On the importance of colouring outside the lines

On the importance of colouring outside the lines

When children are young, they are learning sponges. Every new experience, every word they learn, every behavior they adopt, is an investment in a more fruitful future.
From the biological side of things to how we're nurtured, a lot of what goes on in childhood influences how we turn out as adults.

So for adults! Remember:

You can never have a greater impression on a person than when they are in their early childhood years.

There is a well-known book by Robert Fulghum titled:
All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

The author specifically culls out key skills we learn early on:

  • Share everything
  • Play fair
  • Don't hit people
  • Put things back where you found them
  • Clean up your own mess
  • Don't take things that aren't yours
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody
  • Wash your hands before you eat
  • Flush
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some
  • Take a nap every afternoon
  • When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together
  • Be aware of wonder.
  • Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
    The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK…

I have always thought many of the items on Fulghum’s list are remarkably on point - useful, thoughtful and decent. His book is worth re-reading from time to time.

However; I disagree with one of the things many children “have” to “normally” learn in kindergarten or when they start at school, namely colouring inside the lines.
Why do we put those restrictions on people in such early age?

I do believe that rules are important (when they are necessary), but I also believe that creativity and thinking outside the box are something children need to be able to learn from an early stage.

Or… Let me rephrase it:
Why do we feel the need to unlearn children’s fantastic skill of not having their mindset restrained by boxes, borders or lines? Albert Einstein would never have come up with the theory of relativity if his mind had stayed in the box of classical logical thinking...

I assume most people have a memory from childhood where they’ve been given an image of something innocuous or ridiculous or pedestrian and then you had to colour the image with crayons. And you had to - you were instructed to — stay inside the lines of the image.
Further, you were expected to use the “right” colours; the grass had to be green, the sky had to be blue.
You get the idea. Your teachers and kindergarten friends noticed when your crayons strayed, or you used colours that did not match reality. Everyone knows the grass is not pink and the sky is not purple.

Do not always colour inside the lines! Do not always use expected colours! And be supportive and curious when others manage to not be bound to the lines and the colours that everyone else thinks that must be correct.

I will always tell my children:
Colour with joy and with creativity. Let your crayons go wherever they want to go. (Except on the table, on the walls and so on, for those are important rules to know and to follow...)
And, if possible and appropriate, feel the freedom to discard the pre-prepared drawings we are given in life and make your own drawings.

To be sure, some of the rules of kindergarten are important. But this message, about drawing outside the lines, is equally if not more important:

  • Be Bold;
  • Use Bright Colours;
  • Design Your Future;
  • Colour Freely In and Outside the Lines.

Children do not move, think or speak in straight line, and neither does imagination nor creativity. So; do not suppress a curious open mind, just because everyone else around expects so.

“The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”
Pablo Picasso

Øyvind Nyborg

Øyvind Nyborg

I am not a blogger! I just put my thoughts into writing some times...
It's like capturing snippets of life at various stages, offering me a window into my own evolution.

Øyvind Nyborg