Is Experience the Key to Learning and Creative Expression?

Is Experience the Key to Learning and Creative Expression?

Education October 21, 2020 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
Is Experience the Key to Learning and Creative Expression?

Find out why and how experience has a bearing on children’s development—and discover many experiential strategies to help kids flourish.


Albert Einstein said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.”

Do you agree?

As the school year continues to unfold, here are three things for parents to ponder:

  1. Experience is an adventure. It is unique to the individual, and it is often unscripted.
  2. Experience is a teacher. It helps enrich the mind and strengthen the soul.
  3. Experience is unavoidable. It evolves, in some form or another and whether we’re aware of it or not, from cradle to crypt.

Past experiences are formative.

But what about the future?

Experience can unlock possibilities and pave the way for progress. Growth and fulfilment happen when people embark on new experiences. These can happen anywhere, any time. Experiences provide a context for learning, including helping children understand their abilities, thoughts, feelings, limitations, preferences, challenges, and other dimensions of life.


“Combine a sense of commitment with the longing to succeed, then build upon proficiencies, venture out on a limb, and voila!” ~ ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids, P. 38

How can parents support children’s motivation, and foster their engagement in new and optimal learning experiences? Here are several considerations.

  • Active involvement. Help children become actively involved in creating their own intelligence and creative opportunities through experiences. Encourage kids to take part in independent, shared, imaginative, and hands-on games, play, and multi-sensory activities. Children become stronger, wiser, and more self-reliant by building upon what they learn. This becomes the foundation for future initiatives and outcomes.
  • The arts. Encourage children’s involvement in the arts. These pursuits are enriching, and they serve to extend children’s abilities and skill sets. Participation in music, theatre, dance, story writing, drawing, and other artistic activities provide countless avenues for experiential learning.
  • Nature. Sensory-rich experiences—preferably outdoors—enable children to see, feel, hear, smell, and touch the world around them. Interaction with natural surroundings can promote greater appreciation of green spaces, wildlife, parklands, forests, flowers, and conservation efforts—and can be soothing and invigorating, too. (For more on this, see “The Nature of Creativity: Calling All Children” in The Creativity Post.)
  • Determination, resilience, and staying power. These attributes facilitate meaningful learning experiences. Perseverance, a strong problem-solving attitude, and a willingness to ask for help all show resolve. Children who see the adults in their lives learning, working hard, and being resilient, learn that effort and commitment lead to fulfilling experiences.
  • Physical activities. Sports, exercise, team participation, and involvement in various activities on land, water, and wheels, can fortify children’s motor skills, and strengthen their physical development. “It is not enough to stimulate children’s minds in the absence of other forms of stimulation. Physical activity is important for optimal health, and general well-being.” (~ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids. p. 40.)
  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being in the moment and becoming attuned to body, mind, senses, and surroundings. A benefit of such experiences is that kids learn to become more reflective, and less reactive to the many potential stressors that life might throw their way. (See also Reflective Habits of Mind—and Kids in The Creativity Post.)
  • Positivity. Conveying helpful, optimistic, and upbeat messages can help children think likewise, and get through challenge or duress. A positive frame of mind invites creative thinking, promise, and self-assurance. Positive experiences outshine negative ones, and feel gratifying, too.
  • Connectivity. Strengthen home, school, and community connections. “It’s helpful if parents work together with their child’s teachers and healthcare professionals, determining needs based on the lived experience of the child, building a framework from which to address them.” (~ ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids, p. 44.) There are many ways for children to acquire meaningful “lived experiences” through connectivity with others, including reading clubs and library offerings, conservation venues, learning centers, technology, mentorships, volunteerism, entrepreneurial opportunities, community service, and more.
  • Resources. Parents can augment their knowledge about child development and optimal experiences, including exploration, play, creativity, and self-directed learning. They can acquire information from multiple sources (such as reference materials, family, friends, and professional networks), and find opportunities to discuss ideas, recommendations, contexts, and viewpoints.
  • Choice is instrumental. Individuals’ aspirations are their own to experience. As children mature and acquire autonomy, they’ll increasingly decide what to try. They may immerse themselves in a task—or not. Their choices may vary; for instance, they be intuitive, eclectic, rudimentary, sophisticated, or puzzling. Parents should respect their child’s “need to know,” domain-specific interests, and abilities, and appreciate that the constellation of experiences that derive from them, are likely to change over time.


Many people might argue that experience is not the only key to optimal development. For example, there is curiosity, effort, reinforcement, values education, goal-setting, health—and other factors that have a bearing on children’s intelligence and creativity, and on their social-emotional and physical well-being, too. However, whether or not you agree with Albert Einstein’s words about experience being “the only source of knowledge,” the truth is that experience fuels understandings—and this, in turn, underlies and empowers new experiences, and personal growth. Encourage children to celebrate the joys and fulfillment of their various lived experiences, support them in doing so, and have faith that they will make you proud.

For more on experiential possibilities, and on ways to nurture children’s optimal development, see Dr. Joanne Foster’s most recent book, ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids: Hundreds of Ways to Inspire Your Child. And, visit the Resources Page at for articles on intelligence, creativity, productivity, and more. (COVID-related material is marked with a red asterisk.)

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