Creative Lessons in a Brown Paper Bag

Creativity is a trait that I try to nurture in my children. Whether through art, music, or literature, I strive to give them many opportunities to express themselves.

Here is an example of 9-year-old Nee's photography skills

Because of my encouragement, my 9-year-old daughter, Nee, is blossoming into a talented writer, artist, pianist, and photographer. Although she is naturally shy, her artistic endeavors give her an outlet to express herself.

My two sons, N and X, have learned to express their creativity in different ways. X, who is 3-years-old, loves music. He often turns on the stereo and starts dancing. At night, I usually hear him singing himself to sleep (one of his favorite songs is “Beat It“).

Seven-year-old, N has the gift of gab. I’m always impressed by his ability to turn a phrase and effectively argue his point (not to mention his unique questions). Because of his oratory skills, he will either be a politician, pastor, or pundit.

As parents, it is important that we identify our kids’ talents and look for ways to channel their creativity into positive outlets.

Early in my life, my mother realized that I liked to draw; therefore, she did whatever she could to help cultivate my talent. Although she couldn’t afford art lessons, she took me to community art classes and to the library to check out art related books.

I was probably the only kid with an intimate knowledge of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael before they were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Without her encouragement, I very well could have succumbed to the temptations of the streets. Instead, I worked hard to develop my artistic and later my literary skills.

In high school and college, I wrote short stories and poems in my spare time. I thought they were masterpieces, but in retrospect they were trite and poorly developed.

It wasn’t until I enrolled in a college poetry writing class, that I really learned how to be creative.

My professor, Dr. Woodson, was a quirky guy who wore black pants, a black shirt, and a black trench coat everyday. He taught us how to deconstruct a poem in order to really appreciate it’s merits. He also taught us about the creative process that goes into writing poetry.

On the first day of class, he told us to pull out a sheet of paper because we were having a pop quiz. We all groaned and reluctantly pulled out our notebooks.

Dr. Woodson reached under his desk and puled out a brown paper bag. He placed the bag on his desk and said, “Here is your quiz.”

We all looked at each other puzzled. One brave student asked what we were supposed to do.

“Tell me what’s in the bag,” said Dr. Woodson. “You have five minutes to complete the quiz.”

We all looked around the room still unsure about what we should be doing. We wrote answers on our papers and passed them to Dr. Woodson at the end of the allotted period.

“Now I will read your answers aloud and grade the papers,” said Dr. Woodson.

“The first one says, ‘Your Lunch,’’ Dr. Woodson said. “F!” He went through a few more papers that said things like, air, some pens, and a few more lunch responses. All F!

Finally, Dr. Woodson found a response that made him smile.

“Finally,” he said. “This paper says, ‘Pink Cadillac.’ A!”

I will always remember that exercise because it made me think differently. I may never be a famous author or see my work hanging in the Guggenheim, but I will strive to be creative in every endeavor. And I plan to teach my kids to do the same.

Stay Strong,

Questions: How do you encourage your kids to be creative? Did anyone ever nurture your creativity?

About author

Frederick J. Goodall

Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at or on Twitter at