My four year old grandson came for a visit. He went straight to my treasure chest — a big trunk filled with golden nuggets: plastic containers of different shapes and sizes, a collection of colorful feathers and pipe cleaners, tin foil chocolate wrappers, which if you hold close to your nose and shut your eyes real tight, you can still imagine the sweet smell of petit fours. He rummaged through the bits and pieces until he discovered a bright blue ball of yarn, left over from a sweater I knitted his dad, when he was a little boy.
“Grandma,” he eagerly turned to me, his eyes filled with wonder and delight, “Can I have the ball of yarn?”
Clutching the bright blue ball of yarn my four year old grandson rushed off to the living room, where he swiftly got to work. Meticulously, he tied the loose end to a cabinet door handle, and then he began winding the yarn around pieces of furniture — backs of chairs, legs of the sofa — creating an intricate spider web across the room. When done, he proudly demonstrated how to cross the obstacle course, he had created, stepping over and crawling under the bright blue cobwebs. He then challenged the Big Guy and me to follow the leader, bursting with laughter.
A ball of yarn — that’s all it took.
Well, not exactly.
Without a doubt, my four year old grandson was fascinated by the bright blue ball of yarn and its potential. But, there were three additional factors, which allowed his creativity to spread its wings and fly high –
Freedom — Obviously, it wasn’t the first time, my grandson turned our living room into his magical kingdom. When he comes to us, he knows that he has total freedom to play and explore. As long as he isn’t in harm’s way and there is no danger of him breaking something, we step back, observe and hold our tongues — oftentimes, easier said than done. As adults, we are prone to offering unsolicited assistance and making unnecessary suggestions.
Presence — Quality time with kids can be tricky. When kids are busy doing their own thing, we are tempted to use the time to get a chore done, make a quick phone call or check our emails. But, here’s the thing — while kids may not say anything, they most definitely know when we are fully present and when we are only physically there and our mind is elsewhere.
As soon as he was ready, my grandson invited us into his world. He was leading and we went with the flow and followed along. It wasn’t our comic attempts to climb over and crawl under the bright blue cobwebs that made him explode with laughter. It wasn’t just that he was having fun. He laughed, because he felt good, and he felt good, because he was in control, and that is a huge accomplishment for a four year old.
Challenge — My grandson cracks me up. I’m in awe of and applaud his innovative spirit, but it never ends there. I believe that part of my role and responsibility is to challenge him to take his creativity to the next level.
As soon as we were done doing spider web acrobatics, I turned to him and said, “OK! Now let’s see if you can untangle the web and rewind the yarn into a ball …” He didn’t succeed. Let’s face it, he’s only four, but he most certainly tried and was there to help me get the job done.
All kids are born creative — some more than others — and as you can see, it doesn’t take much to set their creativity free. Expose them to simple stimuli; provide them with the space and freedom to try things out, to wonder and explore; be fully present, and finally, when your turn comes, rather than merely praising their achievements, take them to greater heights by challenging them.
It’s time to take control of our lives (and allowing our kids to take control of theirs).
It’s Time 2 Lead.
It’s time to THRIVE.
Originally published at medium.com