In graduate school when I was studying to become a therapist, I remember learning about “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow that categorizes human needs into a five-tier model, often shown as a pyramid. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Self-actualization was a point on the pyramid that not many people got to in their lifetime, yet creativity was associated with this level of the pyramid. Something about that roadmap to creativity felt off to me and didn’t align with my lived experience. What I saw in my work with children was that their access to creativity was integral in supporting their emotional processing and resiliency through difficult moments. Creativity didn’t seem to be something to aspire to, but rather something that was innately inside everyone in different and unique ways that were supportive of their overall well-being and alignment with their authentic selves.
There seemed to be a narrative that only some people were creative and some of the theories that I started seeing sort of supported that narrative. We wanted to help shift that narrative and help kids and families be inspired to find whatever creative expressions and or outlets called to them. We believe in everyone’s capacity to tune into creativity as a skill that could be not only a tool for expression but also a skill to use to create and solve unique issues and problems. I wanted everyone to know that they have access to this amazing tool that can support their inner world so much.
I was particularly inspired by a student I was working with who had experienced a very difficult trauma at the young age of 5. This student came to kindergarten very soon after he witnessed his brother die in a very violent way. His behaviors in class became extreme and he acted out in class, being physical, drawing pictures, or saying things that were frightening to other students.
I was asked to start working with him 2 times a week, doing individual play therapy sessions in my office. We did a lot of play therapy and sand tray. Sand tray is a therapeutic tool used by therapists to help clients externalize and process emotions in a safe place. He would play out violent scenes, turn them into superhero sequences, and have funerals for his characters. Watching and holding space for him as we switched between storylines of play in the sand, to drawings to dance parties, showed me how beautiful processing can be when it goes hand in hand with creativity.
As an adult who had been trying to work through my own emotional wounds and traumas with a therapist in talk therapy, I was totally inspired by how free and unabashedly creative this boy was. He let all his feelings come up and he expressed them with his play, with his body, and with his heart. There were moments that were so heavy and sad, but also moments of joy and laughter. It was like watching an imaginary friend come to meet him at the door of my office, hold his hand, and help him enter a place where he could do anything.
After months of this cadence, the play began to change. The heavy moments became shorter and less intense in play and he slowly started getting interested in new toys that didn’t have anything to do with the storylines he had previously been playing out. During this time, we saw incredible improvements in behavior in the classroom as well. He went from being a child who almost had to leave the school due to behaviors, to a classroom leader who performed at the talent show at the end of the year with the whole school cheering and calling his name.
It solidified for me that creativity comes to us when we need it most. If we are open to letting it guide us through difficult moments and come through us and be open and confident enough to do that, it can really supercharge our purpose and healing throughout our life journey.
This is why we created the Dragon collection and why it is part of the Resilience collection. This is why my favorite character is Dragon, I even have a large Dragon tattoo! This experience inspired me to tap into my own creative callings and start writing, drawing, and creating worlds to capture these important healing tools, for myself and others. Dragon helped me create Slumberkins!