How to Be More Creative: 3 Ways to Recapture Your Childlike Creativity

30 06 2009

Did you know that by the time we are 40, we are expressing less than 2% of the measurable creativity we demonstrated as a child?

Children are naturally creative. Think of all the ways a child can take an ordinary object and turn it into something extraordinary. Like how a tattered t-shirt can become a magical cape that makes you fly, how a sandcastle turns into a mystical land full of castles with dragons and princesses, or how an imaginary friend stirs up adventures to pursue.

When we are childlike, we give ourselves the space to play with new concepts, to see things from a shifted perspective, or to imagine something entirely new. As adults, we express less creativity than we did as children because of: 1) having years of exposure to the “usual” or “accepted” approach, and 2) being limited to the practicality and logic of our adult minds.

There is a lot of creative value when we approach the world with childlike wonder and imagination. So how do we maintain the creative spirit as we grow up?

There are some key characteristics that are more abundant in children and add to their creativity. When we can recapture some of these characteristics and apply them to our creative process, we help open our minds to more imagination and creativity.

Characteristics of Childlike Creativity

  • Curiousness
  • Playfulness
  • Imagination
  • Open-mindedness
  • Adaptability
  • Questioning
  • Spontaneity
  • Wonderment

“The best place to go with a child is in their imagination.”  Amie, age 16

3 Ways To Recapture Your Childlike Creativity

1. Let Your Imagination Run Wild
An active imagination is at the heart of creative thinking. For the young child, fact and fantasy, dreaming and waking, wish and reality, are all without clear distinction. In a child’s world it’s finding how a t-shirt can become a magical cape; in an adult’s world it’s looking at how to make a man fly, cure disease, or walk on the moon.  When you let your imagination loose without the confines of the common approach, you open yourself up to new ideas and creative possibilities.

2. Be Curious and Open-Minded
Believe no idea is a bad idea—consider and be open to anything. Curiosity and open-mindedness prevent stagnation in creative enterprises; without these qualities, some creative longevity is lost.

In Rob Eastaway’s book, “Out of the Box: 101 Ideas for Thinking Creatively” he says that there are three stages of life:

From 0 to 4 years old is the “Why not?” stage.
From 5 to 11 years old is the “Why?” stage.
From 12 onward is the “Because” stage.

When we remain curious (why/why not) we keep our minds open to new perspectives. As we get older, we enter the “Because” stage and start to lose the “curiosity and wonder about the world that leads us to ask those crucial questions, “Why?” and “Why Not?”

3.  Think Outside the Box: Embrace a New Perspective
As adults it is easy to get trapped into seeing things from one perspective—mostly because we are exposed to the usual approach and how things are normally done. When we can look at things from a different perspective, we can see a new way to do things—this is where innovation happens.

I just read a story about a little girl who was watching her sister’s dance recital. After watching the ballerinas dance on their toes for a while, she turned to her mommy and wondered, “Why don’t they just get taller ballerinas?”

To help gain a new perspective, ask yourself:

  • Is there a new way to approach this?
  • What hasn’t been tried before?
  • What am I not seeing?
  • Who can I talk to that might have a fresh perspective?

The greatest thing about creativity is that there is always room for new perspectives and learnings, no matter what age.

  • A pen and paper are all you need to create a new world. Michelle, age 13
  • You should never jump out of a tree using trash bags as parachutes. April, age 10
  • Childhod is not preparation for life. It is life.  James, age 9
  • I like to draw because it makes my mind flow. Todd, age 10
  • You can travel inside a book. Jameson, age 8
  • You should never surprise a cow when you are behind it. Stefanie, age 12
  • You shouldn’t try and test a nine-volt battery with your braces unless you’re looking for an easy way to melt all the rubber bands.  Chris, age 14
  • One of the best ways to find out about a person’s character is to play Monopoly with them. Ellana, age 15
  • My puppy still has bad breath even after I gave her a Tic Tac. Kelly, age 11
  • Reading what people write on desks can teach you a lot. Tiffany, age 13
  • You can’t trust dogs to watch your food. Patrick, age 10
  • You should always listen to older people. They are like living history books and can teach you so much. Cindy, age 13
  • You shouldn’t jump down stairs with your hands in your pockets. Philip, age 11
  • No matter how hard you try, you can’t baptize cats! Laura, age 13
  • Quotes taken from “Wit & Wisdom” by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. – Rutledge Hill Press

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