Life is a Circus

Fostering Childhood Creativity

Emilie Barton’s life shows us that parents should both encourage freedom and exploration, and be present and attentive collaborators.

Emilie Barton’s early work as a painter shows us how creativity can be nurtured and developed during childhood. The Bartons’ approach to home schooling provides a tremendous example of how to bring out the best in a child, in a manner supported by academic research on childhood education. As with every great recipe, it doesn’t call for a single solution, but rather a balance: encouraging independence and being present for your child. Here is where theory and practice meet in Emilie’s story: 

Recognize that human beings are inherently creative 

Each human being is adept at creativity, from childhood on. And we all dream. The first step is to recognize that the capacity to be creative lives within all of us. That helps us We all learn to develop an identity and find our place in the world. And we all dream. 

Allow kids the autonomy to explore ideas and do what they want 

Christine Carter, PhD, a Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center, puts it this way: “Stop living in fear that they’re going to be kidnapped or not get into a good college.” Emilie Barton’s childhood clearly shows how important it is to allow kids the freedom to pursue what interests them the most.  

Provide the resources they need 

Mitchel Resnick, the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab, says it’s not just about giving children freedom; you need to be there for them as they explore – as the Bartons do. That means, among other things:  

  • Providing such things as art supplies, costumes and building materials 
  • Getting involved as a collaborator 
  • Showing examples that spark ideas 
  • Making time in your life for projects 

Remember to play 

As parents work with children, they should remember that creativity, play and pleasure are all closely related. Experts like Resnick and Carter emphasize that children should learn to read for pleasure, for instance. Most importantly, they emphasize that creativity is about process and not product.  

In other words, don’t get too hung up on output, but do remember that this is something you should do together and enjoy.

Keep reading