On a recent lazy day, my son, youngest daughter and I wandered into a local antique/consignment shop. I'm not an expert antiquer in any sense, but I am impressed and sometimes inspired to want to refurbish or repurpose some old thing while flipping through Pinterest. I looked over the old window frames, baskets of lacy handkerchiefs, and worn kitchen tools. My son found a bowl of keys.
He searched through the random keys, lost and left behind by previous owners of cars, trunks, locks, security boxes, ending up here in the shop. "Can I get this?" he asked. He had found the perfect key amongst the clinking pieces of metal. "What are you going to do with it?" I responded, thinking about all the old and leftover keys laying in the junk drawers in our own home. "Open stuff." I gave him fifty cents.
He told his sister's about his find when we got home, hopeful that it would open anything, excited about all the treasures that he would uncover with his new key.
Would he hold on to this key forever? Would it become his prized possession for ever and ever. I doubt it. But it gave him something to wonder about and a reason to explore his surroundings. He may keep it for a day or for a week, but his mind will be busy dreaming.
We, as parents, invest a lot in expensive toys for our kids, spending hundreds on game consoles and accompanying game cartridges - disks? (I'm dating myself, right?) We buy all kinds of toys with bells & whistles that are supposed to stimulate their imagination. Even coloring books and drawing pads have instructions on how to be creative, suggesting that the kids draw a rocket in the field of stars or finish the picture by drawing flowers on the ends of the sketched lines.
Perhaps instead, the key to creativity is giving them something less expensive, something with less instructions. Perhaps, we can give them freedom to explore and wonder. Even if just for a little while.