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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On (not) fostering creativity and imagination

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 11:04 AM

This is my favorite thing on the Internet right now:

I know, I know... you've probably already seen it on your mama's/cousin's/high school frenemy's blog/twitter/facebook wall. Did you cry? I did. Was your favorite part when he got inside the box and started pushing out the tickets? Yea, me too.

I saw it at work and kind of frightened a co-worker who walked in my office as I was bawling my eyes out. "It's ok, it's ok, these are happy tears," I said. She still decided to leave and come back later; nine o'clock in the morning is waaay too early to deal with a hormonal pregnant lady. But it wasn't the hormones - a bunch of my non-inseminated friends cried too and - he'll probably kill me for telling you this - even Tony confessed to tearing up a little.There's just something about how creative and imaginative Caine is that's captured the hearts - and pockets (the video has raised over 160k for his scholarship fund) - of millions.

As a parent, it immediately got me thinking about what I can do to foster that kind imagination and creativity in my own kids. Should I try to get Luki into the Montessori magnet school? Sign him up for summer camp? Limit his time in front of the TV even more? Cut sugar out of his diet? Buy him less toys? More books? Invest in some cardboard boxes? Then, I realized... you know what Caine's dad did to "encourage" him? Absolutely nothing. He basically let his kid fend for himself all summer.

Parenting today has become so much about doing and researching and advocating. We buy all the books and Google every little thing, we plan and prepare, trying to create from scratch the one thing kids come without - an owner's manual. I know all of our efforts come from a good place: we all want what's best for our kids, but maybe what's best for our kids is to just let them be.

I recently heard a story on NPR about innovation and creativity in the workplace. It basically said that the most successful workplaces, the ones with the best track records for innovation, are those that allow their employees unstructured time to just... do whatever they want. People who are relaxed and happy are more likely to come up with great ideas.

So I'm making that the goal this summer, for my kids and for myself. To be relaxed and happy, to do less, to just be. Who knows? Maybe our best ideas are lurking behind our inhibitions.

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