The Art of Making Something for Nothing

by Lauren Dennis-Perelmuter
L.A. Parent
October 27, 2020

I remember when my youngest son was 6 years old and we were in the car. It was a quiet moment – rare, as we all know – and suddenly he says, “Mommy, if everything has to be invented or made, is everything art?” Hmmmm… I was taken aback by such a thoughtful question and replied, “Well, I think so.” As we continued our conversation, he repeatedly confirmed, “If we have to make everything, then we all have to make things all the time.”

That was the beginning of an ongoing dialogue that we continue to this day. Yes, the “thing” didn’t exist before it was created.

“The iPhone?” he asks.

Yes.

“The car, the pencil, the house?”

Yes, yes and yes. Even creating a birthday party and designing the cake.

I love it when we see our little one’s brains start to really process things. Making something from nothing is truly an art form. That blank paper, the blank report, the empty lot or the empty bowl. It all starts from nothing.

I believe that our “making and creating” muscles can be trained, exercised and strengthened over a lifetime. However, it is optimal to encourage and nourish creative thinking and making in childhood.

Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” If you think about it, imagination truly opens the door to all possibilities. Can you imagine how Walt Disney thought? Think about that.

So, how do we strengthen, nourish and encourage our children so that their imaginations will grow and their creativity will soar?

Here are two easy steps:

Increase creative play. It is imperative for children’s physical, emotional and social development. Providing open-ended art supplies without instructions or an end goal is a great first step. Take out some blocks, toy cars or dress-up clothes. Put on some dance music. Letting your child take the lead encourages complex problem solving. There are no mistakes in creative play. Let them tinker, ponder and have fun.

Getting outdoors. Why do we feel better, especially in today’s climate, and have more creative thoughts after a walk? “It’s all about giving your brain a break from the daily grind of technology, not to mention stress,” says David Strayer, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Utah. “The human mind is heavily influenced by the environment we’re in. Disconnecting from social media, cell phones and computers restores your prefrontal brain circuits, which are associated with creativity and higher-level thinking.” Join your kiddos outside. It’s good for you. too.

As Fred Rogers always said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”