Supporting creativity in kids
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and authors of A Kids Book About Creativity, Sara and Stewart Scott Curran. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
What is creativity?
Stewart: Creativity is just the expression of the fun that you want to have, um, in your, in your brain.
Sara: And I think that shows up for everybody differently. We both have such a different approach to creativity in our daily lives. We both consider ourselves [to be] really creative.
Creativity is so big! It’s all the possibilities your imagination can dream up. It can be everything from making cupcakes, to putting together an awesome costume, to so much more.
Stewart: I think the way that a lot of folks think about creativity means you're artistic. It means you're good at drawing images. It means you're good at painting. Maybe you can build things. Maybe you can write good stories.
We just think [creativity] is much broader than that. We think it's really just about using your imagination. However you use your imagination to invent something, to play a game, to decide what you want to wear today, that ultimately is creativity. You know, it's either solving a problem in a unique way to you, or it's just having fun with and letting your imagination go. And ultimately you know, that really is creativity.
Did you know that your creativity is special? You’re going to think up so many amazing creative things, and that will look different than my creativity, or your friend’s, or your teacher’s. Your creativity is something that can only come from you.
Stewart: I believe everyone is creative in all kinds of ways, every single day, whether we even notice it or not. You know, like I say, when you wake up in the morning and you decide what to wear.
You decide what you want to have for breakfast. You might decide what book you're going to read that day. You might decide what game you want to play. Those are all creative decisions, you know, and it doesn't have to be about a conscious decision about creating something, you know, I think your brain is praying to be creative and solve problems.
And that's really for us, is creativity and you almost do it without thinking about it. I think we are just praying to be creative.
Sara: And I think what's cool about creativity is that it's such an individual thing. And so it's [a] really innate, honest, authentic expression of who someone is.
And so I think it's something that I really enjoy looking for and experiencing in others because it shows it so differently all the time, which is really beautiful.
Sometimes we tell ourselves that creativity has to look one specific way. That might be really discouraging if we don’t see that in ourselves. But maybe there’s another way to see our creative abilities.
Sara: If you feel like you're not creative, you're probably creative in a really original and exciting way that you don't yet recognize, because maybe you're not an artistic person. Maybe it's not the common definition of being creative, but maybe you're expressing that in a way that's really special and unique to you and your skillset. And I think sometimes people think that they're not creative as they get older.
Stewart : Yeah, the world likes to put us into boxes and neat little packets. And I think when you're a child and you're creating, you're creative, you're just doing it for the joy. You don't even think about what you're doing or why you're doing it. You're just doing something because you love it.
And you know, as we get older, the world and society likes to kinda try and put labels on that and say something is more creative than something else. And ultimately I think I prefer the definition that is a little bit more undefined as it was. It doesn't really matter what you're doing, if you're doing it for the joy of it and the love of it, then, then you are doing something creative.
Sara: And I think if you're feeling like you're not creative, and you're like, man, I wish I was creative. [Ask yourself] How could I be creative? Chasing the joy is how you get there.
When you express yourself with creativity, what emotions do you experience? Does it feel energizing? Exciting? Happy? How does creativity make you feel?
Sara: Proud. Excited.
For myself, as a kid, I always thought that being called or thought of as creative is one of the highest compliments you could get paid.
And it was something I always wanted to be really excellent at art. My dream was that my art teacher, Ms. Kayla, would put my art up in the art show and I would be picked, and it didn't happen for me until high school. But it did happen at one time, but it was like something I really aspired to.
And when I think about myself now, I think about owning my creativity in a very different way than a lot of people, but I feel really proud about it. Because I'm a huge creative problem solver. When you think about skills or tools for creativity, I think about things that people don't sometimes—like calculators and Excel tools and math and these kinds of things.
Stewart: I think for me, ultimately, the joy is just in the, you know, the act of creation. It's about making something that was bringing something into the world that wasn't there before, you know? And you know, that can be a piece of writing. That can be something visual. That can be making some foods from just some simple ingredients.
I think for me, the joy is in the creation and then being able to share that and hopefully allowing that to become something that brings people together, maybe starts a conversation. Maybe it makes them smile or makes them laugh. You know? I think that ultimately trying to connect with people through fun things that you bring into the world is really how I feel when I'm being my most creative.
Sometimes when I’m trying really, really hard to do something creative, it can feel intimidating—like there are too many possibilities, and maybe I can never get it right or make the right decision. It can be frustrating or discouraging when I’m not able to activate my creative brain.
Do you ever struggle when you’re trying to be creative? Stewart shared a really great piece of advice that I think will help.
Stewart: If you have something specific that you want to do you want to create, it's almost about just thinking about doing something different.
Like our brains work in really kind of weird and wonderful and mysterious ways, and they do a lot of work in the background when we're not even noticing it. You know, when we're sleeping, for example, like, you know, people, people will say, "um, oh, I'll go sleep on it." You know, like there's a reason for that. And that is because your brain works in the background when you don't even notice it.
And so, you know, my advice to anyone who's trying to come up with an idea for a story or whatever it may be and you're having trouble, is just like go do something different, you know? Go for a walk, go outside, just change up what you're doing. Just think about something different and unbeknown to you—your brain will continue to work on this problem in the background. And then when you're least expecting it, the answer will pop in there.
Before we go, I want to leave you with one last bit of wisdom from Stewart and Sara.
Stewart: I would just encourage anybody who you know either considers themselves not to be creative or who sees other people making things and doing things that they feel that they can't do. I would just encourage them to just find their own path and whatever it is that they find joy in doing, just do that, you know, and lean into that.
And find the thing that you just love to do for the sake of it. And who knows what type of path that may end up taking, taking you down? Um, I think like when we do things, from just an authentic place of joy and happiness—that's when you know, real magic can happen. And so, you know, don't worry about what anybody else is gonna think about what you're doing or why you're doing it. Just do it because you love it and have fun.
Sara: And if you're doing something that's really different than everybody else, that could actually be an awesome thing. Right? Looking at things differently, taking different approaches. Having your own creativity show up. So uniquely in you, it's about [the] thought of being an original, and really owning that.
That's the beginning of really making your mark on the world and a mark that only you can make.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week we spoke with Sara Scott Curran and Stewart Scott Curran, the authors of A Kids Book About Creativity.