It's not play; it's creativity

When my young son plays with his shape sorter, I'm in no hurry for him to put the square block in the square hole and the triangular block in the triangular hole. I've watched friends and family rush to Clarke's "assistance," pointing to the matching hole, guiding his hand to the right spot, and even dropping the shapes in for him. I like to give him time to discover things on his own.

Clarke is an explorer in an unknown world. The more opportunity he has to learn how it all fits together, the more likely he will be to develop a strong sense of creativity, which begins with taking the ordinary or familiar and expressing it in a novel way.

That's how a bicycle seat and handlebars became a bull's head in the hands of Picasso, and an apple falling from a tree contributed to Newton's understanding of gravity.

How boring life would be if each thing had only a single function or purpose. Duct tape is one of the most creatively used objects in the world, and it's probably used more often for unusual applications than for its original purpose.

I'm not so sure I understand what Clarke is doing when he puts LEGOS in the dishwasher, blocks in the laundry, or a flashlight in the sink. But who am I to stand in the way of his creative experiments?

When he selects a shoehorn or a floor vent cover to play with instead of his dump truck, he is exploring the world as he sees fit.

As a parent, I hope that Clarke will see all objects and situations as proverbial duct tape: I want him to use things in new ways and to understand things from a different perspective in order to solve problems both practical and artistic. By trying different shapes in different holes, he gains knowledge and experience of what is possible.

Or, who knows, maybe he'll figure out just the right way to turn a square shape so that it fits in a round hole. Maybe that discovery will have applications in space travel or medical science. And to think that it would have all started by giving a child the freedom to play.

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