Fostering Creativity

Imagination is more important than knowledge
~ Albert Einstein

That quote, along with Einstein’s picture, have adorned my classroom wall every year I’ve had my own classroom. Even as a math and science teacher I always encouraged students to be creative, use their imagination, play the “what if” game. I do the same with my own two kids.

Ever since Crash was born (7 years ago) I’ve allowed his imagination to run wildly free. We would play made up games of Max and the Wild Things – we’d show our terrible claws, roll our terrible eyes, gnash our terrible teeth and roar our terrible roars. We’d find pictures in the clouds, the moon, and the stars. We’d make up stories and go on adventures in the backyard. Which brings me to the first TV show he took an interest in… The Backyardigans. If you’ve never heard of them, here they are:nickelodeons-the-backyardigansIt is about a group of friends who travel through both time and space to adventure in their (you guessed it) backyard. For added fun, each episode is set to different genre of music. So much imagination for us to emulate! Boxes become race cars and space ships and submarines. Bang is following in his footsteps. He tags along with his big brother to go on adventures in the backyard. Though now it might involve being chased by zombies or pretending they are ninjas. But no matter what they’re pretending, they’ll always be my wild things.

Anyway, this thought process was sparked when a friend of mine posed the question on Facebook, “Why are Legos sold in sets? What happened to a random collection of bricks and letting the kids build what they want”? Or something to that effect. Here are my two answers…


The photo on the left was built by Crash for Bang. Bang loves diggers and this digger improved 10 fold with the addition of the claw. The photo on the right is roughly 6 or so “sets” of legos. They got built according their instructions. Then disassembled a couple days later to be rebuilt as God knows what. One particular morning when the stars aligned they played quietly together for quite some time. When I came to find out what they were up to (when they’re quiet, they’re up to something) they had built a Lego playground. I wish I had gotten a picture of it before it was dismantled.

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.
~ T.E. Lawrence

There are so many ways to foster creativity. By far the easiest is to read, read, read. While reading alone is a good step, take it one more step and discuss the reading and put yourself or your kids into the story. If “Hey dad, watch this” is the kid’s equivalent to “Hold my beer” then “Hey dad, what if…” is equivalent to “Lets do shots”! Once the hard liquor comes out who knows where the rest of the night is going. Once the what if’s start there is no predicting where the story goes. Don’t be shy. Play the game with them. Heck, be the one to start it. It can make an ordinary day extraordinary!

Imagination isn’t simply about being creative. It’s about thinking differently. It’s about exploring the possibilities, the methods of making those dreams a reality. Imagine what would have happened had Edison not improved the light bulb, if Neil Armstrong had not stepped on the moon, if Steve Jobs had not created Apple, or if your favorite author had not put pen to paper. I just discovered the dad I want to be when I read about the dad who hacked Donkey Kong. His daughter wanted to play as the princess so she could save Mario. Dad took that “what if” and made it real. Amazing. Of course, it helped that he was a game designer and capable of such miracles. Lastly, most importantly, is my favorite dreamer, my DW. A friend asked her if it would be possible to build a new playground for our community. We had but one very poor, slightly dangerous playground. She imagined a playground that far exceeded anyone’s expectations and one year after lighting the spark, 500 community members came together and made the dream come true. Check out the video to see the dream become a reality.

Is imagination important to you? How do you foster creativity?