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Catholic Activity: Encouraging Creativity

Mary Reed Newland explains the importance of encouraging creativity in children.

DIRECTIONS

To be creative is to be like God. To know how to take the things God has created and extend them further in acts of our own creating, to search out in one's head an idea, and work over it with a mind and hands, selecting this, combining with that, cutting away, discarding, adding, fitting, and finally bringing forth something new — this is how we are made to be creators like our Father.

To use love to create as God creates with His love — that is ours, too. We pray to the creative Spirit of God, "Pour forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth." Out of this love we create families, and friendships, and bind society where it is sick, and heal our enemies with our prayers, and work and pray and sacrifice with Christ that His Mystical Body may be whole and continue to grow. We serve Him in our fellow man with love, feeding him, clothing him, teaching, nursing, administering, interpreting, comforting, encouraging — and in a thousand other ways. This is the creative work of man, who is given natural and supernatural powers of creativeness which, for all they are minute by comparison, are made in the image and likeness of God's. And to create is so necessary to one who is made to be a creator that from the very beginning we struggle to create.

Babies begin to create almost before they can walk and talk It is very clumsy but it is in the image of God, for all its clumsiness. The first thing a baby does when he is put outdoors to play unpenned is find a little dirt, squat down and start to make some thing with it, even if it is just the print of his hand, or a hill he scoops up and pours into his other hand, or mud he shapes into a little cake. When you see it so often with so many babies, you sometimes forget to wonder that he should scoop up earth as God did; make his first thing with earth as God made man with it; look at it and crow in his way, "Isn't it good?" as God did: "And He looked on it and saw it was good." Maybe it is just because earth is such a willing element and surrenders so easily. Maybe there is no more to it than that. But if there is, it should not seem such a phenomenon that a child will create before he has mastered the other arts of living. It should seem more like a confirmation at the very beginning of life of the purpose of life. The simplicity of his first creativeness is like the simplicity of his faith, neither questioning nor complex. As he believes, when told, in God Who made and loves him, in the same way he sets himself instinctively to being what God has made him to be — a creator.

Creative activity for children is crucially important. It is their discovery of themselves as individuals, different from other individuals, with ideas and the power to form them into something. A small child is so honest and the things he creates so full of integrity that his character can be read from the things he creates. For children growing up with the love and knowledge of God as a part of their daily life, as ever-present as three meals a day and sleeping at night, it would be almost impossible to give them the full measure of God without including creative activity. For, if they are to know God and praise Him for the gifts He has put into them, first they must discover the gifts. They must learn not only to give praise for them, but to praise with them; and this begins the integration of what a child learns with how he lives. To know who you are and the powers God has given you, and to serve and praise Him with them, that is the purpose not only of creativeness but of life.

Activity Source: We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland, Image Books, 1961

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