Jonathan Stroud is on a mission to unlock our children’s imaginations and natural creativity. How? “Give your child the time and space to start creating and there’s no limit to where they’ll go,” says the Lockwood & Co author. His Freedom To Think campaign, launched last year, calls for parents to ring-fence at least one period a week for unstructured thinking time. The result? A few minutes of boredom, a whole lot of play – and much, much more. Here, Jonathan explains…
Today’s children seem to be under more pressure than ever before, with exams, homework, clubs and scheduled activities taking up more and more of their time. Many of these things are of course hugely positive and necessary, but it struck me (when considering my own kids) that there’s a danger that we neglect those equally vital quiet moments when children are free to drift, daydream and do what they like. It’s from these unstructured times that so much creativity develops. It’s also when many of us begin to discover who we are. Here are five surprising things that your child could learn from having freedom to think today…
- That boredom isn’t boring at all
Structured activities are fantastic in many ways, but when a child is left to his or her own devices, they gravitate naturally towards subjects/pastimes/skills that interest them deep down. To begin with there is boredom; boredom quickly leads to play; and out of play comes creativity. There’s a direct line between that first momentary emptiness of having ‘nothing to do’ and the inspiration that comes when you start to figure out ways of filling your free time.
- There’s fun to be had everywhere
Creative moments are often unexpected. When the mind wanders, surprising jumps are made, with outcomes that couldn’t have been predicted. Each period of ‘empty time’ varies – there might be new things lying around to play with; recent experiences are different too. The beauty of giving a child freedom to think is that there are no required outcomes. Whatever they end up doing is valid and a positive thing: this stimulates and encourages them.
- There’s no end to the possibilities
A stick found in a hedge might become: a sword, a magic wand, a witch’s broom, a dalek’s plunger, the leg of a fossil dinosaur, a conductor’s baton, part of a robber’s den in the woods, a pointer leading to pirate gold, the arm of a sundial – and that’s not even scratching the surface!
- From imaginative play comes self-belief
Following one’s own nose leads to greater self-confidence. As soon as you begin to devise your own stories, experiments, art, games or sports, you get a fantastic emotional kick-back. You’ve had a great time, and it’s come through your own efforts and your own imagination. That starts to instill a deep self-belief that should continue accruing through life.
- Less equals a lifetime of more
Left to my own devices as a kid, I wrote and drew and made stuff – stories, comics and games. Now, not entirely coincidentally, I’m an author, who is still doing pretty much the same sort of thing. I’m sure that many people in many fields would be able to show the link between those free-time activities they enjoyed when young, and who they’ve turned out to be.
Follow the campaign on twitter at: @iamfree2think