What these eight-year-old students said, shocked me!

“If you are losing your leisure, look out! — It may be you are losing your soul.”

― Virginia Woolf

By chance, I had a recent conversation with a few eight-year-olds about what they like to do outside of school. The notion of having a hobby was explored, and I was honestly shocked to learn that this group of evidently well-rounded, well-informed children had never heard the word ‘hobby’, let alone thought to have one. Am I that old? Has our world changed that much?

This delightful group of children were so engaged and eager to think with me about what hobbies might be appropriate and interesting for them to take up – something that would spark a passion and personal interest that they would be motivated to pursue it, for the enjoyment of it, rather than because it was expected of them. Their ideas were diverse and clearly reflected their own personal interests and strengths. I was impressed!

Our conversation then moved onto the subject of creativity, and how best to define it. We agreed that the pursuit of creativity would most likely make the world a better place – possibly more beautiful, more interesting, more inviting, and a great way to connect with others. We considered that whilst some animals show ingenuity and craftiness at times, true creative expression is one of the defining features that separates man from animals. With this said, we paused to think about what we all do as a truly creative outlet, one where something new, that has never been done before, can emerge. It was not so easy to come up with examples, and so we unanimously committed to go away and find our own possible creative connections.

What we know is, creativity has a unique energy, and when purposefully and meaningfully channelled can be thrilling, rewarding and life-affirming – a perfect antidote to the ever-increasing rise in compromised emotional and mental health.

In our highly structured and pressured lives, when we chase the clock and shy away from risk, we lose a part of ourselves. We restrict our capacity to make a difference, to open our eyes to what might be. We narrow our thinking and experiences and we close our hearts and minds to the true magic one may encounter when immersed in an authentic creative process.

We now know that finding a creative outlet lowers our stress levels, soothes our negative thoughts and increases our body awareness and our joy.

In the early years, before the age of five, when a child’s brain produces millions of neural connections every second, as they explore their environment, they rely on their sensory experiences to inform their development. Through sight, smell, touch, taste, sound and emotion, children come to know their world and their place in it. Their learning is complex and integrated and natural. For many children, as children grow older they generally become more self-conscious, rely less on their intuition, and work hard to conform to the expectations of their family, school and community. Their capacity to abandon their fears and be spontaneous shrinks, and their opportunities to be messy and imaginative simultaneously diminish. Their natural creative energy is often suppressed, and only much later, when they start to be more self-reflective, do they find a way back to their own creative life.

Our world needs creativity now more than ever before, as our problems are becoming more complex and we have fewer answers on how to solve them.

“With creativity, we stop relying on what’s always been and open our eyes to what might be”

Matt Adams, Portfolio Director IDEO

So, if we were to encourage and preserve this natural creative flow throughout our children’s lives, they will surely grow and flourish in their own creative expression, rich imaginations and independent thinking; as well as welcome improvisation and grow in innovative resourcefulness – all the qualities that are currently valued and sought the world over. If we place creativity at the heart of what we do, we would gift our young children an advantage over others, set them up for a different kind of success, and in doing so, maybe, just maybe, make our world a better place because of it.  

cathyportraitAbout the author

Cathy Milwidsky is the Director of Early Learning and Development at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW

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