Instructions Need Not Apply

My 10-year-old daughter, GirlTastic, has always been creative and continually seeks out new sources of inspiration. She spends hours watching videos on how to craft, paint and bake. She loves baking.

Having a sweet tooth of my own, I love her baking (most of the time).


But GirlTastic isn’t the type to scour a recipe for every little detail. That’s more like this Clueless Dad’s style. Instead, she heads into the pantry and refrigerator to pull out whatever she can find. Then she just wings it.

At first, I was horrified by this.

I thought, “How can she just wing it?” After all, baking is chemistry. It’s literally a science and, therefore, things need to be exact or they won’t work.

But GirlTastic is a bit stubborn – a trait she indeed inherited from her Clueless Dad. She has watched enough Cupcake Wars and Chopped on the Food Network to know that you often need to let inspiration carry you beyond your guidelines and make it up as you go. Instructions don’t always apply.

I think back to a few years ago when she had to paint a portrait of herself for school. In classic Clueless Dad fashion, I planned the whole process for her. In my mind, I was helping simplify a daunting task. I encouraged her to first sketch a picture on paper. Then, once she had it perfected, she could carefully transfer her sketch onto a canvas. Finally, she should outline the picture in thin black paint and fill it in with color.

She looked at me blankly while I gave these instructions. Then she said calmly, “No, daddy, I like to go with the flow.”

I was blown away. Who was this mad woman? True to her word, she went with the flow, and her portrait, predictably, turned out amazing.

Like with all her other art projects, as GirlTastic tackles the kitchen, her adventurous spirit and creative experimentation amaze me, once again. To be honest, some of her early cupcakes were almost inedible. In fact, we typically tossed them in the trash once she left the room. As she continues to explore different ingredients and flavors, however, she seems to have found her stride. The treats not only look incredible, but also taste pretty darn good.

As my little Nerd(s) continue to discover they produce better and better results through creative tinkering, I’ve learned an important lesson. If I can avoid cornering GirlTastic with what I think is the “right” way to do a task, she is more apt to find enjoyment and satisfaction during the process of discovery. For her, creativity comes from the heart as well as her mind. By nurturing her creativity in our kitchen “laboratory,” the results also seem to have a positive influence on my gut.

How do you inspire creativity in your own nerds?

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