“AHA!” Moments

“AHA!” Moments

Education December 05, 2018 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
“AHA!” Moments

A flash of inspiration can be productive and motivating, provided we take advantage of it. Here are five pointers to help kids appreciate the spark—and then fan the flames of creative thought and meaningful learning.

“Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.”

~ Rose Kennedy

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an “AHA!” moment as “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.” The expression “AHA!” moment apparently originated back in 1931, so it has been kicking around for almost 90 years. Various images of an “enlightened” person with a lightbulb hovering overhead have become common-place over the past several decades.

We’ve all experienced those times when a sudden occurrence makes our eyes widen, heart quicken, gut contract, and awareness sharpen—any or all of which signify that whatever we’re encountering, or feeling, is potentially new or meaningful. And so, this (whatever this is), demands our attention. An “AHA!” moment can hit without warning, or come about after prolonged deliberation, but it can be the start of something marvellous—a flash that leads to a visionary idea, an exciting adventure, a solution to a problem, a collaborative endeavor, or an act of kindness. It may also be the impetus for creative expression.

I’ve written elsewhere and often that creativity is a choice. And therefore, if we want children to choose to be creative, we must empower them to do so. How? By supporting their interests and efforts; demonstrating through our own creativity why it matters; providing them with ample opportunities to inquire, learn, stretch their boundaries, and tackle challenges; and encouraging them to embrace those “AHA!” moments that unexpectedly occur. 

The afore-mentioned dictionary definition’s points are realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, and comprehension, and these can act as a creativity compass of sorts. To that end, I punctuate each of the five points with a memorable quote, and some suggestions for making the most of those “AHA!” moments.


“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” 

~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Help children to believe in their capabilities and strengths. They will come to appreciate that they can do more, and potentially feel more confident, if they learn to take a proactive stance. An “AHA!” moment can be doubt-laden—because seeing it through to a pending outcome could be a risky, mysterious, jittery, or scary endeavor—or it can be exhilarating and potentially productive. Talk to kids about what an “AHA!” moment is (Eureka! Wow!), what it may lead to (such as deeper curiosity, and innovative problem-solving), and what to do if things get tough along the way. (For example, please refer to the two articles noted in the resources at the end of this article for strategies to help kids tackle confusion or challenge. And check out the "Raising Entrepreneurs Podcast" link as well to learn about one boy's "momentous" creation.) 


“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” 

~ Pablo Picasso

Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it.”

~ Bob Dylan

I struggled for a while, unable decide which of these two quotes to use here. Then I had an “AHA!” moment (albeit a rather small one), and I realized that I could cite both. The first quote about inspiration conveys the importance of working—whether independently or collaboratively. Effort can lead to inspired accomplishment. Children can be shown how and why this is true. The second quote emphasizes the importance of being open to possibilities whenever or wherever they occur. It may be upon waking from a dream, out of the blue, in a classroom, in the shower, while exercising, at the park, when listening to music… Kids can think about the many times they have felt inspired.


“A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience.”

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Insight can be acquired as a result of extensive or concentrated understandings, and through study and learning. However, insight often materializes abruptly or spontaneously, as when an unanticipated idea suddenly takes root, like a seedling that gets planted and then sprouts. Kids can reflect upon this or, alternatively, they can compare an “AHA!” moment to a kind of beacon that has the potential to light the way for sharper or more discerning ways of seeing or doing things. That single particularly insightful moment can be as valuable and joyous as a whole lot of moments.


“Maturity includes the recognition that no one is going to see anything in us that we don't see in ourselves. Stop waiting for a producer. Produce yourself.” 

~ Marianne Williamson 

Recognition has to do with awareness. What children perceive, detect, or acknowledge serves to inform, and perhaps even enhance their capacities. Kids can slough off an “AHA!” moment, or they can tap, consider, and use it for personal advantage and growth. The idea conveyed by author Williamson in the quote above suggests that individuals are responsible for creating their own life stories. When “AHA!’ moments are recognized, possibilities can evolve, come to fruition, and help to enrich those stories. What kinds of experiences do your children (and you) cherish, and extend? 


“Throughout the time in which I am working on a canvas I can feel how I am beginning to love it, with that love which is born of slow comprehension.”

~ Joan Miro

Comprehension is often a slow process—as exemplified by acclaimed artist Miro. However, that process may be comprised of a progression of shorter illuminating moments, or meaningful “AHAS!” These may take on increased significance over time, improve comprehension, promote personal growth, and stimulate love of learning and accomplishment. Comprehension can also happen swiftly, or instantaneously, as when someone tastes something new and delicious (“AHA!”) and knows immediately that it’s an exquisite or altering experience. How wonderful not to have missed it! Help children seek and find that which is unique, surprising, and motivating.


In the same way that creative expression is a choice so, too, is deciding to make the most of an “AHA!” moment, seizing the opportunity as opposed to letting it come and go without ever trying to build upon it. Or never knowing what might have been. The most “fruitful” or “buoying” learning opportunities and discoveries may come announced—like the apple that unexpectedly struck young Isaac Newton on the head and enabled him to discover the law of gravity, or the Eureka! solution regarding the principle of buoyancy that ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes suddenly discovered (supposedly) in the bathtub.  

Let’s help children better understand their “AHA!”-related flashes and breakthroughs, and encourage them to find, appreciate, and celebrate them (and others like them)—along with the potential creative possibilities that follow.



Readers can find information on a wide range of child development issues by checking out the award-winning book Being Smart about Gifted Education, by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster, and also Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (written by both authors). Dr. Foster’s most recent book is Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (recipient of the Independent Book Publishers’ Association’s 2018 Silver Benjamin Franklin Award), and its predecessor is Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination. To learn more about these books, and to acquire accessibility to a broad assortment of articles and links, go to www.joannefoster.ca. Information about professional development workshops and speaker sessions with Joanne Foster can also be found at this website.

For excellent resources on supporting and encouraging children’s optimal development, see the wide assortment of material published by Great Potential Press

For an article that will help kids deal with confusion, click here.  

For an article that will help kids get through challenge by using creativity, click here

Tripp Phillips is a 9 years old inventor. His "AHA!" moment led to the creation and development of a product that has resulted in a successful business venture that continues to grow. Find out more by listening to Episode 60 at Raising Entrepreneurs Podcast. And, you can listen to stories shared by other creative and entrepreneurial young people because there are many similarily motivating podcasts on this website! 

To see more Creativity Post articles written by Dr. Joanne Foster, click here

And, just for fun, here’s a Youtube video about Archimedes’ discovery that children will enjoy.

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