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Unleash the Child Within You

2013 March 28

By Lina Younes

The other night as I was tucking my youngest in bed, she asked me a question that I have been mulling over ever since. “Mom, why do adults lose their creativity when they get older? Imagine if children invented things!” Her insight left me speechless as I tried unsuccessfully to find a thoughtful explanation.

As we grow up and mature, what stifles our creativity? Why do we seem less willing to take risks? I have seen many children absorb new languages like sponges, while adults seem to lose the power to “hear and pronounce” new sounds. Though there may be some physiological issues involved, it seems to me that grammatical rules of the Mother Tongue become the main constraints to learning foreign languages. The same seems to apply to science and math. I’ll explain.

I remember playing the “Wheel of Science” game at several environmental education exhibits. Young children would eagerly spin the wheel to play and guess the questions even if they had no clue of the correct response. I remember watching how the parents, on the other hand, literally cringed in fear when they saw the word “science” and hesitated in their answers. Why is that? Is it society’s norms and conventions that prevent us from thinking out of the box? Is it the natural maturing and aging process that does so?

Haven’t you noticed that many of the most creative inventors, artists, movie directors are criticized for “acting too much like kids?” I don’t think that they have a Peter Pan complex. Quite the contrary, these creative adults see beyond traditional conventions. So, we, as a society, explain that unique behavior by saying that these creative individuals are acting too much like children, unfortunately.

As I was working with my colleagues in the EPA Office of Research and Development on a project to highlight the work of EPA scientists and engineers, I noticed that they shared something in common. No, it wasn’t their love for science and math. It was something more profound. They shared a sense of wonder. They were inquisitive. Many loved nature and outdoors activities.

So, why don’t we encourage our children to embrace their creativity? Both our children and the world as a whole would benefit in the process. Don’t you think? What are your thoughts on the issue?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. Marguerite Sykes permalink
    March 28, 2013

    Great article!!!! As a scientist I still wonder why math and science are so scary to adults—and eventually to children. There is a lot to learn if we can just keep our minds open. Nature and all the things we experience daily are a good start. We’ll need all the bright young minds we can get to focus on the essential environmental issues facing us.

  2. Jessica - EPA permalink*
    March 28, 2013

    Lina, this is a really interesting question. I think it is important that we all challenge ourselves to be more creative. To find solutions to many of the problems we all face today we need to think outside the box.

  3. Jim permalink
    March 28, 2013

    Precocious! I don’t think I’ve ever heard a child (not a teen) use that term.

  4. Lina-EPA permalink
    March 28, 2013

    Thanks for all your responses. Fortunately children are basically a clean slate (tabula rasa) when it comes to learning. I think it’s us, the adults, who have the problems and convey our misgivings about math and science to our children. Unfortunately.

  5. jack cashin permalink
    March 29, 2013

    when i give a talk a part revolves around “DON`T LET THE CHILD IN YOU ESCAPE “

  6. Lina-EPA permalink
    March 29, 2013

    That’s a nice way of saying, Jack
    Thanks for your comment,
    Lina

  7. Gianni Nocchi permalink
    April 3, 2013

    I think the good education of the children, the new generation, is the key of the progress of our humanity!

    Gianni from Italy

  8. electra27 permalink
    April 3, 2013

    It takes a great deal of courage and self assurance to part from the crowd with a unique idea. The need to comform and fit in pressures us not to be different. Teachers need to meet the needs of all the students, and the uniqueness of each student would demand a lot more time than they could afford. Working conditions in many bureaucratic settings have very proscribed behaviors and patterns of doing business. Many function with a top down approach that leaves no room for ideas to be expressed. Expressed ideas are often not forwarded by the next up in the chain of command. Why don’t we encourage children to embrace their creativity? because for many it has been eliminated or suppressed from our lives thus we cannot encourage what has been lost in us.

  9. Lina-EPA permalink
    April 4, 2013

    Gracie tanti, Gianni

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