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.