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Vol 40  No 6
November 22, 2007


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From kindergarten to the golden years

Playing creatively expands thinking
by Heidi Wicks

One of Gary Jeffery’s unique works. (Photo submitted)

Faculty of Education professor and registered psychologist Dr. Gary Jeffery is passionate that children should be encouraged to play in order to become creative, outside-the-box thinkers. After all, he himself is somewhat of a “player” when it comes to his quirky wood carvings.

Convergent and divergent thinking patterns, or how a person comes to think either logically or creatively, is an area of great interest to Dr. Jeffery, both professionally and personally. Some people like math, others like singing in plays, and to some extent, these left and right-brain perceptions are a result of what is encouraged while children are in their school-age years.

“Typically there is an attitude of work and not play in schools,” said Dr. Jeffery. “There is a focus in our society and school systems towards product, and less of a focus on the process that creates that product. It’s the process of creating that really helps people learn.

“When I experience something,” he said of his carvings, “whether it be a vacation, an occurrence at work, a family incident, whatever – I record it carving wood. It’s a way of recording my thoughts.

“But the thing is, if I ruin a piece of wood, I don’t care, because I still learned something from that process, and it doesn’t hinge on the product,” he explained.

According to most literature on the creative brain, every person on earth is creative, whether absolutely or relatively, he said.

“An absolutely creative person is one who when they make something for the first time, everyone else recognizes it as creative,” Dr. Jeffrey said, “and being relatively creative is what all children are. They are continuously involved in creative acts, but those acts are relative to themselves. Almost everything you see a child do is for the first time. Children are incredibly creative, relatively. But to the adult who looks at them, they have seen those answers before, so we tend to therefore not recognize the creativity in the child.”

Dr. Jeffery often discusses the importance of play in his classes.

“Often I’ll entice my students, and I’ll ask them ‘Do you play with an iron?’ and of course, they’ll say no. And they reason they don’t is because they’ve already mastered and discovered everything about an iron.”

Which is likely the same reason these (university-age) students (usually) no longer toy with Fisher Price. But whether you’re playing bass guitar or Final Fantasy for Play Station II, your age is irrelevant when it comes to play expanding the mind and inspiring creativity. What matters is that the play expands the mind, forces one to seek solutions other than the ones that are already familiar.

Creative thinkers are ultimately risk-takers and desire to determine their own answers rather than what’s in a book. They have divergent ways of thinking, ponder what’s outside the box and challenge what is written on the pages of the textbook in front of them.

Which is easy for someone who carves an expanded midsection while sipping his Pina Colada on a Florida beach, rather than snapping a photo as most people would do.

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