I recently watched ‘The Croads’ with my three-year old son. It’s become his favorite film of the month. He’s particularly found of the scene where the Granma shouts ‘YouWho’ down a tunnel. He now calls the film by its obviously more appropriate title ‘YouWho’ – ‘I want to watch YouWho’ he says.
Like many of his films, I watch it in bits, and never really have time to sit around for the entire movie. The story is about the last cavemen on the planet – ‘The Croods’. As we learn at the beginning of the film this family have survived being eaten, getting sick, consuming poisonous berries, or being trapped in bad weather, by staying in their cave and resisting the temptation to be curious. The Father constantly tells his children to never think differently, thinking differently is bad, thinking differently gets you killed. Obviously we know where the film is heading – with a little bit of help from a new character called Guy that comes up with ‘new ideas’, The Croads are about to survive disaster by thinking differently.
Young children naturally think differently, they’re curious, open-minded, can tolerate ambiguity, and produce and consider many alternatives. As parents and educators we must create a safe environment for our children while preparing them for our society, but we must make every effort to nurture their creative thinking and not lock them up in a cave during the process. We naturally want to correct them and impose our knowledge on their young minds, but I think this should be done delicately and in moderation. Obviously, this challenge increases in education with specific content that must be taught but we still have an opportunity to offer multiple ways to achieve a given outcome and nurture creative thinking along the way.
When I play with my son I take advantage of the ‘micro’ moments in the day where my son says or does something differently. I encourage him to explore his ideas further by asking questions, challenging him to think deeper, or expand on this thinking. If he is convinced the Sun goes underground to sleep during nighttime, then I want to know what his beds like. After only 36 months of the planet is it essential that I inform him about the Solar System?
I make every attempt to engage his imagination and not interfere with his curiosity. If he wants to put a sticker from the Supermarket on his leg, face, elbow, than I’m going to go with it. Who says it has to be placed on his chest! In short, I want to nurture his world as long as possible, because it is this world, and the world of children of his age, where the creative outcomes of our future lie. We must avoid squashing the natural characteristics that make us think creativity too quickly. We must teach them about our world and keep them safe, but this must not be at the expense of thinking differently, being curious, and coming up with new ideas.