Night Zookeeper is the basis for a literacy program that inspires children to draw, write and think creatively. Our belief is that too much of the content children consume, leaves little or no room for their own imagination and that in homes and schools, creativity is falling further and further down the list of priorities.
We designed Night Zookeeper to remedy this, by enabling teachers and parents to deliver curriculum-based skills in a way that also engages children creatively. Night Zookeeper does this through great storytelling and technology – encouraging kids to express themselves in a series of fun and carefully planned offline and online learning activities.
Why go to so much effort to bring creativity into learning experiences? Well, creativity has taken a backseat in many education systems across the world and we want to fight back! Educators, like Sir Ken Robinson, have championed creativity’s importance for decades, but teachers and parents haven’t had the practical tools to incorporate it into their teaching in education systems fixated upon results and short-term knowledge acquisition. With the dawn of the AI Age, it is now more vital than ever that we recognise the importance of creativity and refocus our teaching to nurture its development in children.
Creativity is our very own human superpower. It is the reason that Homo sapiens evolved through the Ages. The spirit of invention and ingenuity that we possess is driven by our creativity – our ability to think in infinite directions and not just in straight lines. To see in our minds something new, something that previously didn’t exist or was previously assumed impossible.
When I meet children at literary festivals, during school visits or any other events, I always like to start by informing them of this superpower. I ask them to close their eyes and instruct them so that they can see in their minds something that doesn’t currently exist. Something fun like an elephant crossed with a tiger or a salmon playing football. Their faces always light up afterward, delighted by their minds ability to create something unique.
The Night Zookeeper animated series and storybooks, also celebrate creativity as a superpower. They show children how both Will and Riya use their creativity to solve problems and experience the ‘impossible’. The story reminds children that creativity, imagination as well as diversity, friends, animals and our natural world, should all be cherished and nurtured.
Creativity is at the heart of the human experience and our global economy. It is something that AI can’t replicate, certainly not with the emotional intelligence of a human mind. Developing a child’s creativity doesn’t mean just encouraging them in the Arts, although that is an important part of it, it means developing in them a Creative Mindset.
So how do you teach children to be creative? Well, Daniel Pink, Ed Catmull, and many others have great thoughts on this subject, but here are my six top tips:
At its core Night Zookeeper is a question. What magical animals could live in the zoo at night? These big, open-ended questions encourage an open mind as children begin to realise the endless possible answers. Their eventual choice of creation helps them to learn something about themselves and how they think.
Creativity isn’t a purely cerebral activity. Night Zookeeper wants kids to get out the paints, colouring pencils, plasticine, Lego bricks and indeed anything that gets them using the bodies. Some of the greatest leaps in human knowledge came from mishaps from the discovery of penicillin to the chocolate chip cookie. When children draw magical animals they make mistakes, but these can become hugely inspirational to their final creations. A slip of the brush becomes a jet pack or a splash of paint becomes a fashionable spotted jacket.
Learning from each other whilst not feeling pressured to be the same, is one of the best ways to broaden children’s minds. When children see the magical animals that other children are creating, they get to see the diversity of human experiences and ideas. Children who may otherwise be afraid to be themselves are liberated by the endless possibilities on display and can take inspiration from multiple sources before creating their next story or magical animal.
Encouragement and positivity are vital in developing any new skill. However, with creativity, which is linked to self-image and mental wellbeing, it is crucial. Being a champion of your children’s ideas and celebrating their efforts has a transformational effect. At Night Zookeeper we comment on every piece of work a child produces. We hold up their ideas alongside the professionals; publishing the best stories in our book series and including their ideas in our animated series. Giving children a sense of progress and achievement through the gamification of the website whenever we or their teacher publish a piece of writing or drawing to our blog.
We also include kids drawings in all of the games on the website and apps, showing them all of the things that their own ideas can do.
Reading offers us a gateway into new worlds and the lives of a diverse range of characters. The Night Zookeeper story books develop our imagination, enabling us to visit a city of igloos, a flying mountain or a forest of purple, talking trees. In order to be creative, kids need to know and maintain an interest in a diverse range of subjects. Books are still one of the best ways to get this information. The world wide web, for all of its amazing, endless learning materials, can be a place of extreme distraction. If you are still reading this article, I commend you! But trust me when I say that many will have left, distracted by the next article, email or social media notification. However, with a book in your hands, you can shut down from the outside world and properly immerse yourself in the author’s words. Children’s minds are sponges for information so please do everything you can to encourage a growth mindset and help children fall in love with reading.
When you start to write or draw, you connect to your own thoughts in a very direct way and can begin to understand how your consciousness guides you. When children write a journal, for example, they reflect on their day and understand it better. Thought of in this way, it is easy to see why journaling has been proven to make such a positive impact on children (and adults) mental wellbeing. On Night Zookeeper, we encourage children to explore and practice all forms of writing and art making. Regular acts of self-expression encourage children to develop a love of learning as they become more curious about the world and hungry for knowledge.
Looking for some extra writing inspiration? Check out these writing prompts.
Thank you for reading this! If you care about your child’s creativity, please consider sharing this article and joining our Night Zookeeper community by checking out our reading and writing program. We would be delighted to have you!
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