Kids can teach us how to think

Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

Some adults like me often like to think that we are still children at heart. However the adult world has changed us more than we’d like to admit even if we are able to preserve the playful inner child within us. Having chats and interacting with little kids can be a very stimulating experience and can even completely change the way you view the world.

Children are often immensely curious little creatures that are always trying to better understand and explore the world around them. It’s because they are filled with these questions and have such a vast imagination that makes them so interesting.

They will often ask us as adults questions about things that we often take for granted and accept as facts and turn it on its head for us to re-examine and evaluate in a new light. Questions often range from the most basic questions such as: “What is cheese?”, “Why do people go to school?”, and “Why do we need money?” to more complex questions like: “Where do babies come from?”, “Why is the sky blue?”, and “What does dying mean?” All these questions can also challenge your understanding and belief of things that you just accept to be. There might even be things that catch you off guard and might be something you never thought of before.

It is often said that the best way to test if you understand something well is to teach it to someone else. If you are able to do that, then you can be pretty confident that you know the material well enough. However, when faced with a curious 3 year old, you are often left questioning how well you know the world you live in.

Kids don’t have the same background and experience that adults do and will drill into details that most adults probably never think of. They will therefore think very differently and might not make as many assumptions. Everything that adults might take for facts come into question examined by a young child.

I remember that as a kid I had a very active imagination and I liked playing video games a lot. I wasn’t all too sure how the world worked at the time so I would always be pondering about various questions in my mind.

One day I remember sitting my parents down telling them that I had a weird feeling about the world. Curious as to what the six year old me had to say, my parents asked me to explain myself. I then proceed to ask them whether the world actually existed and if the world was just a big video game where I am supposed to complete missions and other people are just some other NPC (non-player characters) that exist to help me on my mission. Although I don’t quite remember what they said after I presented my video game theory of life, they were probably quite bewildered after hearing this from their six year old son.

Kids often come up with some crazy ideas because of their imagination and limited familiarity with the world. Even as adults I think it is helpful to re-examine everything and to challenge all our belief structures. You might be surprised on how little you actually know and how this type of thinking can help you get a whole new view on the way things work.

If you listen closely to how kids speak, sometimes you’ll probably find that they often say some wacky stuff. This is probably because of the fact that they don’t have much knowledge yet and mainly rely on their vast imagination and creativity to understand things. As adults we may think that we are improving everyday and learning different facts and information, however sometimes this can be a limiting factor for us as well.

An activity that the late Sir Ken Robinson, an expert on creative education, used to give is that if you asked people how many ways they can use a paperclip you will probably only get a few answers including organizing papers to picking locks. However if you were to ask kids, you might get some more interesting answers. The question did not limit the definition of the paperclip like the size or what it is made of. However, as a “rational” adult you probably limited yourself to only the common use cases for that little pieces of bent steel wire sitting on your desk used mainly for organizing paper. Maybe you don’t want to be wrong or sound crazy, or maybe you’ve conditioned yourself to think logically.

Children often don’t fall under these constraints and will often come up with limitless, sometimes borderline crazy, possibilities. Some ideas might include a huge catapult with a giant paperclip, build a giant paperclip robot, or make little figures or toys by molding the paper clip wires. Maybe this active imagination might seem like it is only useful for cooking up some interesting, but this type of thinking out of the box and exploring the limitless possibilities might just help in bringing us closer to achieving the seemingly impossible. Much of the technology and inventions we see in our world today were originated from places like books, movies and comics.

We as adults can learn from children to become more creative and to be more curious and explore the world around us. There are probably many things that we think we understand but have merely accepted because we were told to. We should also try to encourage them to continue questioning everything and using their infinite imagination to do great things for the world in the future.

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Questioning the world we live in.

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Chester Long

Chester Long

Questioning the world we live in.

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