian got to tell her later this night.

Being normal was hard, but I did whisper the news in Lainey’s ear. She won’t tell.

Megan wants to wait to tell Evalee,

but they also got to tell John and Sue.. and I got to be there and enjoy that.  Joy joy.

And then, later, Courtney called and she is so delighted. I know she was hoping for this to happen… Little cousin for the girls. 

And such relief, too.  Megan is pregnant. That was an unknown. And now it’s a truth!

What a feeling ‘sensing’ new baby’s spirit.  Welcoming. Loving already.

Sigh. Life is good.

What an amazing Mother’s Day this is!

Imagine! You can Enhance Your Child’s Creativity and Reduce Your Guilt-Load!

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 Oh Momma -the guilt of it all! You’ve been inundated with parenting advice meant to nourish the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth of your child. And within that information is a fabulous array of advice for supporting your child’s play, imagination and creativity.   After all, play is the child’s work.  Not only is it their way to process and make sense of the world, it is their way to discover, explore, and develop their passions and gifts.  

 And you get to be the support system for that. Uh huh. Some days you’re just darn happy you actually fed your kids.  But the guilt weighs heavy when you haven’t played on the floor with them, when you let them watch more than the recommended time of TV or perhaps you haven’t had family story time every night, let alone in the past month.

 Now we get to find a kinder and gentler way for you to acknowledge and support your child’s creativity. Less is More.  These ideas are simple to implement… so simple you’ll almost feel guilty. But please don’t. We’re trying to reduce that load for you.

1. Simple words. Huge value. Remember hearing these words as a child?  “Stop playing, it’s time for lunch.”   “Oh it’s just your imagination.” “That’s not going to make you a living.”

Now there are ways to respond that acknowledge creative play, thoughts and ideas.  “Let’s fuel that body of yours with food so you can keep on playing.” “Time to get back to playing now!” “All the great discoverers in the world had good imaginations, too.”  “Are you having fun, honey?”

 If you do blurt out something unsupportive when your child has creatively redone the couch in yellow paint… well, you’re human. Later you can acknowledge the creative aspect as well as the value of involving you prior to painting things like couches.

2. Support your child’s natural inclinations.  It’s the path of least resistance.  More than that, it inspires your child to feel safe exploring what they love. Consider the little girls who want to play princess and yes, with a prince who shows up to save the day. We want our daughters to be independent, strong and able to change a tire with one hand.  But by discouraging, even in quiet ways, the little girl who loves to play princess, she begins to doubt her choices, passion, imagination, and her natural gravitation towards what she loves.

 So if your daughter wants to play princess, or your son only wants to play with cars, you don’t have to feel like you must redirect them.  They are developing some aspect of themselves that is important, even if we aren’t quite sure what that is. You are supporting their development more by letting them play their way.  Isn’t that a relief?

3. The Line Doodle.  Some children like colouring books and that’s okay.  Do offer them a variety of blank paper and drawing tools, but know that showing up to a blank page can be as intimidating to a child as it is to an adult. You can get things started by squiggling a random line on the page and saying “What could you turn this into, I wonder?

4. “What if…” questions.  Whisper “what if” questions in a conspiring way to capture your child’s interest.  Excellent places to do this are while out shopping, when in waiting rooms, and at group activities not conducive to creative play.  Just ask the question. No follow through is required, although a round of shared storytelling might evolve!

What if you imagined switching Grandpa’s nose with baby cousin’s nose?
What if this store sold rocket ships?
What if all of the people waiting for the doctor were animals/dinosaurs/cars? What if all the vegetables had personalities? I wonder what they’d say.

5.  Playing with your child is valuable and sometimes boring.  You catch yourself wanting to be doing just about anything else but!   Remember what you loved to do as a child and choose to play that with your child.  Savour it like going to a spa, and value it like serving a dinner of 5 vegetables that your children actually ate.  You loved etch-a-sketch?  Do that.  If you have only one etch-a-sketch, and find yourself not wanting to share with your child.. well, at least they get to see that you value play and creativity!  

If you loved to make forts, make forts.  If you loved imagining wondrous adventures while playing in nature, see if you can bring that spirit back on your outdoor walks. If story time really is your favourite thing, make it the ONE thing that you decide to do regularly.

Here’s one more ‘what if’.  What if you told yourself, “Wow, I’m a great parent” while you curled up with a good book at the end of a much less guilt ridden day?  Imagine how good that could feel.

by Janet L. Whitehead      ©2010
Certified Professional Life Coach and Creativity Coach.
www.musingsandmud.com

Math and the creative right brained child

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As a child, I remember sitting at our grand old oak table doing my arithmetic homework. Yes, back then it was called arithmetic.  I remember very clearly having the answers to the math questions, but not the steps to get there.  I was trying to “make up’ the steps.. come up with anything the teacher would mark correct.  I was in tears with frustration because all I wanted to do was go outside and roller skate. (again, dating myself here)   I desperately wanted to play, but here I was with this stupid homework making up steps that a teacher would mark correct.

I didn’t know I was a right brain thinker.  I didn’t know that bit of news until a billion years later. I did learn to memorize the teachers’ ways to find answers… first coming up with my own way then doing what I was taught by rote methods.

As a creative thinking child, I was completely unsupported in the school system.  I was, however, one of the more fortunate ones:  like many right brain thinkers, we also develop a pretty functional left brain to adapt.  Many of us received good marks in school. But did we all dread going to school each day, I wonder?

I can honestly say I hated school.. it felt like a torture chamber.  Nobody would have known that because my marks were good and I was a ‘nice’ little girl.

I also remember in Grade 6 writing and illustrating a story – it involved research, creativity, imagination and it fed my young soul.  That I remember happily.

People like me adapted as best we could.. we learned to  shut down the leaps of excitement when we made random out of the blue discoveries – because leaps of excitement were ‘inappropriate’ to the classroom (and later the office.)  We sat quietly in high school with brilliant answers in our head that we wouldn’t share… finding out much later in life that in fact, those answers were genius and far ahead ‘of their time’.

We learned that art and writing were nice hobbies, but we’d better get a real job.  (Sadly not much has changed)   We learned that our often brilliant philosophies and concepts were ‘just our imagination’ and therefore had no value.  And we did what we could  to NOT talk about our intuitive abilities.. because we were sure we’d probably be committed or burn in hell.

We didn’t learn that not all children felt trapped in school.

We learned that it was bad that we didn’t like team sports. I loved independent sports.. I excelled in track and bombed in team sports.  I adored racing wildly down steep hills on roller skates. Again, signs of the right brain child.

But what about those kids more dominantly right brained? Who couldn’t help but jump up in excitment?  Who couldn’t sit still?  Who didn’t learn to memorize the teachers linear detailed way of solving problems and therefore failed with every try?   Yes, I’m describing da Vinci as a child, or Einstein, or perhaps today’s children diagnosed with adhd, behaviour disorders, and learning disabilities.

Way back in my childhood days,  nobody knew a thing about the concept of left brain/ right brain dominant thinkers. In fact science was only beginning to recognize there was a use for our right brain.. having previously thought it served no purpose!!!!

Now we know much more… and yes, the school systems are evolving, with more schools popping up that recognize the creative right brain way of thinking.  May the wee right brain dominant children soon fully get the support and encouragement they need to be their brilliant selves and may the more predominant left brain children learn the tools to access their right brain answers!

Funny, I remember believing that in Russia children were educated based on their strengths and gifts.  That’s all I understood about it and I remember wishing there was a way for me to go to school in Russia. When the rest of the world was ranting about the cold war and the dangers of Russia, I wanted to go to school there.  Imagine that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.. comments welcome!

If we could live life like a 2 ½ year old in Disneyland

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Inspired by a trip to Disneyland with my Granddaughter.

If we could live life like a 2 ½ year old in Disneyland, we’d go to magical places and be entirely in the moment. We wouldn’t be rushing to get to see everything, we’d be happy to just be wherever we are. We’d trust those that guide us, even as we go somewhat cautiously to rather loud and dark and exciting places.  We’d just cover our ears if it’s too noisy, and we’d curiously notice all that is around us.

Sometimes we’d be so curious, we’d end up somewhere that scared us, but our guides would cuddle us and speak soothing words, and we’d know that we are safe.  They’d even remind us that we can stand tall, announce ourself and say “you can’t scare me!”  Or  we’d learn to growl like a tiger at tigers that growl at us because that’s quite fun.

When we are tired in the middle of the day, we’d just cover our head with a blankie and nap. (A stroller works great.)  When we wake, we’d wonder what’s for dinner and we’d know that food will arrive. It’s okay if it isn’t shaped like a Mouse, but it’s funny if it is. Sipping milk through a straw that turns colour with each sip is also great fun.  And we just aren’t going to eat a thing if we aren’t hungry, no matter how much someone might want us to. 

And if its fresh buttered popcorn we want, then it’d be fresh buttered popcorn we’d eat.

Oh the excitement when we really see magical beings…  whether they are faeries or princesses or great big fuzzy bears.  Sure, we’ve never doubted their existence, but we’d be so pleased to meet them here… and they’d be pleased to meet us too.. because they’ve run into people often enough who don’t believe in them, so it’s lovely when we arrive and know that they are real.

We’d be so intrigued by the stories told in castles that later we’d re-enact it and make up our own stories with little toy characters – loving every minute of our imaginary play.

We’d notice as we walk that we have a really lovely shadow and we’d run and hop with it in the middle of the street.. so entranced we wouldn’t even notice the other people trying to get by us.  And they wouldn’t mind that we might hop right in front of them, because .. well… they are in a magical place too. 

When we don’t feel like dancing, we’d say so.  And when we do, we’d grab our Nana and dance together twirling and singing and laughing.

We’d climb mountains, swing on rope swings, and try to scale anything that looks like it has a foothold.  In the moment, practising our balance on a little wall has the same value as a wild boat ride.

But oh, the wild boat rides are delightful.. full of mystery and intrigue and waterslides.  “Oh my! I love that song,” we’d think.  Then we’d sing “Yo ho yo ho” and “Once upon a Dream” whenever and wherever we feel like it. 

Opening Nana’s locket and asking Papa’s spirit to join us on the boat ride would be as natural and normal as having lunch.  And you’d be happy because Nana would be smiling that special way, and you’d know something you did has given another person such joy.

And if we wanted to, we’d ride a gilded horse over and over and over again and no doubt be crowned ‘Princess of the Carousel.’  Yes, others would happily acknowledge our joyful spirit.

We’d be full of wonder and laughter as we watched Aladdin and Jasmine and Genies dance and sing and the next day we would hug Jasmine dearly because now that we knew her story we would feel just that much closer to her.

When streamers and glitter are tossed in the air during magical parades, we’d run to gather them before the cleaning people could get to them!  Then we’d twirl, and scrunch, and toss our streamers into the air before giving them to our guides for safekeeping.

When we’d travel to a little island, we’d be happy to sit in the dirt and talk to the ducks because they are as magical as the faeries.  And when someone announces “Oh, look a treasure chest!” we’d notice it’s full of flat round things and we’d yell “Cookies!” because we’d know what would be the ideal treasure for us.

If we lived our life like a 2 ½ year old in Disneyland, we’d be in awe of how bright and beautiful and exciting and full of cookies the world can be.  And we’d never doubt even a moment that our guides are looking after us while we get to experience all the wonder and magic and adventure that the world holds.

And we’d laugh as we hugged our guides often, and giggle as we hugged ourselves too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
By Janet L. Whitehead © 2009
May not be copied without written permission from the author.

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