The "NATURE" of Creativity: Calling All Children!

The "NATURE" of Creativity: Calling All Children!

Education May 26, 2020 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
The "NATURE" of Creativity: Calling All Children!
SYNOPSIS

Get lost COVID! Families are gradually transitioning from confinement. Here are eight ways parents can help children discover pathways of healing, renewal, and inspiration through nature.

"Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher."

~ William Wordsworth

The past several weeks have been complicated, and challenging. As families begin to emerge from their COVID-busting cocoons, there is a re-awakening of appreciation for nature—most notably, its beauty, energizing power, and inspiring elements. 

With increasing opportunities for outdoor play, families must continue to maintain vigilance so as to protect themselves from viral infection. Physical distancing is still prudent. However, as regulations ease somewhat, children are able to engage in more outdoor activities. 

Spring has burst forth (fresh air, cherry blossoms, baby birds), the weather is improving, and people are finally starting to see some light penetrating the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are several examples of how nature can invigorate the mind and stimulate creativity as families begin to straddle the line between strict sheltering at home and cautious venturing forth. 

EIGHT IMPORTANT POINTS FOR PARENTS TO CONSIDER

1.   

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

~ Aristotle

Provide opportunities for children to have sensory-rich experiences outside. Perhaps in a wooded area, garden, or park, or along a lesser-known trail—while listening, observing, hearing, and touching the world around them. Kids can engage in unstructured play, running, climbing, and exploring. This has the potential to arouse their senses, foster autonomy, promote physical wellness and healthy motor development, and enable them to try out new games and outlets for creative expression.

2.

“My husband will tell you one of the most frequent questions he gets from world leaders is, 'How's your wife's garden?’”

~ Michelle Obama

Appreciate the green spaces, wherever they might be. Urban areas continue to sprawl, and parkland is growing scarce. We must value it and encourage children to do likewise. Parents can demonstrate how to be advocates for more parkland, and for nature-based education programs such as sustainable gardening, biology and nature clubs, and arts activities that encourage children to capture the wonder of the outdoors. Children can also self-advocate for those kinds of learning opportunities, and participate in efforts addressing climate change, saving wildlife, and preserving the forests, lakes, and sanctity of nature.

3.

“Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!'”

~ Robin Williams

Embrace spring. It can feel especially joyous after several weeks of staying at home. Sharing the natural world feels like a much-needed break from what has been a very tumultuous time—one that has given rise to variable and intense emotions. People are craving a pleasurable change of venue, which can give rise to optimism as well as poetry, art, songs, picture-taking, journaling, and better physical and emotional health. Connectivity with the natural world also leads to greater sensitivity, caring, and awareness. Becoming immersed in natural surroundings can help children feel relaxed, express themselves, and feel validated in their emotions.  

4.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

~Albert Einstein

Children don’t really need fancy or manufactured toys. Nature—and natural materials—are often superior, inviting children to be resourceful, imaginative, and inventive. Families are relishing nature walks; artists, writers, photographers, and musicians are sharing views of the world in new ways; and individuals are taking time to focus on tiny flowers squeezing through pavement stones, the scent of pine, chirping birds, budding trees, and small animals racing about and pirouetting across high branches. This is a time of emergence. It is a longed-for transition from a time of emergency, and with this yearning comes the possibility for increased appreciation for the beauty of nature and the ways in which it can enliven spirits, soothe souls, and spark creativity. What manufactured toy is able to do all that? 

5.

“We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts.”

~ William Hazlitt

Teach children to breathe deeply, and to be mindful of the present moment. Mindfulness is the practice of opening up to—and being conscious of—the here and now, and immediate surroundings. It has been incorporated into many school curriculum frameworks, often aligned with outdoor experiences. Mindfulness can help kids feel less overwhelmed and reactive. It can also reduce stress, improve the quality of sleep, and heighten their ability to focus. Moreover, it can promote happiness, life balance, and reflection. Photographer Natalia Harlow melds mindfulness and creativity, and her pictures are striking. She pauses to capture meaningful moments while on nature walks, and she graciously shares these images on Instagram. (Thank you!) Her mindfulness, discerning eye, and penchant for the atypical angle or unusual shot, allow others to see that might not otherwise be perceived. Encourage children to pause, seize “aha! moments,” reflect upon them, perhaps draw or take pictures, and use the experiences as catalysts for further thought and creativity. (One of Natalia's lovely photos is featured below.) 


6.

“Art is a harmony parallel with nature.”

~ Paul Cezanne

Encourage children to engage in artistic endeavors. Miriam Slan is a Canadian artist who paints landscapes and gardens using a contemporary approach. She prefers bold brushstrokes, and vibrant and sometimes unexpected colours, and her paintings are defined by the ways in which she is able to capture light and the changing seasons. Miriam not only enjoys nature, she is inspired by it! (Her painting "Washago Splendour," shown here, is indicative of that.) She reveals, however, that the “bleakness of the pandemic” has made it difficult for some artists to be motivated. She says, “I have found that ‘getting lost in the moment’ when I’m painting is a wonderful distraction and escape.” Being able to experience nature—a rippling stream, a granite rockface, a soft patch of moss, a field of wild flowers, a grassy marsh—is one thing. Finding a creative outlet so as to share, savor, and remember it, is something else. Miriam says that creative expression is gratifying, comforting, and a great release. Painting, drawing, singing, or writing about nature is both exciting and soothing—for people of all ages.  


7.

“The earth laughs in flowers.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Acknowledge that some children may be apprehensive about going out and about again after long periods of quarantine and sheltering in place. An outing into nature can be a dash into clear air and sunshine or, alternatively, a slow, measured re-entry into the world, among familiar surroundings. For those feeling hesitant or vulnerable, it may be a journey of small, comfortable steps, reflective of resilience, courage, stress management, and a willingness to stretch boundaries and seek happiness after rather constrained living. Parents can model reflection, inquiry, and their own intellectual growth, and encourage children to take it one step at a time—and to inquire along the way. (What is this green sprout? Why is it growing here? How did it survive the winter? Where else does it grow? When will it bloom? Who can I show it to?) This is how kids develop new ideas and attitudes, gain confidence, find joy, and seize opportunities to expand their intellectual and creative capabilities. Children may have many questions, or just a few, but questions represent the beginnings of critical, creative, and divergent thought. Parents are well-positioned to offer guidance and support by fostering curiosity and initiative, being responsive to questions, and providing reassurance as needed. 

8.

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”

~ e. e. cummings

Help children understand that elements of nature may be “big” or “small.” Think expansive vistas, beach excursions, or long hikes—versus the intricate details of a snail’s shell, a soft feather, or a spider’s web. There’s something for everyone, at any time of day, in any kind of weather. Truly, there’s no end to the possibilities for exploration, fun, eco-consciousness, imaginative musings, creative expression, or discussion with others about the majesty and power of nature!  

LAST WORDS

“We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.”

~ Albert Einstein

         Although the COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world and shaken notions of normalcy, nature has maintained its grandeur throughout. Children can investigate, question, and enjoy nature; consider its impact and the many creative possibilities; and appreciate it as an uplifting antidote to the challenges that they and their families have endured. Never underestimate the infinite expanse and healing power of nature! 

“We may not be able to catch a star, count all the seashells, or climb a mountain but there’s lots we can do if only we try—and believe in ourselves. Lewis Carroll wrote, “Sometimes I’ve believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” It’s fun, and also potentially productive, to ponder possibilities...”

ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids, p. 70

READING AND RESOURCES 

Joanne Foster’s most recent book is ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids: Hundreds of Ways to Inspire Your Child.  Readers can find further information about optimal child development by checking out Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster). Dr. Foster also wrote Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (recipient of the Independent Book Publishers’ Association’s 2018 Silver Benjamin Franklin Award), and its predecessor Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination. To learn more about these books, and for access to a wide range of articles and links (including many that are COVID-related), go to www.joannefoster.ca. Information about professional development workshops and speaker sessions with Dr. Foster can also be found at this website. Her new Instagram account is @fosteringkidssuccess

For excellent resources on supporting and encouraging creativity and gifted/high-level development see the assortment of material at Gifted Unlimited LLC.  

Click here to connect to a site with a wonderful and creative botanical animation called “Story of Flowers” - plus links to additional nature-inspired material for children and adults.


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