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By Emma Worrollo, Founder and Chief Creative Officer Do You Need to Expand Your Curiosity Capacity?

Creative Curiosity
If you’ve spent chunks of time around small children, you’ve experienced the relentless “Why? Why? Why?” question cycle. It’s a glorious time of sponge-like curiosity. But as a mum with a couple of little humans myself, I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it ALL the time. “Sorry, I can’t explain the growth of the stick insect population in China right now. We’re trying to catch a train, already late, and I don’t actually know the answer anyway…” It’s fun to see kids’ minds work, but potentially derailing to everyday plans.
When the going gets tough, remember that this phase is peak curiosity. Kids’ minds are transcended. Impulses played out. Answers sought. Stories created.
Curiosity is the stage that creativity takes place upon. And it’s an increasingly desirable skill. Today’s parents don’t want kids passively glued to a screen. Rather, they aspire for children to have wide open imaginations and blossoming creative skills.
Yet as children move toward adulthood, a lot of the cool, curiosity-provoking thoughts happening in their minds become threatened. They risk being stamped out, especially in the tween and teen years.
Do you remember feeling like you knew it all? Like anyone trying to teach you anything was annoying and ignorant? Well, that attitude could have you saying a fond farewell to your curious mind – for a time anyway.
But good news – it is salvageable.
So how do we keep that infectious, child-like curiosity alive?

Let’s start with growing up.

The backdrop of modern childhood presents a tension in creative learning. To illustrate this, imagine the curious mind as a ball in the middle of a room. Two teams desperate to claim it. The first – let’s call them “Team Linear” – want to squeeze the ball tighter and tighter until it bursts. Here’s some key players on that team.

Team Linear

1. Assessment-based education
Take it from the teachers: Increasingly, education serves the system, not the child. Curriculum tick boxes and state assessments have turned school from a curiosity breeding ground to a place to stamp it out. “Learning” often means funneling thinking toward specific results. Critical as I may be, there’s enough evidence out there to acknowledge a shift. There is now an enormous gap between how we educate children and how the world is progressing. Curiosity shouldn’t be stifled as kids head into a world where many traditional academic skills will be completed by artificial intelligence.

2. Instant answers
Do you remember a time when you couldn’t find something out straight away? As young people, it can be empowering to have access to instant answers. But that’s no reason not to flex some critical thinking muscle. When we save time (and brain power) seeking information that’s readily available via tech, we need to channel it elsewhere. Information has to be approached with a critical eye – evaluated, questioned and criticised. Believe it or not, the truth isn’t always housed in the top Google search result.

3. Reduced playtime
Modern life is busy and increasingly timetabled. There is so much programming: homework, extra-curriculars, wrap-around childcare. Piled onto digital activities and reduced outdoor freedom, playtime is feeling the squeeze. Less time for unstructured play moments means the curious mind doesn’t get to stretch its creative little legs. Indeed, unstructured play today punctuates a child’s life rather than leading it. Can you feel my sadness?

Team Limitless

So who’s the opposition? Let’s call them “Team Limitless.” This squad wants to grab that ball, paint it like a rainbow, throw it up and all-around, turn it into something else, and keep it burning bright and alive. Here’s their lineup:

1. The maker-movement
One of the great things the internet has given us all, but especially kids, is the maker-movement. By this I mean people showcasing their artful hobbies and interests. It’s a dream it-do it world out there. You’ll find everything from slime to make-up application, cos-play face painting to felting ridiculously cute animals. And the best part? This easy-to-access community of creators provides endless ideas and inspiration, all of which can be immediately translated and tried out in real life.

2. Access to diverse viewpoints
Whilst we’re far from a perfectly integrated and inclusive world, I think we can acknowledge that today’s kids are growing up in a more diverse and tolerant culture. They’re also exposed to people and stories from alternative places, ie. not mainstream media. Seeing and learning about different value systems, philosophies and ways of living naturally breeds curiosity, just by being around it. Yay!

3. Identity exploration and expression
We’ve seen youth culture shift from Gen X ‘tribal allegiance’ to millennial ‘defined individuality’ to something more fluid, fragmented and evolving. Identity exploration and expression by today’s youth (Gen Z) is a conscious process. It’s also boundless – no longer limited to the inspiration and resources of one’s physical environment. Kids today grow up with highly playful experiences, all of which help them create, shape, reinvent and express their identity. From creating avatars to alternate universes, exploring the nuances of identity to fandom allegiance, there is an endless pool of inspiration to interact with.

So what about parents? Where do we sit in all of this?

Well, we get to choose. Our own relationship with creativity can have a huge impact on how our children approach it – not to mention our own well-being.
I created these tips for parents based on the way we at The Pineapple Lounge conduct research sessions with young people:

1. Ask good, interesting questions
Instead of asking your child, “What did you do in school today?” try, “Tell me one thing that made you laugh today?” Experiment, reframe and see what happens. The same rule applies to adult conversations. When you’re with friends, dig into deeper topics. Conversations with depth and meaning are a high source of creative energy. They’re also proven to make for a happier life and better relationships!

2. Connect with colour
Colour can do incredible things to the mind and how you feel. Find colours that strike positive emotions in you. Then, surround yourself with them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to wear them or paint your walls. Flowers, pillows, accessories, prints, posters and books all provide quick colour pops.

3. Shatter your routine
Creativity comes from looking at old things in new ways. If you do the same thing all the time, it’s going to be tough to stimulate your mind. Travelling is the best known routine buster. But simple things – like going to a new café or reading a thought provoking magazine – work just as well! In short, have a routine, but don’t let it rule you.

4. Define your play patterns
Play isn’t just for kids. ANYTHING you do in a playful state belongs in your play pattern. What activities make you feel curious, open, intuitive and free? What do you do purely for fun? When you have your answer, don’t ignore it! Whether you enjoy rearranging shelves or painting your face as a Disney character, embrace it and think about how you can take it to the next level. More fun awaits!

5. Engage
With so many ways to connect and keep on top of what’s happening, it’s easy to check out and disappear behind a screen. Challenge yourself to stop the mindless scroll. Use social media to actively engage, comment and participate. Message content creators you like and strike up feel good, positive conversation. Ask curious questions! And most importantly, delete anything that doesn’t make you think or feel positive.

If you study successful people, you’ll find that they aren’t usually the ones with the best answers or most brilliant solutions. They don’t always have the most tangible creative skills. In fact, they may not even be the most skilled at what they do. But there’s often a commonality between them: they ask the best questions. They are the most curious.
Curiosity doesn’t have to end in childhood. But we have to make room for it. How do you expand your curiosity capacity? I’d love to hear from you.