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Start small and start at the beginning

Posted by on August 14th, 2014 with 7 Comments

Welcome to Kid Spark

“Start small and start at the beginning.”

These wise words from my lovely friend, Kelly Exeter, came through late the other night, after I shared with her my post about Robin Williams that she had inadvertently inspired. These little words of encouragement helped me gather that extra bit of wobbly courage I needed to get this ball rolling. No more dilly-dallying around the edges… it’s time to get serious!

TaDa!!!! At last, The Kid Spark Project!

So I find myself asking the question, exactly what was the beginning of Kid Spark?

There were many possible beginnings, but I think it was the day I first watched Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk and cried myself silly… (I still tear up every time I watch it – even between the laughs!)

You can watch it here…

It was like coming face-to-face with my unique parenting journey, my personal history and my life purpose all at once. And it was terrifying and exciting, and completely overwhelming!

I realised, not for the first time, that for my highly intelligent, creative, sensitive, passionate, energiser bunny of a child, life was going to be mighty hard, and I wanted to not only help him survive, but thrive.

So I started researching and reading, planning and trialling, and from this research we’ve slowly been paving a new way to parent, one that honours his unique personality and nurtures his many gifts, while still allowing us all to live a relatively calm, productive and happy life.

Through this process, I also learned a lot about myself – about my own experience as a highly creative, intelligent and (fortunately for my mum) less energetic child, and how that has played out throughout my adolescence and adult life. I reflected on how my parents had raised me, how school had played a part in my development, the “big” experiences that had shaped me, and all the crazy interactions I had had with my peers. Much of this was positive (after all, I’ve turned out all right!), but there were also things that had eaten away at my confidence and taken my life in directions away from my dreams.

I longed to share my learnings with other parents on the same journey, to ease their way, and inspire them to try new things. To help them to raise healthy, happy, creative kids. Not just the ones who would go onto lead lives as a fully-fledged “Creative” with a capital “C”, but ALL kids – for every child has their own “spark”, their own special gift to the world.

Much of my research underpinned the products I created at Leaf. The greatest pain I felt with closing Leaf was that my journey was over before it had really begun. But there were also many, many other things that could not be contained within a little journal business – and I wanted to explore those too!

Especially Spark.

The concept of “spark” is not my own. It comes from the work of Professor Peter Benson, a world leader in developmental psychology, who described “sparks” as the following:

SPARKS are the hidden flames in your kids that light their proverbial fire, get them excited, tap into their true passions.

SPARKS come from the gut. They motivate and inspire. They’re authentic passions, talents, assets, skills and dreams.

SPARKS can be musical, athletic, intellectual, academic, relational – anything from playing the violin to enjoying working with kids or senior citizens.

SPARKS get kids going on a positive path, steering them into making a difference in the world and away from self-defeating or dangerous paths.

SPARKS, when they are known, and acted, on, help youth come to the life-changing insight that “my life has a purpose.”

(Source: Benson, P.L., Sparks. How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers.)

Professor Benson did some great work with pre-teens and teenagers before his passing in 2011, but despite his own research, in which he discovered that the majority (52%) of sparks appeared in children under 10, he did not work with younger children.

Personally, I believe that delaying such important work to the pre-teen years is leaving it too late.

From what I’ve witnessed, it is between the ages of 5 and 10 that many kids stop believing that they are imaginative, creative beings. Sure, our education system, with its focus on standardised testing and defined curriculum, is partly to blame, but there are many other things that happen during that time too. We make a random comment, we encourage one extra-curricular activity over another, we get busy and look for the “easy” solutions rather than the “best” ones. Sometimes we unknowingly snuff out a spark before we even know it was there.

The Kid Spark Project is about sharing and exchanging ideas about how to recognise and nurture those tiny, baby sparks into flames that can last a lifetime (or even longer – think Shakespeare!) While it will have a particular focus on our most creative kids, it aims to help all parents nurture every type of spark their children may have.

Why creative kids? Because they are so sensitive and passionate and intense, which makes them very vulnerable to being broken. Because they are the ones for whom our current school system doesn’t work as well. Because they are often the ones who slip through the cracks, and find themselves caught up in addiction and/or mental illness – a long, long way from their childhood dreams. And more importantly, because in his research, Professor Benson discovered that the Creative Arts were in fact the most common sparks (43% of boys and 65% of girls – I wonder if this figure would have been higher in younger boys… but I digress!)

Through my research and the significant changes we have implemented into our lifestyle, we have certainly gained a lot of insight and experience, which I hope to share. However, I am just one mum, with only one child, so there will be many more discoveries and ideas from other parents, teachers and professionals on the same journey. I also hope to bring on board some wonderful creativity and childhood development specialists who can share their expertise with us. I’d like The Kid Spark Project to grow into more than just a resource… more like a community.

I do not know where Kid Spark will eventually lead or what form it will finally take, but for now, it has a home – here on the Tiny Moments blog.

My dreams for this project are BIG, which is probably why it is so darn scary! But as Kelly suggested, and like the sparks themselves, I have at least started at the beginning, and I am starting small.

Welcome to Kid Spark!


  1. Vanessa says:

    Well done Cath, sounds like you are completely in alignment with this new path. Sounds awesome. Whoo hoo!

  2. Helen K says:

    Great idea – looking forward to seeing how it evolves!

  3. Sue says:

    What ashame you didn’t get to meet Prof Benson – surely there are others who have followed in his path that may be great to find and connect with? All the best Cath sounds inspiring! I look fwd to more.

  4. Pilar says:

    Absolutely grand idea…I felt your words move me as I thought of my daughters and how many SPARKS are still there and how many have been “snuffed out”. Truly inspiring can’t wait to hear more!

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Hi, I’m Cath

Cath Connell

Creating my amazing life one tiny moment at a time. Bringing the Hubby, a Munchkin and about a dozen tomato plants along for the ride.

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