The world from all appearances is a pretty messy place right now. And while we could have a long discussion on how we got here, the reality is that we must move forward to make corrections. To our credit, current generations are trying to implement stop-gap solutions now. But the reality is that it is the generations that follow us that will need to provide the long-term and impactful solutions to fix our planet’s biggest challenges. So, who will solve the problems of tomorrow? Well, it’s going to be your kiddos!
Curiosity & Creative Thinking
I believe that the most important contribution our current generation can make is to ensure that today’s kids are prepared to embrace the challenges ahead. That means a focus on developing their curiosity and fostering their creative thinking skills beginning at a very early age. Why? Because the process of problem solving begins with a question (curiosity) and ends with a solution (creativity). While innate in all of us, both still need to be fostered from a young age to be fully developed. Much of our formal education is based on the ‘right’ and ‘only’ answer; a formulated approach that follows a pretty straight line. I remember reading about the early astronauts who basically used duct tape and bailing wire to fix stuff on the fly, cause when you are in space you can’t just order up the right part and get it delivered by Amazon Prime. You need to get creative. The article shared that profiles of the early astronauts showed a common experience of rich play-based childhoods including building stuff, tearing stuff apart, and of course gameplay. All activities that helped feed and grow their curiosity and creativity.
Imagination & Exploration
A few years ago, after a presentation on early learning, some new moms asked me to recommend the specific toys and games to help their children get a jump on preschool. My answer surprised them because I shared that they should open the kitchen cabinet or drawer with all the empty plastic storage containers in it and let their kiddos explore. The reason I suggested that is because kids are curious about shapes and sizes of stuff. They want to see how it all fits together. How it can be manipulated in different ways. You don’t need a fancy toy or game to do that; kids’ natural curiosity will take over when given the chance. Many of today’s toys and games come with predefined characters and scenarios that minimize the opportunity to imagine, be curious, and be creative. We need to find opportunities to let our kids explore more freely to engage and think outside the box!
Recently my two adopted nieces ages five and seven asked me to sit down and watch an animated TV show with them. What caught my attention was that one of the characters was very imaginative and creative, but also kept getting into all sorts of messes that didn’t necessarily work out and ultimately caused problems for others. What lessons were the girls learning by watching this? Was this a lesson to beware of creativity? Or a lesson on being courageous and trying new things? I’m not exactly sure what they took away from it but if I was confused, they probably were too. In the end, it is our responsibility to directly foster curiosity and let our kids be creative. Yes, they will make some messes, but they will also learn from those messes to become first class problems solvers. And that is just what our world is going to need if we want to solve the big challenges ahead!