A very insightful five-year-old girl named Dina once taught me a very important lesson. I was teaching her class a song I’d written, one of those songs where the children were supposed to supply the rhyming words at the ends of silly phrases – like “Today when I put on my hat, it started meowing like a _____” – and I thought it was quite clever. Anyway, in the middle of it Dina raised her hand. She looked troubled.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
Kindly, but seriously, she explained, “Miss Abby, this isn’t fun.”
I forget exactly how I responded to this remark, but I do remember that I dropped the song like a hot potato and moved on to something else.
My goal in teaching is to nurture young children’s enjoyment of the creative arts, and beyond that, their enjoyment of creative thinking in general. If children are not having fun, they’re not engaged, they’re not coming up with ideas, and they’re not thinking creatively.
Group creativity flourishes in environments where there is a spirit of fun, humor, spontaneity, and playfulness. It is dampened by too much emphasis on skill, correctness, and “playing by the rules.”
Fun is also an important part of individual creativity. There’s a wonderful story about the artist Renoir when he was a young student. A teacher who was criticizing one of his paintings asked him scornfully if he was painting just to amuse himself. Renoir reportedly replied, “Certainly! If it didn’t amuse me, I wouldn’t be doing it!”
When children are sharing their creative ideas with me, they’re smiling, their eyes are lighting up, they’re bouncing up and down with excitement and pure joy. They’re learning how much fun it is to have ideas, and they’re well on their way to a lifetime of creative thinking.
Someone once said, “You can have fun without being creative, but you can’t be creative without having fun.” Very true!
This piece originally appeared in my book “Teaching Creativity,” available on Amazon and other online booksellers.