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How To: Think Like a Kid

Child's play can inspire you.

While sticking out your tongue at strangers may not be productive, thinking like a kid can boost creativity.

Researchers Darya Zabelina and Michael Robinson of North Dakota State University wanted to see if tapping into a childlike mind-set would enhance an adult's creative output. College students wrote about what they would do if they had a day off from school now, or as their 7-year-old selves. The first group produced "boring" results, such as catching up on work or sleep, while the second group stated that they would go buy the biggest lollipops they could find or spend the day playing with friends. Afterward, the second group performed better than the first on a test of creativity. Thinking like a kid helped introverts the most, because they're typically more inhibited.

Zabelina advocates applying a childlike mind-set to our daily lives. "It's about giving yourself permission to explore and free time to play. It would not just increase your creativity—it would also motivate you to create."

Kidding Around

Michael Robinson of NDSU suggests ways to boost creativity:

  • Why so serious? View yourself in a more light-hearted fashion, perhaps by thinking of your odd (but not ego-threatening) quirks.
  • Boxed in Adults develop habits that narrow the range of what they think is possible. Do something spontaneous, preferably every day.
  • Taskmaster Grownups treat errands as problems to be solved in a logical manner. Appreciate tasks as opportunities for exploration, not boring duties.
  • Smelling the roses Being present and living in the moment gives you the opportunity to appreciate fun when it occurs.
  • Passing the time Free time is free time. Don't fill every moment with chores.