Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Enchantment, magic, daydreaming, imagination and creativity, all ingredients in a recipe for 'Wonder'. Nope, I'm not referring to some sort of witchcraft, but instead to the beauty of a child's mind. Children are born with an inherent ability to Wonder. To be curious and creative, to explore and to consistently Wonder without limits. But, as a society we repress the idea of Wonder and therefore limit a child's capacity for those above mentioned ingredients.
American psychologists carried out a study on creativity in children and found that between the ages of two and four, approx 95% of them were highly creative, displaying traits such as abstract thinking and curious minds. But, by the age of seven, that had dropped to just 5%. What this tells us is that as we grow up, we lose the ability to be creative. And it's not hard to see why.
We teach children to line up in rows and to focus on the facts. To colour between the lines and to conform. To follow the 'right way' of doing things instead of experimenting and paving their own path. Of course, conformity also needs to be role modelled and has a place in society, but I'm feeling that we perhaps need to address the balance.
Why is 'Wonder' important?
Whether you call it wonder, daydreaming or imagination, it often gets a bad reputation. People who have mastered the ability to 'Wonder' are regularly put into the bracket of being a bit 'out there'. But, allowing the mind to express and explore creative traits enables the brain to visit areas that aren't exercised regularly. There is also a growing body of evidence to suggest that daydreaming may be beneficial to your working memory; an area of the brain linked to the processing of new information and the ability to focus. In addition, it's thought that those who can think creatively have greater success when it comes to problem solving.
So, how do we nurture an environment to encourage 'Wonder'?
Well, it all starts with us. As parents, caregivers and educators, we have a chance to address the balance and step outside the lines; to nurture and nourish those magical ingredients. When was the last time you marvelled at the Wonder of nature? Just sat and noticed, soaking up the scents, sights and sounds? When did you last release your inner child and become the Captain of a Pirate Ship or a Zookeeper?
When did you last press the pause button and have a day off grid, forgetting the normal routine and embracing your spontaneity, listening to your heart instead of your head? As adults it's very easy to become bogged down in all of the things we must do and in those material things many of us are programmed to strive to achieve. We forget to be present, look inside our souls and go back to basics. To play and create. To question and explore. Before you say it, I know it may not be possible to live in that way all of the time, but every so often it may just be the best tonic.
Bringing Wonder into the everyday
Cultivating wonder doesn't have to be difficult. There are a few really simple things that you can do to bring 'Wonder' into everyday life and help re-address the balance.
Make the most of nature. Get outside; listen to the ocean, embrace the feeling of being barefoot on the grass or watch a butterfly. Remember that no matter what else is happening in the World, the sun rises and it sets. Here we are on Earth, wedged between the stars and the ground - if you take a minute to stop and think about that, and to embrace all that nature showcases, it's pretty incredible.
Don't always provide the answers. It's natural to want to fix things for children, but allowing them the time to problem solve and to work things out for themselves encourages the consideration of possibilities and creates a sense of empowerment.
Have regular sharing sessions. Ask your child(ren) what they have learnt during the week and see if they want to teach you something new. Perhaps you will end up finding out about Ancient Egypt, or how to do lino printing. Maybe you'll learn about rock formation. Whatever it is, sharing and learning demonstrates that humans always have an incredible ability to learn. You could then do the same, sharing something new with your child(ren) or actively finding out about something you know they have always wondered about.
Embrace stories. Children tend to love stories, be it in books or movies, in role play or dress up. Take time together to enjoy the magic of 'make believe'.
Consider words that you associate with Wonder. For me, beauty, whimsical, surprise, awe, peaceful, mystery and magic come to mind. Just sit with your words of wonder for a while and daydream; see what images come to mind.
In order to embrace Wonder I invite you to take the lead and to show children that it's ok to question and to be curious. To imagine and to daydream. To marvel in the World around them and to think in a way that's unique to them. And who knows, you might just start to enjoy embracing the unknown and considering alternative thinking. Go on, give it a go.
Image - Johannes Plenio (Unsplash)
Illustration - @elixiadraws