To Raise A Generation Of Creative Kids, Let Them Make Their Own Stories

Instead of just telling stories to our children, what if we let them participate in them—or even create them themselves?

This piece is part of a Collaborative Fund-curated series on creativity and values written by thought leaders in the for-profit, for-good business space.

A generation of kids is now growing up with a deluge of new screens, new technologies, and new tools that are perfectly set up to help stimulate kids’ natural creative instincts. But these devices can equally be used for passive consumption of media and entertainment. Every time I see our kids walk up to the TV and try to swipe through content wishing it to be a giant iPad, I realize that they’re begging to be able to participate and create with media.

We can determine the direction of our children. We need to help facilitate a shift toward helping kids become their own content creators, not just content consumers. For this shift to happen we need to invest in better stories, better technology tools, and better education.

Collaborative Stories

For years, stories have been predominately linear push communications. Elite storytelling auteurs would weave their masterful tales. The great stories were devoured page-by-page, scene-by-scene by an engrossed, yet passive audience. However, kids growing up now will never know this purely passive form of content consumption. Parents and the media industry need to stimulate a new form of storytelling. We need stories that invite participation, remixing, mashing-up, playing, and creating. These types of stories are a great way to help kids find and understand their place in the world. As kids play with their stories, the more they discover themselves. Through triggering key capabilities like role playing and imagination, kids can more clearly see their place in the society around them.

Creative Tools

We need better tools to create this playful nature of storytelling through technology. Fortunately, technology has never been more flexible, accessible, or scalable. With a device like the iPad, we have an amazing shared platform that begs for participation and collaboration. Yet these hardware devices need to be populated with software tools for creating content as much as for consumption. How many parents have lent their smartphone to their kids only to return two minutes later to find 800 new photos taken? This is children wanting to express themselves through technology. We’re right on the cusp of seeing kids being able to create their own movies, games, books, photos, toys, and magazines. The tools need to continue to evolve to help fuel this form of self-expression, creation, and storytelling.

Technology Education

So why do we not see more collaborative stories and creative tools for kids? Simply put: There is lack of understanding on the part of mass media companies on how to involve kids in their media. They aren’t set up to make collaborative and social stories. Mass media isn’t particularly good at quick technology development of creative tools that facilitate this participation. This lack of understanding and education on the potential for technology to improve a child’s life will ultimately lead our kids to be passive consumers of content when they could just as easily be content creators. The smart and progressive media companies are just now starting to loosen the reigns on their intellectual property to allow kids to create and play with their characters and stories.

What’s Next?

Ultimately, it’s up to the parents, the media makers, and the developers, to lead the charge for this new generation of content creating kids. With new forms of collaborative storytelling, new technology tools, and better education, we can help raise a generation of naturally curious and creative thinking kids, powered by new technology. Next time you’re reading Curious George for the hundredth time or watching a Pixar movie you can honestly say, "my kid could make this."

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13 Comments

  • Virginia Lawrence

    I have wondered when someone would might mention this idea and finally define the concept of where "creative education" should be housed.  Creative education does not just include technology and cool software applications, it has to be backed up with content; really great content.  That is where great educators and those with creative experience come in.  At this point it is imperative that media and software companies turn to those that know learners learn, play today and how they create.  If we do then we will move forward to develop innovations beyond our wildest dreams. 

  • Soraya Daniels

    This is such a great and innovative idea. In fact we are all creative and should all participate and explore it. What an adventure it could be for both children and adults.

  • Jocelyn Aucoin

    Let's extend this whole idea beyond children, as well. Adults need to learn embrace this as a way of learning. Our entire culture that is saturated with content. Far too many of us are consumers. The world needs more storytellers.  

  • pippa @storyofmum

    I love storybird.com for making up stories with my preschool kids, led by selecting pictures. Also, the best way I've found to get my 4 year old to join in with a story (rather than begging me to do all the telling) is to play 'Fortunately Unfortunately', a group story where anyone playing along has to add a story twist that's either fortunate or unfortunate... It's ace :)

  • Raysnwaves

    This article points out the artistic and creative inventiveness that all children possess within.  With encouragement and praise, I view this article as a key example of a child expressing their independence through thought which develops their strong character.

  • Helens1607

    There are hundreds of iPad apps out there just ready for kids. Try book creator for the iPad, my 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9 year old god daughters all produce books at an incredible speed, and since the ones who can't write yet can use the record function and do voice overs rather than writing text it works for all age groups. It takes about 30 seconds to get the concept over to them, then just say goodbye to the iPad because you won't see it again until they have a masterpiece ready to show you. 

  • Kyle Kesterson

    Fantastic article! Its premise is largely the basis that has become our gospel at Freak'n Genius. We're developing EXACTLY this. Check the fun video on our homepage - www.FreaknGenius.com 

  • LibWithAttitude

    Interesting article . I completely agree about the power of collaborative storytelling - I run a project where authors and children all over the world work together to write collaborative stories which are then published in books. The kids really love it and it's really rewarding. The stories are all written via a blog on the project ning :www.writepath.ning.com

  • Ryan Steinbach

    This reminds me of the movie "The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl". It was an awful movie that my, than, 4-year-old brother naturally loved. Apparently, the storyline and characters were made up by the directors two kids during a series of 'make-believe' games in the backyard.