How improv helps with decision making now and later

Do you remember when we were little, and we were told when to get up, get dressed, go to school, open your books to a particular page, go to lunch, recess, go home, do your homework, go get ready for bed, and go to bed?

Day after day after day after day after day…

We were rarely asked about anything that really mattered, about anything that did not pertain to ourselves. All the questions we were ever asked it seemed were things like, “What do you feel like eating?” or “Do you like this or that or the other thing?” But whenever it was anything of some importance, we as children were skipped over even though we heard every word and understood everything that was being said. Our opinions just were not important.

Well I’ve been teaching children for about 20 years now and I can tell you that they have great minds, great intellect, and great opinions.

I don’t know how many of you remember the TV show host Art Linkletter. But he used to have a show called “Kids Say the Darndest Things” In the show he would go down the line of children and ask them some questions that they normally wouldn’t be asked. The result was hysterical but I must say, also very fascinating. It is so telling how observant these children are when they’re in a room with adults. This should prove that they actually do absorb like sponges everything that’s going on in the household that they are exposed to and moreover that they ponder these things.

I also find that when children inherently all seem to have a very strong moral compass and a very set sense of right and wrong. That is perhaps because they tend to be very empathetic as children. They’re so caring. But I find as they get older and are exposed to more and more of the world, they tend to get very jaded often faster than perhaps we may like.

Oddly enough, this is why I think playing is so important, particularly improv.

It is within the confines of the games that are played in improvisation that children become challenged with life choices, something like they would experience outside of class. After all, improv mirrors real life on many levels. Therefore what comes out of the performer is coming straight from their intellect. This is why it is so beneficial for children.

Improvisation offers them the opportunity to experience certain situations that they will more than likely come upon during their lifetime. Only now it’s in a safe and supportive environment. This way they are free to fall on their face and make mistakes without consequence or judgment. This is a very beautiful thing. And I’ve seen kids organically and naturally rise to the occasion to try to deal with any situation. It is an opportunity for them to learn the consequences of their decisions and how they play out without risk of doing the wrong thing or offending or hurting anybody. And believe me, they love the challenge.

Now as I said earlier, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. And in my class I don’t want any student there who doesn’t want to be there themselves. This is something they have to want to do for themselves. I have had students in my class voluntarily for up to 13 years. Currently I have several kids in my class who have been there for close to eight years with no intentions of stopping. They start in grade school at around eight years old and generally don’t leave until they’re out of high school and are off to college.

I mention this because I get to see them as they grow and utilize what they learned in the class. Job interview, no problem. Dealing with unruly people, no problem. Get people to cooperate with you toward a common goal, no problem. Then when they leave my class and go out to the real world the real circumstances that they tend to come up upon they tend to deal with. NO PROBLEM. Not to mention it builds a certain confidence, and gives them a real sense of empathy towards each other and understanding towards people and circumstances whatever they may be. They also become quick-thinking creative problem solvers who generally know how to handle situations calmly and see them to their conclusion.

And all because they learned improv early and because they were listened to and put in a situation or several, where their opinion mattered.

Finding the answers you seek!

Remember the old story about the guy who was in the search for the meaning of life and his purpose and why he was here and so on. And so he travels to a distant land seeking answers. When he meets people on the way, he’s told that the wisest man was at the top of the very tall mountain living alone in a cave. So the guy walks great distances and climbs tall mountains till he finally reaches the top. There, sitting in the lotus position is an old man with a very long beard. The guy walks up to the man with great reverence and asks his question.

“What is the meaning of life?”

Now at this point, every answer I ever heard from the old man was either conceptual and the guy had to go back and think for himself and figure it out…or it was a punchline. I don’t know why but I kinda liked the story of somebody who would travel to find somebody like the wisest man in the world. I mean who would not like to spend even just a few minutes with the wisest man in the world. Didn’t he deserve some kind of answer?

For some reason, something I was watching on television reminded me of that story. And I just couldn’t shake it. There is something about the story in of itself that was gnawing at me. It stayed with me all the way into the night. Fortunately, right when I go to bed, when I’m trying to fall asleep is when I sometimes do the best thinking. So that night I lied there contemplating the story. I must’ve laid there thinking about this for an hour when suddenly it hit me. I think I get it.

That the old man is us. The real us. The assets at the very core of our being that seems to fade further and further from view as we get older and older. Sadly, it starts about when we start school, when our fun times with games and wonder and imagination is replaced by books and rules and tests.

So lately I’ve been trying to crawl up that mountain, looking for the lady in the cave. I know she’s inside of me. Maybe if I were just allowed to play more with my friends, playing games that we made up, and creating new rules as we went along. When we pretended to be someone else, somewhere else. I would have been able to start looking for the lady from a closer place. It just seems that the more I played the more I got to know about myself and how I really wasn’t like anybody else.

See, I was damaged and I knew it. It wouldn’t be until my first attempt at college that I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Now today it’s accepted as a real and all too common thing. But back then I was “just being stupid!” or I “wasn’t trying.” Little did they know…

Now however, I see my struggle as a gift. My individuality means a lot to me. I just honestly think I would’ve found my wise lady in the cave sooner had I been able to stay in the realm of playing spontaneous games that required mutual responsiveness in real “in the moment” time. What better way to discover the way you feel about things, really. Not to mention, learning about the consequences of my beliefs or opinions. I would’ve loved to of had disagreements and points a view that I had to defend or justify. Just to have the experience of going through a disagreement or argument that would require introspective thought, and the opportunity to discover what I learned about myself from those experiences.

Now, believe me, I know that as adults we are not necessarily able to just go knock on the neighbor’s door and ask if they want to go play. Unfortunately many children can’t do that anymore today either but I digress. But, what we can do is whatever makes us happy, and

brings us joy. We should revel in the things we love to do at least a little bit every day, instead of just on weekends or after retirement. It’s important because I think we get more in touch with ourselves with every new experience we have.

So please do yourself a favor and reward yourself by going out and experiencing something, anything. There you will find the answers you seek.

Is Society Killing Our Creativity?

First, please, for your own sake, watch this wonderful short film:

I’m sure the message of this movie is probably something you can identify with. I’m sure you can remember being a child and using your imagination only to be told that “you’re being silly” or to “get serious” and “stop playing around.” Haven’t we all?

Perhaps this is why were in the trouble we are in.

For over a century now, there has been a concerted effort to what is commonly called “the dumbing down of America.” Now I don’t mean to sound militant about it but this is based on years of research. Everything you see in this film is absolutely true. Little by little play time for each child has been shrinking. Children no longer are able to reap the rewards of self-realization that comes along with playing with other children face-to-face. And that’s a pity.

It is the responsiveness of interactive play that teaches us so much about being a human being, exploring who we really are, what we really think and how we really feel about the world around us. We learn empathy, compassion, fairness and the consequences of our actions through the interactions with others.

Of course, spontaneous play like this requires imagination and creativity. But often in our society, the artist is the low man on the totem pole. You’ve heard the term “starving artist.” Why is that? I don’t understand why people who use their creativity should be considered participating in an undervalued and unappreciated way of making a living (for the most part). How many artists do you know who have another side job just so they can make a living to feed themselves and pay their bills? How many musicians do you know who are living bare bones? Or painters or poets, or people who create things with their hands? These talents usually have to be relegated to the realm of hobby. I guess that means self-expression is a hobby. It is undervalued, unappreciated and a source of problems not just for the individual but society as a whole.

Part of this is due to societal changes. It’s been about 40 years since we started to have parents who need to each be working to sustain a household. Kids are now often stuck at home left to their own devices. No longer can children go outside and play like we used to and interact using their imagination and creativity and learning more and more about ourselves, others and the world around us. With advances has come a steady decline in both play and opportunities to play…and the freedom of expression that comes with it. And it starts with the education system.

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, once factories were created and workers were needed, education began to focus more and more on skills required for the job. Anything else was considered frivolous and unnecessary. That’s why as years went on, the arts suffered. Play time suffered and we slowly started to become drones for a paycheck. Just show up to work, do your job, get paid, go home and if you want to play, you have to wait till you’re retired or just do it on the weekends. In fact, I believe it was Henry Ford who would fire anybody heard laughing on the job. His sentiment was that you were here to work not have a good time. And so that’s what became of corporations in general.

Fortunately there are a few modern day businesses, particularly in the tech community, who provide pool table and ping-pong tables, gyms and other forms of relaxation while on the job. They found that people become more productive when they’re relaxed and happy. This is a very welcome change but it certainly is not enough. Why? Because we need to be playing from the time we are children. If we don’t, then we begin to lack emotional empathy and understanding of each other all the way to the point where we become sort of detached from our very selves. We slowly turn gray just like the characters in the cartoon.

My advice? Make sure you and your children have plenty of time to play and interact one-on-one face-to-face. Play imaginative games. Not just board games or games that involve a ball or some other sort of sport, but games that require spontaneity, and responsiveness, that are challenging and just plain fun. I think we owe it to our children to provide them with the kind of balance necessary for them to develop their entire brain. I suggest for your benefit as well of those you care about, that you come up with a game night and you start inviting people over and you start playing the kind of games that can be found in improv. They not only enhance your brain function but they also bring joy and balance back into our lives. And they’ll open the doors to a brighter future for you, your kids and society as a whole.

Total Improv Kids Open House!

Hey everyone, we’re opening up class for a FREE OPEN HOUSE!!! Come see what we’re all about!

The nation’s premiere improv school for kids, Total Improv Kids uses the art of theatrical improvisation to offer kids a fun and exciting means of tapping into right brain thinking and expanding their imaginations. A unique teaching approach that both stands alone and supplements common educational practices like Common Core and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), Total Improv Kids also nurtures important life skills within a healthy, supportive group environment. Now Total Improv Kids founder Linda Fulton is opening up the school for a one-day-only FREE OPEN HOUSE to showcase what the school is all about. Parents and kids ages 8 to 17 are welcome to come watch and participate in games, exercises and activities that will show just how impactful (and fun!) improv can be in helping students to explore who they are and to find the greatest potential in themselves and each other.


August 19

Saturday, 12-3 p.m.


The Sherry Theater

11052 W. Magnolia Blvd.

North Hollywood, CA 91601




The Importance of Improv and Social Emotional Learning

The more I work with kids of all ages, the more I understand the importance of Social and Emotional Learning as a way to not only help children learn, but also to help them bring out their true selves and adapt valuable skills that will help them for the rest of their lives. Writer (and my sometimes assistant) Jim Martyka interviewed me about SEL and how it’s played a part in my life and my teaching.

How did you learn about SEL?

I have actually been teaching improvisation to kids for almost 20 years. I was not teaching them for theatrical purposes at all. Rather, I developed the Fulton Method because I know what improvisation did for me as a kid struggling in school and I wanted to pass on to others what improv gave to me. My way of working with improvisation helps children discover potentials within themselves and teaches them how to build character and bring out their very best in anything they do.

One Thanksgiving, I was over my aunt’s house visiting my cousin who is an adjunct professor. She was telling me that she was working on something called SEL.  I told her I had never heard of it and asked her to explain to me what it was. As she began talking and describing to me what Social Emotional Learning was, I realized that was what I’ve been teaching at Total Improv Kids all along. We couldn’t believe it!

I sent her a copy of my book hoping that it would be helpful to a research paper she was working on. It turns out that there is a lack of activities out there to help schools implement SEL training. The activities that I teach in my class and provide in the book actually help to fill that gap.  I was very happy to hear that when she turned in her paper, the activities that I was using for my work we’re extremely beneficial to her work as well. In fact, the buzz over her paper was about the activities that I had supplied her.

I never realized that there was such a huge demand out there for what I was teaching the kids. So now I’m on a new quest to try to help more kids, preferably by going into schools and teaching the teachers the activities that they need to help any and all children of all learning levels.

Why do you think SEL is so important? Why does it work?

I don’t just think SEL is the important, I think it’s vital, especially now. We learn through playing. That is a fact. It is “playing” that teaches us the bulk of our social skills, and it also helps to teach us how to survive. We need our social skills to survive in our society.

However children are generally playing was less than they used to. The introduction of electronics—television, video games, cell phones, etc.— have caused children to become far more isolated. They often miss getting that experience and learning from active imaginary play.

This is why SEL activities are so important. SEL trains students to take responsibility for their own actions, words and interactions with others. They begin to understand how their behaviors affect other people and they learn about concepts like empathy and compassion. And maybe if we had more empathy and compassion we might have less bullying, more acceptance and deeper connection.

Kids need SEL training more now than ever.  I can’t tell you how happy I am that this is finally come into the national consciousness. I can’t wait to see what happens 20 years from now when SEL becomes a standard in every school. I would love to see kids having more respect for one another, more interaction, not being afraid to share their voice and speak their mind. All of that will help them make a difference in their lives communities.

What are some of the aspects of SEL that you most identify with?

That is an interesting question. Well, I can tell you this. I know what I went through as a kid growing up with a learning disability. I know that through improvisation, which was the closest thing to SEL training at the time, I discovered my voice, my intellect and my confidence.

It’s funny that I identify with kids who struggle to learn but in a different way. I feel as though I went through what they’re going through. Growing up, I felt I had a displaced relationship with the world around me. And I think in a lot of ways these kids feel the same way but they just don’t realize it. Or at least it seems as though they just can’t seem to put their finger on the problem. Of course, they don’t think the problem is internal. They always look at it as an external issue, that they’re victims of circumstance. That’s a real problem. They don’t realize they have a voice and they don’t know how to express themselves in a way that will get people to listen. I guess that’s not all that uncommon. I’m sure a lot of this experience that growing up. But if you look back now, and think ‘if I had only said this or that” or “if only I could’ve expressed what I was feeling” things might have been easier.

This is something I can definitely identify with, and this is why I developed the Fulton Method to begin with…so that children learn that when they’re in my class, anything and everything they say is valid. They need to know that. I know they have an intellect that’s starving to be heard. I expect them to use it and I show them that they have a say about what we do in class and how we approach it. I give them more involvement in the class so that they are participants in their own education. Every student understands what I’m doing and why. We go right to the games and exercises. Then we have a discussion as to what worked and what didn’t and why. We figure it out together…everyone equal.

How does improv help with Social Emotional Learning?

Improvisation is a very important and handy tool for Social Emotional Learning. However, it is not the be all, end all. It is extremely important to understand the child’s developmental level and to apply and practice activities accordingly. If certain exercises are given too soon, it can very much damage a child’s confidence and that would be extremely counter-productive. Also, bear in mind that I do not use just improv exercises. We play a lot of games as well. These games are also extremely important.

But as for the improvisation, what better way for a child to experience situations they’ve never been in then to role play. Within the structure of improvisation, I can place kids in a variety of situations. I also give them a position to take sometimes. And whether they agree with the position or not they have to defend it. They have to adapt. This is extremely useful for getting kids to learn how to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes.

Also in improvisation, the children have to work so closely together that it becomes a very bonding activity. This is where they start to learn empathy and compassion for each other. They’ll become aware of each other’s struggles, and rally around each other to succeed in overcoming an obstacle. I’ve also seen them get very encouraging to those kids who fall short of their goals. They begin to learn more about each other and care more about each other and their situations. It is experience that is the greatest teacher of all.

Another reason why improv helps and probably the most important one is that improv requires the kids to make choices. When they’re in any given situation that improv presents, they are required to make decisions and choices based on that situation. They also see the consequences of their choices and how they affect others in real time.

Then, when we discuss it, they learn how to give constructive criticism and how to take that criticism and understand what they need to get better. Within those discussions very often the kids reflect on situations they found themselves in and how they relate to what occurred on the stage. This gives them perspective on various topics and enables them to find they’re voice. I have witnessed some extraordinary changes in the kids because of this very important component.

What can Social Emotional Learning working with your Fulton Method bring out in kids?

With the Fulton Method, kids are active participants in their own education. They learn how to actively interact with each other to achieve a common goal. They are responsible for the success through their own participation. The Fulton Method utilizes games; improvisation games, theatre games and more. But it’s the kids who learn how to evaluate from their own experiences what’s working and what’s not. They get to learn how to troubleshoot and fix whatever is preventing them from achieving a common goal. It may not sound like much but this is actually very powerful stuff and the results are extraordinary. Especially the results I’ve had with children with autism and other types of learning disabilities.

I find that as time goes one, the shy kids start become bolder. They all become less intimidated by others including adults. I also find that they are not afraid to speak out for what they feel is right and for what they feel is wrong. They don’t just tell me what they think, they tell me why they’re thinking it, and their logic is usually flawless. If it does have a flaw, the others are more than willing to speak up and help figure out how to fix it through discussion. That’s very important—they learn how to sit down and discuss and communicate what they think in a logical and controlled manner. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.

How are you working SEL into your work with kids?

Truthfully I don’t have to work it in. It’s already intrinsically there. Perhaps I’m just approaching it differently. I’m teaching these kids through role-playing and interaction. In the way I designed my class, the work does it all by itself.

What is your ultimate hope when you work with a student?

My hope is the same today as it was when I first started. My hope is that every child discovers their own voice along with their own true potential. I want them to discover what makes them happy. I want them to live their lives to their fullest extent. I want them to be able to explore their potentials, to not be afraid to stand up and be heard, to become leaders in their communities. It is my hope that they discover their true sense of self and live a happy fulfilling life.

Creativity: A Necessity to Survival!

Teaching children to become more creative is intrinsic to the survival of this planet.

Unfortunately creativity, which is generally nurtured through the arts, is being depleted in our school systems today. This puts our children at a very serious disadvantage. We have historically from the beginning of mankind learned through free play. It was free play that helped us to discover the consequences of our actions and it’s our curiosity while playing that helps to nurture our creative side.

 We need to children to participate in games that they create themselves. Or, if they’re not creating the game, they should at least be able to use their own intellect to enhance their experience with in the game. It is these experiences that eventually spill over into their everyday lives, developing them into the human beings they ultimately become.

 Without these experiences, children will become less able to problem solve beyond what they have been told. Children will get stuck in the dogma of what they’ve been taught and what they have learned. They will rarely see beyond the already established path to advancement as opposed to seeing new possibilities and blazing trails of their own.

 Therefore I encourage everyone young and old to never stop imagining or being creative. These adventures will lead you to new and exciting discoveries. You’re never too young or too old to become a trailblazer. So go out imagine and play. Who knows what new innovations our children will create and contribute to the future of our species?!

The Value of Free Play

There is a severe shortage of free play time today. Children learn through free play. They learn the consequences of their actions when they are interacting with other people on an intellectual level through free play. This is because they are experiencing the results and the consequences of their actions and experience begets knowledge.

You don’t teach experience, experience teaches you. From the time we’re infants, we learn from what we experience. When we were hungry, we cried, and somebody came and fed us. If our diaper is full, we’d cry and someone took away our discomfort, etc. As we progress, we learn how to interact with others through playing.

I believe it is free play that helps us to build our character. Is it any wonder in this day and age when kids go home to video games and empty households, that they feel isolated? You hear it from the older generation all the time, but it’s true…kids don’t play outside with each other that much anymore. The result of this isolation and lack of play and character development is an increase in negative behaviors such as bullying. I have polled several classes of mine and asked the kids if they had experienced bullying. Every hand in my class went up. Is it any wonder?

We need to find a way to provide safe places where children can go and interact with each other and make up games like we used to do when we had a lot less “entertainment” provided for us. We may not have had a lot of material to play with but we made up games from what we found around us. We invented games, we worked with each other in cooperation to make up the rules, and we made agreements that we would follow these rules. If we chose not to, than the other kids would just stop playing with us until we did.

Free play has so much to offer in terms of structure, personal growth and life lessons. Are there a whole lot of places out there where children can experience free play again? Where can kids go today and play cooperatively, using their imaginations and learning cause-and-effect.

This is been my goal for the last twenty years in teaching improv to children. Through my own experience, I found that this is the closest thing to free play in a safe environment out there. Improv is not just for kids who want to go into show business or perform. Absolutely not. It’s brain food, soul food and character food.

Improv is free play and all the perks one gets with it!

Improv and Social and Emotional Learning

I’ve been teaching improv for about 25 years now, 18 of which I’ve devoted to teaching kids. Why? Because from the very beginning, when I first learned improv 43 years ago, I noticed immediately how much improv could help me grow. It helped me develop not just my mental capacity but also my self-confidence and self-esteem, which at the time were sorely lacking.

I began also see changes in my classmates too, all of whom were also young teenagers. It was amazing looking back at how fast we began to bond and become a lot closer and more tolerant of each other. We discovered who we thought was the biggest jerk in the class was actually the most sensitive; he was actually a great guy once he got to know and trust us and dropped his tough façade. We started paying attention to each other now and began really seeing each other as an individual person. We started caring more and giving a damn about each other because we were now far more emphatic than when we first started. We actually genuinely cared about each other’s well-being.

This was really apparent whenever someone would be trying to overcome a hurdle and would finally work through it. Oh man, we would all rejoice with them, unafraid of how it might be perceived by others. Labels, cliques, social groups, none of it mattered once we started doing improv with each other. All that went away and we all held special bond as unique individuals working together.

I noticed how we all became stronger in our convictions and better people, unafraid to speak up for ourselves and others whenever we thought something wasn’t right. We also started to lend our voice to whatever we felt strongly about. I guess through the role-playing improv required of us, we began to get a better perspective of the world around us and the people in it, which in turn gave us a better understanding of ourselves and how we fit in it. This was something none of us had ever experienced living in a world where we were always being told what to do and when to do it from sun up to sun down. We never felt we had a voice or opinion that an adult would be willing to listen too.  At the time we all felt that our world view was considered invalid.  After all, we were just “kids,” what did we know?  But once we developed a better sense of self we also began to take responsibility for our own actions, and we also were becoming less tolerant of people who didn’t feel they had to be responsible for theirs. We also became less afraid to questions authority. We felt more confident about voicing our opinions in a respectful, coherent, articulate way. We were becoming adults.

All this and more was as a result of the games, role-playing and intellectual challenges  improv demanded of us, within a fun and trusting environment. And man did we have a blast learning and became better people for it. What a concept! Fun while learning.

Well that was 43 long years ago, and some of us are grandparents now, but whenever we happen to run into each other here and there, we are always able to pick up right were we left off, continuing to be the better people improv demanded we become way back when.  Probably the most important lesson improv taught us that enhanced all our lives in general, was the emotional education we experienced while improvising in various situations with each other. Someone would be the protagonist and others the antagonist in any given situation, allowing us to learn empathy for what the other is going through.  After all, we were probably going to find ourselves in the same position at any given moment. Where else can anyone find this sort of emotional intelligence training? I can’t remember any other class in my scholastic career that ever came close and that learning stayed with us throughout our lifetimes.

Needless to say this experience affected me in a very profound way.  This is why I decided to make teaching improv my life’s work. I have come to realize that kids today are in urgent need of Social and Emotional Learning for a long list of reasons, and improv is the perfect vehicle to accomplish this. My greatest wish is that someday improv and the emotional education it has to offer will become a part of every school’s curriculum.

As for myself, over the years, I have developed my own methods for teaching improv that focuses more on the emotional training it has to offer and less about the “comedy” most other improv classes choose to focus on. We work on achieving more of a balance between right and left hemispheres with our training, all the while boosting their social and emotional learning and helping them become their very best.

Does it work? Please go to and read the testimonials.

Go Out and Play!

Why is it I feel like very few realize the vital importance of playing at any and every age?

It’s absolutely primal to all species. After all if you think about it, and if Darwin is right and I believe he is, then along the timeline of our evolution, even before the human species came to fruition, we were playing. It was our primal education. It is through play that all species learn. Nothing has changed; play still stands as an intrinsic part of our life…right? Playing isn’t just important to our early life but our ENTIRE life. Our physical brains actually grow as a result of play. But yet we stop playing as we got older. It’s considered a frivolous activity that you do for enjoyment when you no longer have “more important” things to do.

Actually nothing can be further from the truth. Playing is vital to brain health from the day we’re born and become cognizant until the day we die. Okay…so does that mean I want everyone to forgo their responsibilities and just go out and play? No of course not.

What I’m saying is that play should also be considered a responsibility to yourself and your wellbeing. It is essential to bring balance into everyone’s life. It maintains our emotional equilibrium. It’s necessary for stress relief which brings adverse health effects as we all know, and is extremely higher these days than before. Simple play, that being whatever you do that brings you joy and satisfaction, will help bring the balance and equilibrium into everyone’s existence. As for me, I use many things to bring that sense of fun, stress-relieving satisfaction into my life. The main avenue I use, of course, is Improvisation.

Why Improv? Well because it is the one way of playing that we first started learning as kids. We used our imaginations which lead us all to discover so many things—like cause and effect, consequences and our many abilities. It helped us develop our motor skills and taught us the meaning of fairness and cooperation. Playing with our imagination helped us discover many things about ourselves, the world around us and each other. The actual list of benefits goes on and on.

But how many of us stopped because someone told us we weren’t babies anymore and needed to “grow up’ and stop playing silly games. Usually those so called silly games were the ones that required us to use our imaginations and our ingenuity. The good news is that now science is discovering that perhaps, play serves a much bigger role in life, which directly affects us all in both body and mind health.

You see where I’m going with this?

So now as my mother used to always say, “GO OUT AND PLAY!”

Creative vs. Practical

How many times has this happened?

A teacher has their class create something in class. It could be a drawing or a collage or any other sort of creative project. The children are then left to their own devices to go off and create their own little masterpieces. They work and they work on it, pouring all their creative expression into the project until it is exactly the way they had pictured in their head. They get it as perfect as they can make it, and its their very own creation.

Then with pride they turn it in only to get it back marked with a B-, C or worse, with a negative comments like, “Is that supposed to be a house?” or “Your dog looks like a turtle.” It leaves the student to feel ridiculed, embarrassed, and defeated. That is when they start losing faith in their creative ability. This is when they start to prefer being told what to do instead of feeling confident in expressing themselves creatively.

This should be a crime.

They have just been turned off to self-expression through any medium besides words. Children who have their creative expression criticized can go on to lose confidence in their creativity. Therefore they tend to abandon their creative side for the more practical side, and begin to down play their creativity and or creative self-expression. All this can be a result of a single criticism. Often without meaning too. People can be harsh or mindless about it. They don’t stop to realize how deeply it may affect the child, or how embarrassing or humiliating it can be. Especially if the child was proud of the end results of their creative efforts.

Children must have their creativity supported as early as possible. How else could they possibly discover their potential, explore their creative interests that could be used as a very important tool for self-expression? Could they honestly discover and develop this aspect of their personalities by being practical? Practicality limits them with predetermined rules that sets confines and limitations. Now they have entered the world of parameters. Creativity not only leads kids to self-discovery, they develop abilities and learn varieties of expression.

The good news is that it’s NEVER TOO LATE or you’re never too old to start exploring your creativity. However wouldn’t it be better to start them as soon as possible so they can become comfortable and confident with their own creative expression? What better way for them to discover and celebrate their true authentic selves? So don’t let your kids just sit around and read, watch TV or just play video games. Encourage them to create and discover the wonders within themselves.

Now let me introduce improvisation into the picture. Self-expression in art can often be a solitary endeavor. They often take their pencils and paper or other art supplies and go off on their own and create something. That could be very healthy in itself. However, consider taking it a step further. In improvisation, people need to express themselves creatively within a group. Therefore the players have to learn how to work off of each other in order to create, each bringing their own uniqueness to the table. With improvisation, you never know what’s around the corner. You just have to interact with creative self-expression as your only tool in relating to the scene and to others.

Not only is this fun, it also helps to develop a true sense of self, it helps to foster confidence, and it teaches children that they should not be afraid to think creatively and come up with original ideas to help with the situation see it to completion. They also learn how to problem solve creatively within a group dynamic, teaching them how to become a strong team player in challenging situations. By being put to the test in improvisation, children need to be able to go toe to toe with anyone in any situation. Overtime they start to become more comfortable taking on the challenge that awaits them and giving them the confidence to take any situation head on, enabling them to go on to become fearless, confident, creative problem solvers in their own lives.

Creativity is the key to human potential, so please encourage it as often as possible without judgment, and watch the children blossom as they begin to feel comfortable and confident in their authentic selves.