Don’t color outside the lines…the grass is green…the sky is blue…the round peg goes in the round hole. These are the things we teach our children, just as we were taught as children, in an effort to comply with our truth, in adherence to our civilized society teachings. I almost fell for it myself. Thank GOD, I’m a rebel.
That seems a strange statement really, as someone who was always crying about “not fitting in”. I am ALMOST to the point where I can truly embrace my inner-rebel and rejoice that I am not a cookie-cutter mold of a woman. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with the cookie-cutter mold of a woman, it just isn’t what God has for me or what I believe he has for ANYONE.
I am so NOT going to define cookie-cutter mold of woman because having no first-hand experience it would all be observation and that lacks true experience, so I’ll leave it where it is; you have your own ideas about it anyway. It’s one of those things that could just get me into trouble for generalizing anyway.
Okay, so back to the subject at hand; creativity and its death. Why is it we feel so compelled to teach children the RIGHT way to color and to play? Is it just ‘spillover’ from teaching them the RIGHT way to act? Are we so concerned, as adults, that our children might be labeled non-conformists that we would rather break that independent, creative streak long before it asserts itself in adult circles.
I taught various levels of preschool while I was finishing college and let me tell you there is a marked difference in the creative outlet from the age of 2, to the age of 7. The 2 year olds are free to explore and invent their universe (within the confines of a space and time continuum of course). They can see, hear, and smell things most adults can’t. I believe they truly have spiritual senses, untainted by the expectations and reality of others. This quality is embraced by teachers and parents…until the child matures.
As the children mature, especially in a preschool environment, constrictions are placed on them with regards to the creative outlet. They are no longer so free to see, hear, and smell things in newness. They are EXPECTED to play “right” to color “right”, to behave “right”. The problem I’ve always had with this is; “who defines right?” Who first decided that the only RIGHT way to color, was in the lines? Who first decided the sky should always be blue, because that is a GOOD day? Who first decided that the round peg must enter the toy from the round hole? I can assure you, these round pegs can sometimes go in through the triangular holes too, not to mention the square holes.
By the time the children were older, and coming to preschool only after elementary school, they were becoming more and more alike in behavior and while it was predictable and ‘safe’ for us as teachers, it also lacked uniqueness and the creative edge we are each born with. The children went from becoming lost in their creative process, to desiring positive feedback for the “RIGHT” way to do things. Thus begins the judgment which sets the tone for our future in education and career experiences.
I am not an early childhood education specialist. I have spent some time reading and studying the subject due to my own self-awareness and my interest in Art Therapy. I do not claim to know the answers for every child. I DO know, however, that each child is truly unique. Each child is created by God, with a unique fingerprint fashioned to glorify the Father in the way He decides. I pray that parents would embrace the unique spirit God places within each of us and help to nurture this creative spirit so that a child learns at an early age: “God didn’t make you to fit in, He made you to stand out.”
This week, as we encounter children, maybe our own, maybe others, try to stop and see their unique fingerprint as God formed. Let them color outside the lines, and sit with them and color outside the lines alongside them. Then work that round peg into a new hole, just because you can!