The Magic of Making Stories:

Why kids lose their creative edge

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Why children lose their creative edge

All kids are born creative. It’s a gift from their Creator. But when given the choice, many children today do not gravitate toward inventive fun. What do I mean? A few years ago, I sat around a diner table with my father-in-law and his R.O.M.E.O. club (that’s Retired Old Men Eating Out). Most were men who had childhoods in the depression or soon after. As I asked about what they did for fun, I was amazed at their stories. Faced with few toys, they invented games with little more than a discarded can. They had marble tournaments. In short, they made their fun. Many of us have similar memories of our own childhood.

But today, many children find it hard to amuse themselves. Why?

Other pages in this article

• Why kids don't create
Reading aloud
Share your own stories
Basic plots


Round Robin Stories
Wacky Headlines
Build a Hero
Invent a World

Lack of leisure time. Kids are kept busy. After-school programs, sports teams, and homework keep kids from trouble, and boredom. But boredom is often the first step to inventing fun. “Down-time” is the ground where ideas grow. Dr. Seuss developed his love for drawing by simply hanging out at a local zoo with his dad.

Readiness of electronic entertainment. When kids do have unscheduled time, fun is just an on-button away. Television, video games, and computers (all three called “screens” in our house) give kids instant enjoyment. Such entertainment can be good, but it can only imagine so far. It locks kids into someone else’s ideas, and keeps kids from exploring their own. As Joyce Myers has said, “A #2 pencil and an imagination can take you anywhere.”

Focus on product not process. Schools are under tremendous pressure to get kids to test well. Many teachers I talk to wonder how a child will learn to think creatively if there is little time for “open-ended problems” – questions that have many possible answers. Parents, as well, often focus on final results. We cherish the finished painting over the pages of messy sketches.

What’s the answer? In part, slow down. Restrict “screens.” Enjoy the creative journey, and not just the final arrival. And try out some of my story-creating activities.

all material ©2003 Bruce Van Patter