Let's Put Our Hands Together

As you work to help your child hold onto his or her healthy imagination, I’d like to correct an image we all have. When we picture a creative person – whether an artist, scientist, writer, etc. – we imagine him alone in a near-empty studio, shivering against the cold, ignorant of his hunger, working on his project, alone.

Alone. Creativity is an internal thing. A singular pursuit. A self-focused development of an idea. Isn’t it?

Not really. Yes, many creative people have chosen to or needed to work alone; but numerous others have found their muse in the fellowship of other like-minded people. Think of Lewis and Tolkien in their group, The Inklings. Think of the Wright Brothers. Or the Impressionists. Or Pixar.

As I look back over my life, I see that many of the most creative things I’ve done have been a collaboration with a good friend. From the games and secret clubs of childhood down through my first picture book, exchanged ideas have been built upon one another like blocks in a tower. There’s an amazing energy in combined imaginations. When the idea we were following reached a dead-end, one of us inevitably broke the ensuing silence with a triumphant, “Wait! What if…?” And off we’d go again.

Your child can also benefit from creative teamwork. Here’s how. The next time a friend is over for a play date, equip the two (or three) of them with the following:

• a goal. Suggest some purpose to their imagining. Can they create their own newsletter or comic strip or short story? Can they write a play to perform for the family, or have the family perform for them?

• a head start. Don’t just point them in a direction, help them begin the journey. So, if you choose to do an activity like my Invent a World idea, start it with them. After a bit, you can step out and let their imaginations carry it from there.

• time. Creative thinking needs a leisurely pace. And it might also need multiple sessions.

And finally, when they’ve got an idea cooking, you can supply one more thing that a creative team needs: feedback. You can put your hands together and give them some applause.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2006 Bruce Van Patter