Natalie 16_9

Allow Chaos + Ambiguity to Ignite…Creative Thinking & Playing

First let’s go in the opposite direction. I’ve always been haunted by Samuel Beckett’s line from Godot, “Habit is a great deadener.”

Most of us lead very structured lives. 9-5. Often by necessity – we have to pay the mortgage – save for the kid’s education. Part of the challenge of parenting is how to instill and nourish creative thinking in our kids:

 A key part of the creative process involves embracing the stages of chaos and ambiguity that can lead to innovative thinking.

Too often we’re trained to believe and then teach that order is the foundation of productivity. It is for a certain stage (but not the foundation!) of creative productivity.

If as parents and educators we become “order junkies” who are addicted to the rules of the game – chances are we won’t stray too far from the tried and true.

There is safety there – the boundaries are known and respected. And there is something to be said for that. Up to a point.

The beginning of all education involves learning and mastering the rules of the game. Knowledge of the Periodic Table must precede any experiments in chemistry. James Joyce mastered the short story form and wrote a collection of the most beautiful structured stories (Dubliners) before re-defining the novel and blowing the lid off what is possible with language in Finnegan’s Wake.

What is your response when your kid begins to see something in a different light – a “micro burst of creative thinking” as my Dads for Creativity colleague Mattew Worwood discussed in his January 12 blog.

Embrace the chaos. Allow your kids to embrace chaos. For too many – this is an uncomfortable space to inhabit – there are no know rules – no borders. Don’t look for a compass – because it hasn’t been invented yet. You can’t map a journey of creative exploration from point A to B.

My daughter’s room is sheer chaos. But not only is she comfortable there – she is thriving in that environment. It’s a painter’s palette in there of books, drawings, video projects, music, hand-me-down iPhones, colorful clothing (all over the place) ….yet what emerges are carefully structured artistic and scientific creations that astound and delight me.

The other day I ventured into her room – and found her on her bed fashioning a guitar from a cereal box and rubber bands of varying width. (see photo above!)

Nurture your kids creativity – allow them to explore and help them to feel safe in the chaos and ambiguity that may (or may not) lead somewhere. They’ll be plenty of order and structure as they proceed with their education.

Herman Melville said it beautifully, “It’s not down on any map – true places never are.”

How can we as parents encourage our kids to explore and feel more at home in these “true places?”  In whatever way you can – validate and support your kid’s journey into the unknown – as they explore.

There will probably be a period where chaos and ambiguity reign – that wave is one of the essential building blocks of creative work and play. And periods of frustration can emerge when things are not perfectly clear. Don’t band-aid that emotion and try to make it “all better.”

Just be there for your kid – let them know it’s okay and brave to wrestle with the ambiguity of not knowing how or where a thought or game or project will end up. It’s a process not a product at this stage – let them know it’s okay to ride their wave of creative energy – they’ll be plenty of time later to codify and organize it all.

Jonathan Furst
Jonathan Furst is an Apple Distinguished Educator and works in the Arts and Media Department at Amity Regional High School. He is co-founder of the blog DadsforCreativity.com and talks education technology on the blog EdReach.

Jonathan Furst

Jonathan Furst is an Apple Distinguished Educator and works in the Arts and Media Department at Amity Regional High School. He is co-founder of the blog DadsforCreativity.com and talks education technology on the blog EdReach.

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