Some of my favorite memories from my childhood include dreaming up something crazy, then working out a solution and building something to accomplish my idea. My creativity would run WILD and I had the support and encouragement from my parents to see where it went. This included a crazy network of secret notes I would roll up in ballpoint pens and pass to my friends at school, building a potato launcher or “spud gun” to determine which hairspray was the best fuel and even engaging in a Future Problem Solving group to think through some of the Earth’s big problems and come up with near real-world solutions and present them to a panel of peers and judges.
When I think of supporting the creativity of my child, it includes letting them explore their ideas and introducing them to some cool ways to think of things – safely. The word “safe” to me includes a moderate amount of managed risk – key word being ‘managed’. I want my child to be able to build their own spud gun, but Ill be sure to help them and teach them the right way to do it without stepping beyond a manageable amount of risk.
Tinkering is a word that pops into my mind when I consider this topic. And when I think Tinkering, I think of a man named Gever Tulley. I had the very good fortune to meet Gever and his partner Julie Spiegler while Paragliding in California a few years ago. At the time, I had no idea who I was talking to, but I quickly realized that I had met someone who was living and breathing my idea of supporting the creativity and well being of children: He created a Tinkering School so kids could safely learn how to use tools and work in a managed environment to follow their creative ideas to fruition. His TED talk is inspiring and is something I have always felt, but didn’t have a way to put into words until meeting him.
How can we inspire our children to tinker and nourish creative thoughts safely? My opinion – come up with age appropriate activities to do together with varying degrees of oversight and support. Teach them to respect risk and how to manage it. Find professionals to help teach your child the safe way to handle potentially dangerous tools. Find professionals to be a sounding board for your child to create engineering plans for their dreams. Another big way, as noted in the book How to Talk so your kids will listen and Listen so your Kids will Talk, is to back off. Help them find the ways to research on their own. Age appropriateness, risk level and personality is of course taken into consideration here, but helping them to respect danger, manage risk and pursue their ideas is a must to help foster creativity.
While I believe every child should have access to a Tinkering School, what are some other ways we can tinker at home with kids of all ages? Some ideas – include children in house projects giving them appropriate activities to be involved and learn. Set up fun experiments and activities like the ones listed here at TinkerLab. And, as detailed in the book Brain Rules for Baby, give them age appropriate tools to develop their creativity and unstructured time so they can explore.
As our daughter grows this year, I plan to select some projects and document them here. I would love to hear your ideas and experiences as well. Here’s to happy, creative kids of all ages!