I once saw a Facebook meme outlining the similarities between preschoolers and college students: they both sleep in the middle of the day, aren’t afraid to be naked in public, think swings are the coolest thing in the world, and use both straps of their backpacks.
At the time, I was a sophomore in college, so the idea struck me as humorous.
Now, I see there is so much merit to this statement; it is quite possibly one of the most profound things I’ve come across.
Children Learn Through Play
Just two semesters shy of college graduation, I learned I was short a couple of humanities credits. I had the perfect senior schedule going on (no classes before 9am or on Friday). So fitting one more course into my workload was going to be tricky.
In the end, I settled on a child development course. If all else failed, I thought the experience would—at the very least—put me in close proximity to eligible females.
I had no idea I would actually learn stuff that would be helpful later in life.
Recently, I’ve been contemplating a lot of serious things, questioning what I want to be when I grow up…stuff like that. For some reason, that child development class keeps popping into my mind.
One of the key concepts of that class was the idea that children learn best through play, not structured activities that we would traditionally call “education.”
If we accept that concept as truth, then we adults have a lot to learn—and a lot to gain by restoring our preschool creativity levels.
Here’s what you need to do.
- Find a Supportive Community
When you were in preschool, everyone was rooting for you—your parents, your teachers, the next door neighbor. You could do no wrong.
If you came home from school with a piece of paper with three yellow blobs painted on it, your mom proudly hung it on the fridge.
Who is in your support system now? Do you have people in your life who encourage you? Support you in even your wildest and craziest ideas?
Surround yourself with people who naturally bring out your creative side. Soak up their enthusiasm.
- De-Structure Your Life
The most beneficial type of play for a youngster is the kind that is child-directed. When adults get involved, there is too much structure and too many rules. Children thrive when they are left to their own devices.
Find ways to reduce the structure of your life. Add some variety to your daily schedule. Be spontaneous every once in a while.
The more time you spend working on goal-oriented, task-specific projects, the less creative you’ll be.
- Turn off Your Electronics
These days, child development specialists are focused on reducing screen time—the amount of time children spend watching TV, using the computer, playing games on an iPad, etc.
Back in the day, we didn’t have such nifty forms of technology to distract us. And we survived just fine, right? We read, drew, played dress up, and fought with action heroes.
As an adult, how much time do you spend in front of a screen? If you stop to think about it, you’ll probably be appalled.
Put your iPad down (as soon as you are done reading this). Visit the library. Go for a walk in the park. Do something that requires you to peel your eyes off the screen.
- Be Reckless
Most parents coddle their children a bit. They say things like, “be careful,” and “don’t poke your eye out with that stick.”
On the other hand, they are realistic. They know they can’t wrap their child with bubble-wrap. Scraped knees and bruised elbows happen. That’s life. It is the responsibility of the child to explore his or her surroundings, learn cause and effect, and assess risks.
If you take a look at your life, you’re probably more bubble-wrapped now that you were back then. You play it safe, you stick to the straight and narrow. After all, that’s what adults are supposed to do, right?
I’m not saying you should be dangerous…just a little bit reckless. Push yourself outside your comfort zone—physically and emotionally. Talk to that hot blonde at the bar. Go bungee jumping.
- Find the Wonder in Life
Childhood reeks of newness. Everything a young child encounters is new. And most of those first-time experiences are awe inspiring.
Rediscover that newness, those awe-inspiring moments. Add a bit of wonder and excitement to your life. It’s nearly impossible to be creative if you are doing the same ol’ thing day in and day out. Spice up your life.
Travel. Read. Cook. Learn. Do whatever it is you need to do in order to unlock the mystery of life.
George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old: we grow old because we stop playing.”
Restore your preschool creativity. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you start acting like a child!