Are You More Creative than a 4-Year-Old?

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The old adage that the key to creativity is to view the world through the eyes of a child has never been more relevant. Ever since this summer’s release of the phenomenally popular The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by Moonbot Studies – a company already dubbed the Pixar of the iPad generation – there has been a steady procession of innovation in the market for children’s publishing for the iPad.

Just this week, PBS Kids announced its first-ever augmented reality mobile app. In contrast to iPad publishing in the adult sector – which has often aspired to little more than a literal 1-to-1 translation from a paper publication to the tablet – the market for tablet-based children’s books has genuinely pushed the limits of what’s possible on the iPad, integrating elements that delight our senses of hearing, touch, and sight.

One possible reason for this flourishing of creativity in the children’s tablet publishing market may be due to the relative creative freedom of developing a child-friendly publication. As anyone with a child knows, it takes a lot of creativity and imagination to keep a toddler amused and engaged, so developers are free to use all tools at their disposal. Moreover, children’s books are lightweight enough to create a showcase project fairly quickly. After all, even a children’s book classic like Goodnight Moon clocks in at a relatively lightweight 32 pages.

As if to underscore the fact that creating an interactive children’s book for the tablet is within anyone’s grasp, Moglue recently launched an iPad publishing platform for anyone to create a digitally-interactive children’s book: “Obviously your book isn’t going to look amazing if you’re not so good at drawing, but for all of those artists looking to make the jump to the tablet — or anyone who wants to craft a custom story book with family photos for their kids — this seems perfect. Text and images can be dragged and dropped onto the screen, then animated using one of many different effects.”

And, speaking of Goodnight Moon, Ann Droyd (wink, wink) recently updated the classic book for the iPad generation. The result is Goodnight iPad — an imaginative retelling of the children’s classic with a new ending (warning, spoiler!): “Goodnight, gadgets everywhere.” The book, intended as a parody of our modern, wired lives, is also a hint of what’s to come in the future: more innovation centered around gadgets in the lives of our children. In the spirit of children’s cartoons that are meant to appeal to adults as much as youngsters, many of these new tablet publications are as interesting for adults to use as they are for children. There’s something wonderful about the new sensations playing out on the screen in a work like “Morris Lessmore” – the whush of the wind, the animation of simple, everyday objects. And that PBS augmented reality app? That sounds like fun too.

Critics, of course, might point out that all this gadget-ization of childhood is somehow harmful – that children should be playing with wooden blocks and exploring nature, not glued to their iPad screens. After all, hasn’t there has always been something not quite parent-approved about letting children sit in front of a screen all day? Certainly, a steady diet of iPad apps at a young age has its drawbacks. Take, for example, the mega-viral video of a one-year-old toddler who was genuinely confused why a real-world magazine didn’t behave like an iPad. The current rule-of-thumb is that children shouldn’t be watching any TV until age 2 – should that apply to iPad screens as well?

One thing is certain – the children raised on a steady diet of technology and gadgets at a young age don’t turn out half bad, after all. Consider the recent TEDx speech by the sixth-grade genius behind the popular Bustin Jieber iPhone app – a whack-a-mole game featuring celebrity Justin Bieber. An iPhone app created by a sixth-grader? Yes, as 12-year-old Thomas Suarez explains to a TED audience, a lot of kids don’t just want to play games these days – they want to make them. Indeed, seeing the world through the eyes of a child might just make you more creative and innovative than you ever imagined.

Group of children with laptop / Shutterstock

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