Maybe Tomorrow

Much like The Little Boy Story, this totally breaks my heart:

Maybe Tomorrow
by Lindy T. Redmond

Me do it,” said the 2 year old,
“Mom, me will do it now,”
“Oh no, my dear,” she replied,
“I must show you how!”
“Let me try it,” he called at 3
“Let me make my bed,”
“No, you will have lumps in it,
Color this instead.”
So she placed the coloring book
Near him on the table,
“Now try to color in the lines
The best you are able.”
“But Mom, I want to draw the world
And all the butterflies,
I want to make the mountains tall,
And make rainbows in the skies.”
Color carefully,” she replied,
And color the flowers red,
Color the sky all light blue
Stay in the lines,” she said.
And as the 4 year old one day
His shoes he tried to tie,
His father said, “I’ll teach you how
And later YOU can try.”
And so it was, from birth to 5,
The others told him HOW,
They gave him restraints and set the laws
Of what they would allow.
Then one day the yellow bus
Came right up to his door,
The little boy thought for sure
That NOW he could explore.
He now could dream and imagine
And experiment on his own,
He could paint HIS colors
And investigate all alone.
He could soar to the highest mountains,
He could dream in his mind
He could nurture his talents,
His gifts he could now fine.
The teacher came into his room
And greeted everyone
“Take out your crayons and paper,
we’re going to have some fun.”
“Use this tracer to make a bunny
And neatly print your name,
They’ll all be brown with long ears,
They’ll all look just the same.”
But I don’t want my bunny
To stand up straight and tall
I want him crouched among the grass
And to be white, that’s all.”
“They’ll be nicer if we keep
Them looking alike too,
Now please sit down & start your work
We’ve got a lot to do.”
So slowly he took his seat,
His eyes had lost their thrill,
He now knew just what he’d face,
Monotony and drill.
“Maybe later,” thought the lad,
“She’ll let me make my own,
Maybe tomorrow I can paint
My picture all alone.”
So on the next clear morning,
They took their crayons out,
“Oh boy, I’ll make the sky orange
I’ll be different, without a doubt.”
“Color carefully,” she replied,
“And color the flowers red,
Color the sky light blue
Stay in the lines,” she said.
“Maybe tomorrow, maybe never.”
Thought the boy as he colored the sky light blue.

Douglas Thomas on a New Culture of Learning

I seem to be attracting information on the topic of creativity, innovation and education lately. I turned the TV on today and randomly found Douglas Thomas, Associate Professor at the University of Southern California and author of A New Culture of Learning, speaking of the future of learning and technology. More specifically, Thomas was asked to speak on what learning will look like in 2030.

I was immediately drawn in when I heard Thomas said this:

“If someone finds their passion try to stop them from learning. I bet you can’t do that.”

He went on to talk about what learning is and how despite the changes in technology over the years, learning is something that has remained the same.

“Passion, wonder, curiosity and joy… those are the things that make us learn.”

A few further quotes from the lecture that are definitely worth noting here. On the topic of play and imagination and how the application of rules on imagination is key for learning:

Being able to experiment and being able to play is a foundational element… is what provokes our imagination and what really makes life interesting for us. Learning happens when you start to put constraints around that imagination. Then you get to experiment, you get to play, and you use all that sense of joy, of wonder, of curiosity to push against those boundaries and limits and seeing what pushes back.

Like the old ‘give a child a cardboard box and they’ll play for hours’… Thomas suggests:

Give a child a stick and see where their imagination takes them.

In the question and answer at the end of the talk, a teacher educator asks how to inspire future teachers in the philosophy and education of passion, relevance and play in their classrooms of the future. What I really like about this question is that when thinking about the answer, I substitute “parents” instead of “teachers” and “kids” instead of “students”.  After all, as parents we want to inspire passion, relevance and play in our kids too!  The answer?

  1. Lead by example, show your kids your passion.

  2. Understand what your kids passions are and connect that to what you want to teach them.

The following sketches are taken from a schematic found on the New Culture of Learning website.



A Space to Create

When you hear about creativity, you hear a lot about creating the right environment to set the stage for getting into the creative zone. It’s often a place that’s not too cluttered but not too sparse. A place with some toys or inspiration and most definitely some tools to aid in the creation process.  If you’re an artists, you probably desire a space with lots of natural light, a desk or easle and full access to all of your supplies. If you’re a writer, a quiet corner free of distraction might be all you need. Imagine now that you’re a child again. What would you want to see in your space for creating?

As parents we often create play spaces for our kids that are full of toys, building blocks, push toys, pretend play areas and so on. These are all great, but it can get to be a bit overwhelming when the kids toys start to take over the house. Been there, done that!  Instead, we’ve designated a space for all those fun toys in a playroom and created what in our house we call… The Work Station. Sometimes referred to as the Writing Station or the Art Station.. depending on what the task at hand is.

Creating a designated space to create in our home is one of the best things I’ve done. We’ve created our space in the main living room area of our home.  The space gives our daughter creative freedom to explore what she wants, whenever she wants. She can write, create, read, experiment and come up with crazy project ideas.. and she does!

I think all kids should have a little work area, art area.. or whatever you decide to call it so I’m sharing how we’ve set up our area and what we have in there in hopes that it inspires you to create a similar space. You might already have a kid work station set up. If so, I’d love to hear what you’ve included in it, and what your kids have created!

Step 1 : Find a space in your home to create your kids work station.
If your kids are young, like mine, you’ll want them to be within view which makes the kitchen or living room the perfect choice.  If they’re a little older, their bedroom may be the perfect place… Violet’s already asked to have her workstation in her bedroom in our next house.

A corner in your living room is all you need. We placed ours behind some living room chairs so the kids space is sort of hidden away but still part of the action.

Step 2: Set up the space with child sized furniture.
A large work surface is a good idea but any small table will do the trick. Kid sized chairs will allow little ones independence to get on and off the chairs themselves. We’ve found having a second chair for a friend is a good idea as well.

Look for kid furniture second hand on Craigslist or Kijiji, or if you’re looking for new and affordable, Ikea is your best bet.  I like this Stuva desk for all the space and the Stuva storage bench to hide away materials that get out of hand.

Step 3: Decide what you want your workspace focus to be.
It might be a writing station or an art station or a science area. It could perhaps be a mix of all of these things but I think it’s nice to pick a focus and provide several materials within that subject area. There is much to be said about this and Playful Learning is an amazing resource for creating thoughtful spaces for children.

Watch your child and see what he or she is interested in. In our case, Violet was naturally drawn to letter writing. She will make notes, write cards, seal them and adorn them with stickers, then deliver them to her favourite people. She’s even known to slip the odd letter under neighbours doors in Nana’s condo.  On occasion she’s received a letter or two back – usually with stickers and an invitation to send back more letters!  For me, it was a no brainer… a writing station it was!  I also like the idea because she is learning her sounds and is at the pre-reading stage so I like giving her more opportunities to practice while feeding into her interest in writing.

While spelling out names of family and friends as she often does, she’ll sit at her desk and call over to us in the kitchen: “what comes after the e??”

Our work area started as a writing station. It evolved into an art station the week that I brought out a set of paints. Then it further evolved into a craft station after bringing home a craft tub. It was getting out of hand, so I streamlined the work area contents and brought it back to a writing station, as shown here.

Step 4: Provide appropriate materials to bring the workspace alive.
This is the fun part. Our writing station includes:

  • coloured pencils
  • paper
  • list making paper
  • cards and envelopes
  • stickers
  • glue
  • scissors

In addition to writing materials, we’ve included reading and spelling activities:

My key guidelines for the space are to keep it clutter free, beautiful and accessible. Everything should have a place. Although it won’t always make it’s way back there and if your house is like mine, other things will make their way into the workstation, but that’s okay.  Above all the space needs to be inviting.

Step 5: Stand back and see what happens
Let the creation begin. This is the absolute best and most important part! It’s fun being surprise by what your child might come up with. Probably not at all what you thought your child might create and that’s perfectly okay. In fact, it’s more than okay, it’s awesome. Celebrate it and don’t interfere with the creative thinking process. Let it happen and enjoy the silence!

David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence

I’ll admit I have a tear in my eye as I write this post about this super touching and powerful talk about the loss of creative confidence that happens in childhood given by David Kelley at Ted earlier this year.  Kelley discusses his battle with cancer and how it inspired him to consider his purpose in life to which he explains:

“the thing i most wanted to do was to help as many people as possible re-gain the creative confidence they lost along the way.

I really believe that when people gain this confidence… they actually start working on the things that are really important in their lives. We see people quit what they’re doing and go in new directions. We see them come up with more ideas so they can choose from better ideas. They make better decisions.”

To help him on his quest, he asks:

  • Don’t let people divide the world into the ‘creatives’ and the ‘non-creatives’.
  • Have people realize they are naturally creative and let their ideas fly.
  • Achieve self-efficacy; Do what you set out to do to reach a place of creative confidence.

The last point: achieve self-efficacy. Seems a little easier said than done, I’d say. According to Psychologist Albert Bandura whom Kelley references in his talk, four factors affect self-efficacy (according to Wikipedia).

1. Experience – Success raises efficacy, while failure lowers it. However “children cannot be fooled by empty praise and condescending encouragement”.  As parents we need to most definitely be aware of that. Instead, children benefit from consistent recognition of real accomplishment.

2. Modeling – When we see someone succeeding, our own self-efficacy increases; when we see people failing, our self-efficacy decreases.

3. Social Persuasion – Manifests as direct encouragement or discouragement from another person. Discouragement is generally more effective at decreasing a person’s self-efficacy than encouragement is at increasing it.

4. Physiological Factors – Perceptions of physiological responses to stressful situations can markedly alter self-efficacy. For example getting ‘butterflies in the stomach’ before public speaking will be interpreted with someone with low self-efficacy as a sign of inability, thus decreasing self-efficacy further, were high self-efficacy would lead to interpreting such physiological signs as normal and unrelated to ability.

Seems to me that as parents there is A LOT WE CAN DO to promote positive self-efficacy in our children. My thoughts are:

  1. Drop the empty praise altogether. Instead give recognition for good work and better yet allow the child to feel good about mastering particular experiences for him or herself before jumping in to say ‘Good Job’!
  2. Provide opportunities for kids to see others succeed. Perhaps it’s as simple as taking them to the park and watching other kids succeed at the monkey bars or spending time at the pool with a relative that’s a good swimmer.
  3. If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. That’s my commentary with regards to point #3 above – social persuasion. Keep positive with encouragement.
  4. Recognize when your child is experiencing stressful situations (say the first few weeks of school or before a dance recital) and talk about it. Let them know that it’s okay to feel butterflies. It’s normal and natural.

Last thing I want to mention in relation to this video is that the subject of creative confidence reaffirms my blog title “Keeping Creativity Alive”. For a while now I’ve been contemplating changing the name.. to something more positive, more unique and more, well.. creative. But this video reminds me of my ultimate mission and passion: to help parents help kids grow creatively with confidence and has me thinking that my name might be appropriate after all… for now anyway. I’d love to hear your thoughts!