Childlike creativity: Nurturing Your Creative Mindset

By Cat Robson

When I was a child I was always trying to act as grown up as possible. I stifled a lot of my exuberance and creativity to fit in with my family and friends, and to be a good student. My parents’ friends called me ‘Little Old Cathy.’

Is all that innate playfulness and creativity lost or is it something we can reconnect to as adults? Sherri Fisher writes about this in her article Nurturing Your Creative Mindset, excerpted here:

Do you ever wish you were more creative? New research has shown that adults can be primed to become more creative simply by being asked to think like children.

There are many kinds of creativity, including flexible thinking, elaboration of existing ideas, fluency of ideas, and originality.

For the purposes of the study conducted at North Dakota State University, college students were asked to imagine and write about what they would do if school was canceled for the day.

In the experimental condition, they were primed in advance of writing to imagine that they were seven years old. Merely being primed to think like a child resulted in the production of more original responses on a subsequent measure of creativity.

Perhaps, when I sit down to write, I’d actually be more productive if I could be less careful, less concerned with following the rules. Is there something about the educational process itself that taught me to be so concerned with convention?

What Happens to Creativity as We Grow?

There are numerous benefits to being more creative. However in school, creativity is usually valued less than conventional thinking, whether you are a student or a teacher.

It may be that formal education discourages divergent thinking, and that school may also coincide with a natural brain development shift in students from more impulsive and less self-conscious thought to less spontaneous and more rule-bound thought.

Since both ways of thinking are important (imagine if we were all child-like all the time), it is intriguing to think about interventions that would enable you to be more creative at least some of the time.

You might try thinking like a 7-year-old right before you have to do something that requires original thinking.

Even if our own historical 7-year-old self was already hampered by conventions from culture and family, there may be an internal image of an untouched child inside us that can inspire and invigorate our creative lives.


Additions by site editor/author Douglas Eby:

Quotes from article: Nurturing Your Creative Mindset, Positive Psychology News Daily.

Research study described in article: “Child’s play: Facilitating the originality of creative output by a priming manipulation.” Zabelina, Darya L.; Robinson, Michael D., Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, Vol 4(1), Feb 2010, 57-65. [Abstract]

Photo: “Future Picasso?” [apparently no longer online] by sallylondon

Related page: The child self / playing

Related book: Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, by Stuart Brown MD.


“It’s never too late to start over. It is never past the point of no return for our artist to recover.” – Julia Cameron.

Learn about her program Julia Cameron Live – an online course and artists’ community based.


The acclaimed fable The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery declares children are much wiser and more creative than many adults. Can we regain that creative vitality?

In a post on her Scientific American blog Literally Psyched, Maria Konnikova writes that de Saint-Exupery makes a “larger point about creativity and thought is difficult to overstate: as we age, how we see the world changes.

“It is the rare person who is able to hold on to the sense of wonderment, of presence, of sheer enjoyment of life and its possibilities that is so apparent in our younger selves.”

From my post Creative Thinking: Imagine You Are Seven Again.

On his blog, Seth Godin has a related post: Where do you find good ideas? :

Do you often find ideas that change everything in a windowless conference room, with bottled water on the side table and a circle of critics and skeptics wearing suits looking at you as the clock ticks down to the 60 minutes allocated for this meeting? If not, then why do you keep looking for them there?

The best ideas come out of the corner of our eye, the edge of our consciousness, in a flash. They are the result of misdirection and random collisions, not a grinding corporate onslaught. And yet we waste billions of dollars in time looking for them where they’re not.

A practical tip: buy a big box of real wooden blocks. Write a key factor/asset/strategy on each block in big letters. Play with the blocks. Build concrete things out of non-concrete concepts. Uninvite the devil’s advocate, since the devil doesn’t need one, he’s doing fine.

Have fun. Why not? It works.

Seth Godin is author of Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

From review by Hugh MacLeod: Godin says “Everyone’s an artist now.” By Seth’s definition, an artist is not just some person who messes around with paint and brushes, an artist is somebody who does (and I LOVE this term) “emotional work.”



  1. I find that I am most creative when I just sit and write what’s on my mind without stopping to analyze. I sit down with a notebook and pen and just keep writing, trying to keep the pen moving as long as possible. In doing this, I’m not giving my brain a chance to make sense of what I’m writing. Creative thoughts often don’t make any sense at first, but they do when they are finished. When they are finished they tell us more than the most rational thoughts. I guess this is kind of like thinking like a child. You have to free your mind from convention and analytics.

What do you think about these topics?