creativity advice from three year olds


“Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called ‘all the things that could go wrong’.”  Marianne Williamson

In another life, I taught in a Montessori school. The kids were aged three to four, and if you’ve ever taught or played with these tiny beings you will know that it can be awesome and frustrating by turns. Let’s focus on the awesome for now. Specifically, how awesome little kids are at art and creativity in general. We’ll call this the kid list.

  • They are tiny powerhouses of ideas, with no fear of acting on them.
  • They love their own work and proudly share it with others.
  • Anything is possible for them, including purple trees and many-limbed people. Empty boxes become castles and cars, and mess is a fun but unimportant by-product of doing the Important Stuff.

Being creative when you’re small is usually just one of a rainbow of things you get to do as an inevitable and natural part of your daily life. It’s how you express who you are.

So how do you express who you are creatively ~ and derive all the benefits from doing that ~ when you’re not a kid anymore?

Obviously, as an adult your daily concerns are {relatively speaking} rather more important than who gets the next go on the scooter or how to avoid eating anything green. However, I am in no way convinced that that means such an important part of who we are must be elbowed out in favour of things with adult labels on them. Let’s look at the kid list again; how often can we tick off all those qualities for ourselves? This is often the adult version of it:

  • When we do have ideas, we often second guess ourselves and are afraid to try them because we have already looked ahead at the possible outcomes and made judgements.
  • If we do {dare to} love what we create we frequently battle with the fear of sharing it, in case of judgement or ridicule, or being accused of arrogance if we admit that we love it.
  • When we look at objects ~ and art ~ as adults, we tend to look from a perspective of limitation {because of everything we ‘already know’}. An empty box is something for the recycling, and mess is something you’re only going to have to clear up.

You don’t need to try and squeeze yourself into your {probably limiting} definition of the word ‘artist’ to actually just go ahead and make some art.

Art, and being creative in general, can be very simple and very quick. Of course you’ll hear the voice that says you can’t, you don’t have time, you’re no good, you’re wasting materials, and on and on with all its reasons. Everyone hears that voice, even the most accomplished artists. And there will always be reasons.

You can let those reasons trample down the little kid longings to have a go and see what happens, or you can be aware of the inner dialogue, recognise it as just words, and {since silencing it permanently is nigh on impossible} just decide to let it be a minor passenger along for the ride.

Take a tip from the kid list and see what happens if you give yourself ten minutes with some colourful crayons and the back of an envelope, or whatever seems fun to you. Even better, if you have access to a three-year-old, let them show you how it’s done!

What holds you back from expressing your creative self with the abandon of a child? What one thing would you really like to try if only you could get past the voice of limitation? What would get you doing that one thing today?

3 thoughts on “creativity advice from three year olds

  1. I’ve worked so hard on this for the past several years! It’s such a long journey to let ourselves really feel free to express ourselves creatively. My perfectionism is my biggest barrier, for sure! I’m never confident that I’ll be able to transfer what I imagine to an actual realized piece of art – and I’m often not, of course, because I’m still learning. I just put so much pressure on myself. But I keep pushing through and I’m so glad I’ve been able to let go!

    But there is one thing that I haven’t really given a good chance, and that’s drawing faces and figures. I’m so convinced that I’ll never get good enough that I haven’t spent more than a total of a few hours working on it over the years.

  2. I understand Christen – possibly part of the reason I wholeheartedly embraced making art intuitively without a plan was because of that very reason! It’s a practice like anything I find; there’s no end point where suddenly you never encounter the perfectionism again. You just learn to recognise it when it comes up and not take it so seriously. Just let it do it’s thing while you carry on doing what you love. :)

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