Thinking Like a Child









Thinking like a child means many things – it means letting go of inhibitions. It means being

spontaneous – following a random idea just to see where it takes us. It means being persistent

and open to all the new ideas that are thrown at us. And it means playing in our minds –

engaging in activities of thought for enjoyment and recreation, rather than for practical reasons.

When we play, both in body and mind, with the circumstances we are in, we open ourselves to

creativity and imagination.


Einstein was very good at this – he used mental play with music to make breakthroughs in

physics. His son, Hans, said that “[w]henever he felt that he had come to the end of the road

or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually

resolve all his difficulties” (quoted in Clark, 1971, 106). Relaxing his mind into the music helped

him see things differently and more creatively.



Imagination is a gift that many of us forget to use when we leave childhood. Einstein said to a

friend,”When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that

the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge.”

He also said, “All great achievements of science must start from intuitive knowledge. I believe

in intuition and inspiration…At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.”

(Calaprice, 2000, 22, 287). This confidence in the role of intuition and imagination leading to

meaningful solutions can be seen on playgrounds and nurseries the world over, but is missing

in our political, economic, educational, and medical leadership. As we see the need for better

adaptation in our floundering social systems, we must allow children to remind us how to think

new ideas, creatively and imaginatively.


An important part of thinking like a child is not being afraid to fail. As we seek new ideas using

imagination and a new paradigm, we may not find the best adaptations right away. But when

many people try many different ideas, we adapt and learn as complex adaptive systems. We

can’t be afraid to think like a child – and to allow others the same flexibility. Thinking differently is

the first step.



Calaprice, Alice. (Ed.). (2000). The Expanded Quotable Einstein. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton

University Press

Clark, Ronald W. (1971). Einstein. The Life and Times. New York: Crowell.

Root-Bernstein, Michele and Robert. March 31, 2010. Einstein on Creative Thinking:

Music and the Intuitive Art of Scientific Imagination. Accessed 8/23/2014 at http://


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*Insurance is designed to pay for the unexpected crisis. Health insurance started that way in the U.S. but gradually, because the companies we work for were paying for it and getting a better tax break, it morphed into paying for it all. That means we have less interest in getting the ounce of prevention than if we were paying for some of those costs. Children we talk to about the dangers of drugs just say they’ll get a brain transplant if they burn theirs out. That’s why we think that Health Savings Accounts should be promoted by the government more; they put the individual back in a position of responsibility in making more choices in their health care. With Health Savings Accounts an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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