One of my favourite things to do at the moment is play with my two-year-old niece, Indi. I played with her for a while yesterday, and in that time we: made all of her sick toy animals better, organised a pool (tiny bowl) party for the animals, “baked a cake”, took a nap, sang songs — changing certain lyrics to poop, and plaited (knotted) my hair like Elsa from Frozen. Then Indi asked me to paint her nails.
I didn’t have any nail polish, and wasn’t sure I should be painting a two-year-old’s nails even if I did. So instead I brushed my finger carefully along each of her nails. When I was done she held her hands out in front of her face to admire and judge my work. She carefully examined each individual nail and her smile grew bigger and bigger. “They look beautiful, don’t they?” I asked. She took a deep breath, considered her answer for a moment, and whispered “yes”.
I wasn’t sure what colour I’d painted Indi’s nails, but I could tell that she could genuinely see it. In the same way that she could genuinely see the snow — that she completely buried me in later — falling in our kitchen last week. Her imagination blows my mind and I wish I could steal even a tiny piece of it for myself. In my experience, working in a creative field can often make you feel like the least imaginative person on Earth.
I recently read an article that said by the age of five we’re using 80% of our creative potential, but that will have declined to just 2% by the age of twelve. They didn’t go past the age of twelve, but I’m guessing that my creative potential percentage is not too great at the age of thirty-five. I’m not sure how they measured “creative potential”, but I personally don’t think that it does fade as we get older, it just changes.
Everything that exists is a product of human creativity and imagination, and not much of everything that exists was made by five-year-olds. Our imagination and creativity definitely become more grounded in reality as we get older, and we do have to exercise them in the same way we have to exercise the rest of our brain. Which is why I’m so grateful that I get to hang out with Indi, and so excited to do it more. Watching her imagination in action is the best exercise for my own. I’m hoping that if I hang out with her enough, one day I’ll be able to see that snow falling in our kitchen too.