Fostering Creativity

Keeping Children's Creative Ideas

The value in recording the countless creative ideas and thoughts of children.

By Abby Connors from Teaching Creativity | Posted 7/25/10 | Updated 5/17/24

This is an actual phone message I once received, reproduced in its entirety:

Aug. 27th Wensday
5:51 a.m.

It's not every day you get a phone message from another planet, but that's not the only reason I've kept this scrap of paper, which was left on my kitchen desk calendar years ago by one of my children. I've kept it because I've always meant to write a story about it.

It just seems like it would be a great beginning for an action-adventure story, or perhaps a suspenseful thriller involving a centuries-old conspiracy and lots of fun anagrams.

I keep a folder with lots of ideas for stories, songs, games, and activities, and I refer to it frequently. Young children, who have countless ideas but forget far too many of them, would really benefit from having their creative thoughts recorded and kept by a thoughtful teacher.

A few weeks ago, I was teaching a group of four-year-olds, reading them a story about a little girl who lived in high-rise apartment and rode in a fancy elevator. A boy next to me burst out, "I wish I lived in an elevator!" This was such an intriguing idea that I stopped reading and told him, "That would make a wonderful story, about a boy who lives in an elevator! You should write that story!" I don't know if he ever did, but he seemed very excited about the idea at the time.

Another time, I opened a book which I was about to read to a three-year-old group, and on the first page there was a beautiful picture of a full moon in the night sky. Before I even read a word, a little boy named Kenny said, "I want to be an astronaut!" Just looking at the lovely illustration brought out this heartfelt wish.

"You want to be an astronaut?" I asked.

"Yeah, like my daddy be's!"

"Your daddy is an astronaut?"


"You'd like to go to the moon?"

He nodded.

At this point, Kenny seemed satisfied that his idea had been heard, so I continued with the story. But perhaps if that idea had been written down and saved for him, he might reconnect with that moment of enthusiasm and write a story or a poem on another day.

So often, when children are assigned to write a story or paint a picture, they can't think of ideas. Yet most children come up with funny or interesting ideas and observations all the time. Why not keep a folder (or a computer file) of each child's interesting ideas? You can start this folder for them if they're too young to write, then encourage them to add to it themselves. In the future, when they're stuck for an idea, they can just turn to their folder — a convenient resource filled with their own original ideas — for inspiration.

By the way, I never found out what that mysterious message was about. Its writer, who was quite young at the time, had forgotten the call by the time I asked about it. So, I'm still wondering — and I still have fun imagining a story beginning with that message from Mars.

Next: How to Help Children Stay Creative

©2010 Abigail Flesch Connors. All rights reserved.