One Key Ingredient to Creativity (and a bit of a rant)

I cannot begin to express my frustration with several up and coming ages/generations inability to think, create, or self-educate. However, it makes me more determined and creative to find ways to reach this mindset and change it. In that effort, I consistently see one MAJOR problem with individuals lacking creativity, motivation, and the ability to learn and experiment. This key ingredient of creativity is usually taught to us by our parents and then we take the baton and teach ourselves a little later in life. This key ingredient causes us to be curious, experiment, discover and actively (not passively) learn from our experiences.

The Story

One day, not so long ago, I discovered a pet peeve of mine: quitting within the moment of apparent futility. My daughter is two years old. She has a stroller for her dolly and it was trapped between a step ladder (small one) and her play kitchen.


After two tugs of the stroller, she gives up and starts to scream. I hate this. I loathe it with all my being. I hate the attitude of giving up immediately without even trying something else. However, I had to realize something. Addie doesn’t have a key ingredient to solve problems (because frankly her brain isn’t equipped to do so) so I have to teach it to her. That key ingredient is Resourcefulness.

Addie isn’t resourceful and she isn’t supposed to be at this point. She is only discovering that objects in her world are really under her command.  However, I decided to try to show her. I had her come over to the step ladder, I placed her hands on it and we pulled it over together. She then realized she had enough room to get her stroller out. You could see her look a little thoughtfully at the step ladder but then she was over it. However, what about those kids and adults (who don’t have mental developmental issue)s to get in their way…what is their problem?

The Problem

The Mind is Numb

With the prevalent culture of video games, internet, and fast-at-your-fingertips media; we don’t have to think too far for an answer or general mental stimulation. Also, children these days are spoiled. They are given massive amounts of entertaining stimuli (TV in their rooms, gaming systems, etc), or a plethora of toys. With all of these tools available, when does the child have time or need to be imaginative or resourceful with the few things they have? Answer: They don’t.

I had a lot of toys growing up and 1 Nintendo system (original of course), and yes, I would argue they did me more harm than good. However, I played with those things very minimally. I also played outside and pretended to be superheroes or monsters with friends. I also explored our yard and learned about nature. The prevalent stimuli from mind numbing activities was far less than what they are today. We also just got rid of our tv in the last couple months. We were watching it or keeping it on as background noise WAY too much. So it had to go. We were wasting time in front of it and getting a bit fatter because we weren’t moving, so we decided enough is enough.

We have all heard the mantra “Practice Makes Perfect”. Which it doesn’t, only perfect practice makes perfect. Practice makes permanent. If we practice a mind numbing activity for 1-3 hours a day (or more), how proficient and good are we going to get at not using our brains? I would argue there are people very skilled in that area because they practice not thinking. If we replaced that activity with one that engages our strengths and talents, how good would we be at that activity? You get the point (and beyond the obvious addiction problems, I will end my rant here).

How to Encourage Resourcefulness


So some will think I am too extreme getting rid of tv (we will keep it around for educational videos and the occasional movie, but moving it off the wall in the living room has made life so much better for us) or video games and that is fine. However, I would argue that the amount of time devoted to such activities that are unproductive is just as extreme.

What about kids who want to go into computer programing, film, acting, or making video games?

Ok. So why watch films and play video games instead of learning programming, acting, or shooting your own videos and learning about lighting and sound? Sure you watch or play with classic media to learn from them but that is a smaller exercise than actually creating media.

Say “No” or vastly limit resources

Your kid wants help or wants a toy so they can do a specific thing with it. I recently saw an awesome sword made by nerf:

Nerf Sword

It’s pretty awesome and yes, is owned by a grown man. These go for around $40 and comes with a warning that you shouldn’t poke anyone with it (yeah right). A stick from a tree is free. Let them be resourceful. They don’t have to have everything under the sun to entertain themselves. They can get creative and find things to play with and by Jove, be happy with it.

So say no and limit their resources so that HAVE to be resourceful. This is more truer to real life. Budgetary cuts, layoffs, sickenss, income problems, etc….all require you to be resourceful and creative. However, if someone who has practiced being non-resourceful comes against these challenges, they have a real hard time…or move back in with mom and dad (the origin of their resources).

The Story (continues)

I have had this post in draft form for a while because I wanted to write it at my leisure and we have been very busy potty training and seeing new babies being born in the family. Well, the stroller incident happened a few weeks ago, and to my surprise something happened. Addie is now potty trained but still has a toy potty hanging around. She has this activity where she used window markers to make art projects on our back sliding glass door. Well, we keep the markers in a drawer in the kitchen so that she has to ask and she only gets one at a time.

Well, while I was working, she was drawing but I noticed she was drawing and then not drawing and then drawing again. She was getting different colors! (we have about 4) I stopped what I was doing, looked in the kitchen, and sure enough she had moved the play potty to the marker drawer which provided her enough height to get the markers herself. I couldn’t be more proud 🙂 But it doesn’t end here, I took away the potty after a few days.

After being gone for about a week, we finally came home and she got back into her routine. She likes to sit on the counter so she can help and watch us cook or what have you. Well, with her potty being gone she has no other tools really to help herself. Well, against all efforts, she found a lunch box somewhere (I have no idea) and uses that now to help prop herself up. I love it.

Show your kids resourcefulness and then provide them with a limited supply of resources so they can be resourceful themselves. I am sure there is a mathematical equation for inverse or something but I am not that good at math. So I will be resourceful and ask anyone with that kind of knowledge reading this, if you can make one, I’d appreciate it.

– JB

CreativeDad (Twitter)


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