Dadsforcreativity play (1)

Random Events Contributing to Imaginative Play in Children

This blog article considers random events contributing to imaginative play in children. A sentence somewhat made up, but something that I hope captures what I’m trying to illustrate in the timeline below.

The timeline leads to a wonderful moment of reflective joy as I observed my three boys playing together this afternoon. The moment is captured in the image above. Let me be clear; it’s a rarity for my three boys to stay engaged in a single game, absent tears, screaming, and complete chaos in the room. The moment captured in this image lasted at least 10-minutes; each child engaged at their level, no mess, happiness, excitement, laughter, it was perfect. Sadly, within 30-minutes, they were back downstairs in the basement, trashing the furniture to build their floor is lava obstacle course. However, this drifts away from the positive image above and toward the negatives of an unstructured Saturday morning with three young boys who have just had donuts for breakfast. (note to self – Stay on topic).

In the image above, the boys played a video game called Ninja’s Past on devices from tech companies Robo & Luna. However, there’s a snag in this story; the game and companies do not exist. They’re made up. Despite this, the talk about unlocking new characters, making it to the next level, and screams when losing a life, were entirely genuine to them. It was a demonstration of the power of imagination, a power that is so strong and evident in young children.

Latest devices from Luna Tech; they include the Pace10X (phone) and the super watch Sentori
Latest devices from Luna Tech; they include the Pace10X (phone) and the super watch Sentori

There are so many angles on how I’d like to explore this experience as a Father who got extra time that morning to enjoy his coffee. I invite you to take this summary of this story and do some thinking of your own. Rather than focusing on imagination, which is a valuable topic, but a subject well known, I’m working to consider other themes related to creativity. That said, it would be amiss of me if I didn’t touch on the irony of kids playing imaginary video games when many of us worry about the impact of video games on creativity and imagination. (note to self – Stay on topic).

OK, the theme that’s come to mind is the long-term play that led up to this moment. Play and imagination are fuelled by past experiences. However, I wonder if we do too much research on real-world experiences that fuel childhood imagination and not the made-up experiences of prior play. Consider the developmental timeline explored below that led to this moment (times are an approximation):

Random Events Timeline Leading to Imaginative Play

  • 9-months prior (approx.). My eldest develops a fascination for technology and begins to use paper and color pencils to create cell phones
  • 9-months prior (approx.). Around the same time, my middle son develops the dreaded fascination with playing video games.
  • 8-months prior (approx.). My eldest creates an imaginary technology company headquartered in his long-term fictional country of Coconut Island – the company is called Luna Tech.
  • 6-months prior (approx.). My eldest begins making paper phones for his classmates, fascinated by the initial prototype that he shared one day in class. The company expands to make devices like the super watch sentori and ear pods to rival Apples airpods
  • 6-months prior (approx.). Around the same time, my middle son and now my youngest begin copying their eldest brother, making their own phones using paper and lego.
  • 5-months prior (approx.). Seeing the attention his eldest brother Around the same time, my middle son and now my youngest son begin copying their eldest brother, making their own phones using paper and lego.
  • 4-months prior (approx). My middle son establishes his technology company called Robo. More importantly, he becomes obsessed with Ninjago on Netflix. This obsession creates a pause in his desire to play video games at every waking hour.
  • 2-months prior (approx). My eldest and middle son begin talking about the different things they can do on their devices. This gives rise to games where they start using their devices in the real world. For example, my eldest uses his phone at birthday parties to capture photos and videos.
  • 1-months prior (approx). My eldest and middle son begin playing Ninja’s past, a new game only available on the Luna and Robo devices.

A short time later, my youngest begins replicating his brother’s play, and I see them one morning playing on the sofa. I use my device from a company called Apple to capture an image. I then used another device from Apple to write this article and share this story with the world.

Reflecting on this timeline, my boys produced this game without any adult intervention. However, it was a game fueled by their interactions in the real world that helped expand their imagination. I suppose it’s not too different from playing home corner in the Kindergarten classroom. Still, there’s some entrepreneurship in here as well that I will explore another time.

Anyway, I have to go; on writing this article, they’re back to playing floor is lava and getting out of control.

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5 tips for the family Christmas card tradition

I’m English, and sending a Christmas card with a winter image on the front and a warm message inside is a significant part of our Christmas tradition. This article offers 5 tips for the family Christmas card tradition.

Before social media, we used the phone and letters to connect with friends and family. However, Christmas made things a little more complicated; there weren’t enough hours in the day to communicate with everyone. Christmas cards helped address this problem. They offered a simple way to send good wishes for the holidays. This practice began a tradition in England that has endured without too much change (see a little more about the history here).

SEE ALSO: Making Christmas Cards: My lessons Learned

When I moved to the U.S., I realized this tradition had evolved a little differently; it was all about the family picture on the front. I’m not criticizing this tradition, but I did tell my wife that I want a family picture that has a little festivity and captures our little ones’ personality. However, sometimes this wasn’t possible, and we ended up with the summer family vacation photo or the official family photos taken during the Fall. 

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A few years ago, we were in the U.K. for Christmas, and I was super worried about how our Christmas card would go down with the family. A few offered me the, “oh, that’s a nice picture” comment, but there was one family who just hit me up with the banter and jokes about the perception of that perfect family image – which, as we know, doesn’t exist. 

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve identified 5 tips for the family Christmas card tradition, which I think offers an appropriate balance for my American/British children. 

With my youngest, I find it helpful to go over his drawing in blank ink before he begins painting.
With my youngest, I found it helpful to go over his drawing in blank pen before he began painting. We used YouTube to find things to draw. Somehow we ended up with a Unicorn (it’s not a reindeer).


5 Tips the Family Christmas Card Tradition

  1. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we transition into the festive spirit by painting pictures for our Christmas Cards. We use paints because they make this activity extra fun and produce a nice vibrant image to capture with the phone. It’s a great way to get Christmas started!
  2. I identify the Christmas card template before we begin painting; this helps determine if the boys are painting landscape or portrait. It also allows you to identify the best Cyber Monday sales.
  3. We blend the U.K. and U.S. tradition; we include pictures of the family and homemade festive pictures. This strategy reduces the need to find a festive picture of the children, which can’t exist in November.
  4. We let the kids paint freely; this creates a nice balance between perfect family pictures and messed up drawings. However, I do require that they are Christmas images, and they draw in pencil before we get to the paints. I’ve also found the “how to draw” videos on YouTube to help the two youngest. (so perhaps it’s not a total free frenzy)
  5. This year I’ve also taken up my Mother’s tradition of writing an annual family update to share with close friends and family that I only connect with over the Holidays. I see this as a great way to record a yearly journal, which I’m now storing in Google.


There’s nothing original about these tips; I’ve seen other families with similar traditions. some even make the cards, which is taking it to a whole new level. I’ll also add that although it can reduce the pressure on securing a perfect family picture, it does require time for the activity. However, this activity is now part of our tradition and provides some cool annual paintings for the boys to store in their safe keep box. Just avoid making this activity too complicated; it should be fun and festive! 

Oh, I’ll add that the family who gave me the banter, they sent me a family Christmas card this year, which in good English humor was a fully American style Christmas card. I’ll be watching them carefully to see if this becomes a trend in the future.

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How do parents influence the way a child perceives and uses a new tool like a camera?

When new folks hear my accent, they nearly always ask the same question; “do I like it here?” My answer is nearly always the same; I love the ice-cream, I’ve adjusted nicely to living outside a major city, and I absolutely adore having four true seasons. Specifically, I LOVE the Fall in New England. This love unearths an innate interest in photography and painting, partially because I have a desire to capture the contrasting colors of the Fall foliage.

My eldest use the camera to snap pictures of his Nona and flowers. This article considers how my actions of introducing a new tool might influence his creative journey.

I never act on these feelings. I worry they will lead to another thing; making me concerned about my capacity to learn the necessary skills needed to master another tool. A paint brush is a tool. A camera is a tool. To express my feelings of the Fall foliage, I will need to master these new tools.

This introduces the topic of this blog article, a tool like camera is something that either exists or doesn’t exist in our home or in our classroom. For those familiar with this concept, you’ll know I’m beginning to play around the edges of sociocultural theory, which includes investigations into how individuals interact with tools inside their environment. This includes how a learner perceives a tool, and how a learner is influenced by other people when using the tool.

My question for readers of this article is how do parents influence the way a child perceives and uses a new tool like a camera? I thought about this question when I gave my eldest a camera and asked him to take pictures of the Fall foliage. I think this question is also something to consider as we look into gifts for  Christmas!

You may also like – Photography and Creativity: What’s the Connection? 3 Question Interview with Photographer, Dan Kane

Photography and Creativity: What’s the Connection? 3 Question Interview with Photographer, Dan Kane

I’ve been amazed about his interest; he’s been snapping away, holding it like a pro, and even switching over lenses when he wants a close-up of a flower. This experience makes me think about the action of giving a young child a tool for the first time. To what extent does this experience influence their creative destiny?

There’s a whole bunch of things whirling around in my mind as I consider this question:

  • What is the relationship between our first access to a new tool and sociocultural theory? Is receiving the tool enough to set a child on their way? Or do they need mentorship to use the tool purposefully? If it’s the latter, will my inadequate photography skills make this experience irrelevant? I think not!
  • What about equity? I remember reading how Bill Gates was fortunate enough to gain access to a computer at a young age. Access to this tool (and environment) initiated a life-long curiosity for computers, which obviously contributed to his future success. What if he never received this experience? Would he still be as successful? Here’s another crazy thought – what if he had received the same experience, but a few years later?  
  • How does this relate to gifts for Christmas? Twenty years from now, will our child recall the moment they received an electric guitar for Christmas?
  • Finally, what if we have too many of these experiences when young? Might we reduce our focus of exploration on one single tool? In Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, he uses Beethoven as an example of what is known as the 10,000-hour rule. This is considered the approximate time it takes for an individual to master a set of skills at the necessarily level to produce majors changes within a field. What if we have a child who is destined to become Beethoven with a Piano, or Gates with a computer, but we keep giving them new things to try out that they never have an opportunity to put in the hours needed to master one single tool?

Clearly, I’m enjoying my Thanksgiving week and allowing my mind to wonder on a bunch of thought experiments. To conclude, I’ll simply say that my boy has enjoyed access to my old camera and has responded well to my inadequate mentorship. I’ve suggested he stay in auto settings for now and focus on capturing “interesting” images of the Fall foliage. However, I’ve given him complete creative liberty of what he chooses to photograph.

I’ll conclude on this – if he becomes the next Beethoven of photography, we can credit me as the parent who introduced him to this tool – right?

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3 Question Interview with Dr. Devers: Effective feedback during the pandemic

This article continues a series on how to deliver effective feedback during a pandemic.

A few years back, I was able to produce weekly posts on Dadsforcreativity; sadly, I haven’t been able to reestablish that routine – life was certainly different with only one little one to contend with each week. That said, I’m committed to reintroducing the DadsforCreativity: Three question interview. This series is when I reach out to experts in a particular space and ask them questions about cultivating creativity at home – or other items relevant to education.

See Also: Supporting effective feedback from a distance

Dr. Devers is interested in applied metacognitive processes and how people learn.

Last month I wrote an article supporting our children’s schooling during the pandemic and introduced a topic related to delivering effective feedback from a distance (or better stated – delivering effective feedback during a pandemic). To further explore this topic, I reached out to Christopher Devers (@chrisdevers) at Johns Hopkins University. Professor Devers received his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has an MS in educational administration from Purdue University. Dr. Devers is interested in applied metacognitive processes and how people learn. Specifically, he explores learning using videos, mobile devices, and online environments.


What are the main methods of feedback we typically expect as part of a formal learning experience?

Generally, I would argue that there are two main ways that students receive feedback — first tests and assignments, and second from teachers — both are valuable but serve different purposes. Tests help students discern what they know or do not know, as well as facilitate retrieval practice (see Roediger, Putnam, & Smith, 2011). Feedback from teachers can help students know where they are, where they are going, and where to go next (see Hattie & Clarke, 2018).

What challenges do you anticipate this year as teachers work to accommodate homeschooling once again?

Given all the unique educational situations, we should relax and be flexible! There are a few things that might be helpful to remember when teaching in digital environments. First, even though we are moving online, much of what works in face-to-face situations will likely work well in digital environments, given some creativity. For example, self-explanation (see Chi, Lewis, Reimann, & Glaser, 1989) works well in face-to-face environments and can be used in digital environments with programs like Flipgrid. Second, be mindful of everyone’s limitations — administrators, teachers, students, and caregivers — be cautious of simply trying to check things off the list just to get them done. Third, keep it simple and do not overcomplicate things; use what works. Last, have fun and be creative!

What advice do you have for parents as they try to support their child’s learning from home?

Be patient. Administrators, teachers, and staff are working very hard to support students in this unique situation. As with any learning experience, face-to-face or online, focus on using strong evidence-based practices (see Dunlosky et al., 2013). Additionally, when evaluating educational apps, be sure that they follow the principle of multimedia learning (see the Mayer, 2014 chapter). Twitter can also provide fantastic educational resources; I suggest following me (@chrisdevers), Dan Willigham (@DTWillingham), Paul Kirschner (@P_A_Kirschner), Robert Slavin (@RobertSlavin), Regan Gurung (@ReganARGurung), Retrieval Practice (@RetrieveLearn), and Learning Scientist (@AceThatTest). Curt Bonk’s (@travelinedmanwebsite includes some creative resources about online education.

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