Not everything children do is creative. Some of their behavior mimics what they observe in others. Learning itself is not creative. The enormous number of skills and procedures that child must learn-developing language, tying shoelaces, adding columns of numbers-are not in the creative realm. When children are following orders, as they must do so much of the time, they are not exercising creativity. All this is to the good. No one, neither a child nor the world's greatest living artist (whoever that might be), can be creative all the time.

    Creativity is very personal. It's about being oneself and expressing oneself. Let's say you have several children. They have strong familial similarities, both physical and psychological, yet you do not have any trouble telling them apart. Each is an unique individual, represented by clear differences in temperament, style, manner, emotional makeup and a host of other qualities more important to you than their physical differences. The basic nature, or essential self , of each one makes him special and unique.

    Creativity is the process by which children's basic nature is revealed through their imaginative products, demonstrating something about whom they are. This demonstration of the self can takes almost any form, but it is an absolute requirement of creativity.

    For example, suppose that two children are coloring the same page in two copies of the same coloring book. The first child asks repeatedly what color to put here or there and seems at great pains to get it "right"-that is, to make the final product look as much like reality (brown things should be brown!) as possible. There is tension in the child as he seeks approval each step of the way, trying to please others as he tries to please himself.

    The second child does not ask anything, but seems to go inward. Instead of looking around to see what color things really are, he selects crayons in colors he likes. The various elements on the page of the coloring book look strange indeed if reality is the reference point: A green dog is licking the hand of a purple girl, who is eating a black apple! There is little tension in this artist, who goes about his work without seeking approval, until, finished, he shows off his picture with delight. He seems to know that he has done something unusual, but he likes it and hopes that you do too.

    According to our working definition, the second child is showing more creativity than the first, since the source of his product is inside himself. His picture is not an imitation of reality or a reflection of other people's opinions.
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