Friday, February 3, 2012

Essence of Creativity

The essence of creativity is to be able to disassemble and recombine elements in new ways. ~Adele Diamond

Today I'm spending the day reading, something that I love to do. I'm reading Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinsky. She includes the above quote in her book. 

Of course, this quote triggered my reflections about this past week...and what the kids did.

I put out cards with letters, rocks, and "gems" - the idea to line the letters with the rocks and gems.

I put out play dough for kids to do what kids do with play dough.

Since these two things were on tables near each other, I mentioned to Mrs. Cindy that some of the rocks and gems may migrate to the play dough table...and that would be fine. Well, here's what happened.

(birthday cakes)

(rock holder)


The kids were exercising great creativity - disassembling elements and recombining them. They were building on each other's ideas. They were creating, deconstructing, re-creating, breaking apart, putting together. 

This kind of activity will be important for the rest of their lives. Whatever job or task they are doing, these kids will need to see things in a different light, take apart what they know and recombine it into new ways, pull from disparate locations to create understanding or new ideas. 

Then I realized that the essence of creativity isn't the ability to do this - it's the freedom to do this. Kids (and teenagers and adults) must be allowed to disassemble and recombine elements. As a teacher, I must allow the kids to take the gems to the play use a doll with the paint with a plastic hammer. Now, I know there are times these recombining ideas may not work (for a variety of reasons). But, as a teacher, I must be willing to say yes whenever I can.

Give the freedom...nurture the ability...encourage creativity. 


  1. Oh yes! Encouraging Creativity
    I love your photos. Our counters (and gems) always end up in the play dough tub.

  2. Wonderful post! I love the content and the activity!

  3. Why is that such a hard lesson for adults? I struggle with it often. It could be my "controlling" behavior. Often I find myself stopping, letting go and allowing. I'm never surprised that they come up with more creative ways to play than I. :)

  4. What about the next kid who wants to use the plastic hammer -- does the kid who painted with it clean it up afterward and put it back in its proper place? Do the kids who embed gems in the play dough separate them again into their places when they're done, for the benefit of the next kids who want to use them?

    1. Marcy, the short answer is yes. When the kids were done with the gems inthe play dough, they pulled them out and sorted them into the appropriate containers (with a little encouragement from us). In addition to gems being ready for others to use, it makes cleanup time easier later - and the adults aren't doing all the work. After all, part of play and creativity is responsibility of cleaning and caring for materials.