How a pre-schooler out-philosophises a grownup



My four-year-old was sketching some unidentifiable streaks on his Dry-Erase board. I couldn’t make out any particular shape, but he looked intent.

“What’s that?” I asked. “What are you drawing?”

“Um, I don’t know,” Timmy said, unperturbed. He continued to add another shape.

“Are you finding out as you go?”

“Yes.” As if this were both natural and obvious.

He finished the latest shape, and looked at it. He slanted his head to the side. Contemplating.

“It’s a boat!” he decided. Then he deliberately added water under it, and a man standing at the bow.

This felt deep, maybe because it was so very different. (And because almost anything can seem deep when presented with airs of both confidence and complacency.) The grownup way of doing things, the normal way of doing things, is to start with the idea. After the idea comes the implementation. It’s the natural sequitur, isn’t it?

This was embarrassing. I’m a graphic designer, among other professional pies. Creative idea generation is part of what I do. It gets wrapped and ribboned in terms like ‘brainstorming’, ‘concept sketching’, and ‘branding development.’

And I just got outmanoeuvred by a preschooler doing a sketch equivalent of finding animals in the clouds.

It seemed a good idea to draft a blog post about it—we bloggers see everything as potential post fodder—and in the midst of penning my grand self-depreciating thoughts, I heard plastic rain from where my children were playing.

Timmy had commandeered his younger brother, and the two of them had slotted Dry-Erase pens into each other, end to end, forming colourful plastic chains. The plastic rain sound had been what happens when their chains were whipped against each other, causing the pens to detach and fall in colourful disarray.

“Those pens are for drawing,” I said. “Not for making messes.”

“No,” Timmy corrected. “We’re making swords.”

So now he was assessing objects not for what they’re for, but for what they can do.

Fantastic. I may as well give this kid my job. Today, he’s better at it.


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