When is creativity appropriate?

by Matthew Worwood

When is creativity appropriate? This is a question we explored with Ron Beghetto during a recent episode on the Fueling Creativity podcast. During the show, Ron shared a conversation he had with his daughter on their way back from school. It was a reflective story on when she was a Kindergartener. There had been a situation where she had generated a new expression to describe an incidence of fluctuance. From her perspective, she had done nothing wrong, she had followed the class rules. No potty words! And, if you listen to the podcast episode, you’ll note that if you were to create a list of old and potentially new potty words for a Kindergarten classroom, it is unlikely it would contain this particular expression for farting, passing wind, or smelly gas; so, had she broken the rules? Probably (from an adult perspective). However, she had also expressed a wonderful act of childhood creativity. Knowing potty words were banned from her classroom, she formulated a new way to express this moment without going against the teacher.

SEE ALSO: Creativity is about making connections

As parents I suspect we can all relate to this type of childhood creativity; we experience it daily. Our children want cookies from the top shelf and come up with a creative way to get up there; they generate uncomfortable ways to ask about the birds and the bees; they find ways to manipulate others to get their own way; and they do the most creative (and messy things) with objects they find around the house (including food at the dinner table). All these examples represent the many ways children interact creatively inside their environment. As parents, part of our role is facilitating and allowing these ongoing interactions to continue safely and appropriately. Children need to understand that their actions have consequences; a joke can offend, a fall can lead to a serious injury, and safety will always be a parents primary concern.


Funny. Clever. Original. Helpful. But is it appropriate?


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The context and environment will ultimately dictate many of these experiences. As children grow, we need to help them see their actions and the various outcomes of these actions from multiple perspectives. Yes, stacking up boxes on the chair to reach the cookie jar may get you the cookie, and we should praise the impressive engineering skills, but at the same time we must alert children to the real danger of falling and hurting themselves. Likewise, we want children to respect the views and needs of others who share that space; therefore, we must highlight times when their actions have (or may) cause offence. What’s interesting is raising awareness of these outcomes and situations without making our children feel they must conform every step of the way. I think this comes from generating questions about our environment and envisioning outcomes before we engage in certain actions. In our episode with Ron Beghetto, we discuss this a little more inside the context of formal education. Including the idea of when to be creative inside the box, and when there’s an opportunity to be creative outside the box. You can listen to this episode now on Spotify, Audible, or Apple Podcasts. Until then… I’ll leave you with a simple summary of a conversation with my youngest last night:


Daddy. Ok, it’s time to go to bed.

Youngest. But Daddy, I’m so excited to go to Sammy’s birthday party tomorrow.

Daddy. I know, and if you close your eyes and go to sleep, the party will arrive more quickly.

Youngest. Daddy, I’m scared.

Daddy. No, you’re not. You’re trying to keep me in this room for longer.

Daddy gets up to leave. 

Youngest. Wait! I have an important question.

Daddy turns around and looks at his son for a few seconds.

Daddy. No, you don’t.

Youngest. Yes, I do. I have so many questions I want to ask you. You know you like me asking questions.

Daddy. I do, but now isn’t an appropriate time to ask questions. Now is bedtime. Good night.

Matthew Worwood
Matthew Worwood is an educator, Creative Studies scholar-practitioner, and co-host of the Fueling Creativity in Education podcast. He is a professor of Digital Media Design at the University of Connecticut and a husband and proud father to three young boys.

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