“My legs have hiccups.” That’s how my daughter described muscle twitches at age three.
“There a melted rainbow on that truck.” That’s her four-year-old description of a colorful array of fuzzy, blended images.
“It’s the same sky over Milwaukee as in Michigan. God just spreads it over us all like jelly.” Age five.
Often, kids aren’t even trying to be creative, funny, or profound. They merely try to piece the world together according to their limited understanding and vocabulary.
Out of the mouths of babes . . . things my kids said:
• Windshield wipers were “swish-swashers” (3)
• Crunchy autumn leaves were “corn flakes” (3)
• Using the scraper on the car was “shaving the window” (4)
• When her tummy hurt, looking for relief, she said: “I wish I could be a balloon and you could pop me.” (age 3)
• When I poured too much cereal in the bowl: “You just hunked a lot out.” (3)
• A tickle in the throat before coughing: “My mouth is buzzing.” (4)
• Gesundheit! “That’s a fireworks sneeze.” (4)
• On a windy fall day, “The leaves are playing Ring around the Rosy and Catch.” Or “The flags are wagging their tails.” (5)
• At the zoo’s fish tank, looking at a school of fish: “They look about 2nd grade.” (6)
See? Kids naturally make up similes and metaphors. Make imaginative connections.
If this isn’t proof that we’re born creative, I don’t know what is.
Every child, seeing the world afresh, is full of wonder, questions, and unique observations. All four of my kids had them.
These quotes are the creative things all kids say before the imagination is schooled out of them.
The death of imagination starts early.
It was worse in the 1960s when education employed drills, rote memorization, and shaming as the main learning techniques. Nowadays, teachers and parents are more aware of different learning styles. We’re told to give options, to encourage innovative thinking and problem-solving. We’re told to avoid saying no.
“Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
For me, education’s attempt to kill my imagination started in kindergarten. I remember the incident vividly. Mrs. Konkle (alias) told us to draw the U.S. flag on our 12” x 18” papers, and fill the entire page.
Let’s see, there were at least 25 kids, so that meant we’d end up with 25 identical flags.
But I didn’t want to make what everyone else was drawing. Why did we need 25 of them?
I’d already grasped the stars and stripes concept, so I wanted to draw a picture of the flag on a pole, surrounded by serviceman, hands on hearts. I was going for the emotional impact. (Thanks to Mom for passing along her patriotism.) I was very involved with my drawing, very pleased with how it was turning out.
I got as far as the flag, pole, and third guy when the teacher said, “No, Laura, you’re not following instructions. I want you to draw just one big flag.” She turned the paper over to the blank side. “Now start over.”
I was stunned. And devastated. I was only five, after all. Is it any wonder why the educational system has turned out millions of people who think they aren’t creative?
Fortunately, that doesn’t stop everybody, and it didn’t stop me. I have my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Haan, to thank for that. But more on her later.
Is there a time in your early schooling where a teacher (or anybody) stomped on your grand idea? How did you deal with it?
Or share a humorous observation from one of your own children!
Please add your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!
P.S. Coming soon: An author whose story worlds are steeped in the Old West or WWII history, some inspired by her ancestors’ lives