LIVINGSTON: Fostering summer-day creativity in children

When I was 7 years old, I slept most summer nights with my tennis shoes on.
Jun 13, 2014


Why?  I couldn't wait to jump out of bed every morning and start my day. I knew that each new day held something special and I didn't want to miss a thing. 

My mother made sure we played outside from the time our chores were finished until lunch, and then we were back outside until dinner. We did our fair share of work around the house and read every day.  

From the minute she got up until all seven of her children were safe in bed, my mother had a long list of things to accomplish, so she sent us out with our own specific directives: "Go play, be creative, make something up, see what your sisters are up to, call on your friends, do something worthwhile, be curious and don't even think of coming in until lunch."

When left to our own devices, we soon found many fun ways to fill each summer day.

Did my mother know at the time she was fostering creativity in her children? Probably not. I do believe she knew the importance of exploring and problem solving.

My mother is turning 89 this summer and my dad will be 91 in August. She still gets up early every day, gets dressed up and plans her day.

Looking back at my childhood, I am quite certain I've learned a great deal from these two. By telling me to go play and be creative, I was able to set my own purpose, solve problems with my friends and make the best use of every day.

Today, our kids are shuttled from one activity to the next, with little time leftover for creativity. The school year is packed full of academic requirements and directives, and way too often the day is over before we've had a chance to inspire creativity.

Creativity can mean different things to different people. We all have creative capacities, but in many instances we do not know what they are, or how to draw on them when not given the opportunity to be inventive.

Studies show that children by the age of 7 have developed a capital of creativity upon which they subsequently draw throughout their adult lives. While this well of creativity can be topped off throughout life, the richer the initial capital, the more easily creativity flows.

We know that, as adults, the ability to work collaboratively and develop in creative partnerships are key skills in order to succeed in the 21st century, so how can we foster this in our children? 

As teachers and parents, we find ourselves often face to face with children looking to us for ideas and answers. Use these words next time you have a child staring at you for answers: What ideas might you have? What story do you want to tell?

And keep asking how they can answer their own question with a little creativity.

— By Valerie Livingston, principal of Mary A. White Elementary School



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