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My Trip to the Imperial War Museum: Talking to your children about War

I’m on my annual vacation to London, the place of my birth and a city that I consider to be fantastic – especially for day trips out with the family. As always I take advantage of the brilliant museums that are on offer for FREE! This year I decided to take my two eldest boys to the Imperial War Museum to see tanks, rockets, and one Harrier Jump Jet that is currently hanging from the ceiling – this blog article is about how parents might respond to the curious minds of our little ones, and what I wish I had known prior to my visit and talking to your children about War.

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My eldest had the opportunity to speak with someone who lived during WWII. This was a wonderful addition to the trip and gave him an opportunity to ask about schooling and whether he still had presents on his birthday (the answer was yes – but only one).

The blitz on London, war shelters, bombs, and tanks – it doesn’t take long for the curious minds of our little one’s to begin asking questions and making connections…

Eldest: ‘oooh Daddy, what’s that?’

Daddy: ‘that’s a rocket’

Eldest: ‘And what’s that’

Daddy: ‘that’s a bomb shelter’

Eldest: ‘why did people need bomb shelters?’

It wasn’t long until the bigger questions came my way – ‘Why did people drop bombs on other people?’ ‘Did this kill people?’, ‘Who were the badies and why did they want to drop bombs on them?’ the latter was particularly challenging!

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I wish I could say I responded to these questions successfully, but unfortunately I failed miserably and found myself encouraging more challenging questions that only dug deeper into the subject. After I returned home, I did some Googling on thought it would be nice to share some points I wish I had known prior to our visit.

See Also: Making Connections: ‘Daddy I need more input’

  1. Be Prepared, but don’t solicit – Given the media coverage of Syria or the occasional scaremongering that I think sometimes accompanies reports on North Korea or Iran, I think it’s helpful for parents to be prepared for some of the questions that might arise regarding War. One of the things I wish I had done was listen better, and respond to the question without expanding or introducing a topic. I probably introduced items that were too complex for a child of six. For example, I didn’t want my boy to perceive one particular country as the badie, so I found myself talking about the Nazi’s and this only confused him further. Ultimately, my desire to control the conversation meant that I didn’t afford myself the opportunity to see how he was processing the information and perceiving events from his perspective – and this is perhaps the main take away from my experience.
  1. Curious, Imaginative, and Sensitive Children will make connections – Making connections is a Creativity skill that we all value, but on this particular subject it will likely generate challenging questions. Again just be prepared and LISTEN more than you TALK. It’s important that we see ‘how’ and ‘what’ connections are being made with the information. We will then be more equipped to respond appropriately and avoid further confusion or untangle the weaves that they are making.
  1. Offer Love and Reassurance – When you engage in the conversation look them in the eye, get on their level, and offer them lots of hugs and kisses. If you feel the questions are getting too deep, I personally respond by saying ‘you’re too young to be worrying about these things’ but I always ask if he’s ok about me changing the subject and if he’s not I’ll take a few more questions.

I’m obviously still navigating through this topic so please feel free to offer some advice in the comments below. I also found a great article from the Guardian Newspaper that offers some suggestions on books/stories that help introduce the subject of war to children – or more specifically WWI. 


 

CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.

 

 

 

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5 Ways Parents Can Better Utilize YouTube for Learning

What if YouTube Was an Encyclopedia?

The Digital Age, which started to emerge soon after the rise of the World Wide Web, in the 1990s, unleashed a wave of technological innovation that has transformed how we consume and produce information. Many of these advances have, and are causing, disruption to the traditional methods of information transfer that exist within the traditional worlds of communication, marketing, entertainment, and education.

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YouTube, which is one of the world’s most popular websites, remains a touchstone example for many of the characteristics that now make up our Digital Culture – for it contains user-generated content that is consumed and shared daily from mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Furthermore – and perhaps more appropriately related to this article – YouTube is one of the first entry points to the World Wide Web, for many young children in possession of a mobile device – for this reason alone it requires our attention!

See Also: Making Connections: ‘Daddy I need more input’

I’m confident most parents can relate to the feelings of wonder as they witness their child as young as 18 months, begin to navigate through the platform. It doesn’t take long for them to learn how to independently locate their favorite unboxing videos, and use their finger to swipe, pause, and even turn up the volume of that annoying soundtrack that you’ve just turned down.

Using YouTube, I've watched my eldest seek out information about other countries in the world, and look for videos that contain maps, which he can copy on his own.
Using YouTube, I’ve watched my eldest navigate through the platform to seek out information about other countries in the world, and look for videos that contain maps, which he then copies.

Our little ones will soon discover that YouTube, contains an infinite amount of information. You can practically locate a video about anything you want. While YouTube was initially banned in many schools districts after it first came out in 2005, I now think that educators have become reasonably good at curating content using the platform, and for the most part have gained control of it’s use as a tool for learning within their classroom environment. However at home, and often before children enter Kindergarten, the access to YouTube for many littles ones appears to take place without the guidance of an adult, and for me this raises some issues when it comes to the information that our children are accessing prior to entering schooling.

It's really important to find ways for your child to express their understanding about topics they've explored on YouTube. In preparation for our trip to Naples, my eldest watched videos about Pompeii - specifically what made that particular eruption so devastating.
It’s really important to find ways for your child to express their understanding about topics they’ve explored on YouTube. In preparation for our trip to Naples, my eldest watched videos about Pompeii – specifically what made that particular eruption so devastating.

In order for parents to better leverage YouTube as a tool for learning, we must take more of an active role in how it’s used within our home, otherwise it will most likely remain primarily a source of entertainment, and this is perplexing given the treasure trove of educational resources that exist within it’s page. I am one of those parents who has concerns how much time my youngest spends on YouTube. I certainly consider it an issue if wakes up in the morning and immediately asks for his iPad. Equally it’s a concern when I wonder if it’s possible to take him on a 10 minute car journey without ‘having’ to bring it with me.*  BUT – and here’s for me a GREAT BUT – I wonder what I would think if YouTube were an encyclopedia? Would I be as concerned about the hours my youngest spends accessing its pages? You see, the way my eldest uses YouTube, is very different to how my eldest uses YouTube. My eldest’s use of YouTube, can in many ways be likened to  the use of an Encyclopedia, for he spends hours and hours of the week consuming videos about Volcanoes, DNA, Climate Change, Countries of the World, and the Solar System. This is the type of use that I want to promote on YouTube, and it’s a type of use that I feel develops as children begin to progress  beyond the unboxing videos that I referenced earlier.

How YouTube differs from an Encyclopedia?

Recently I shared a story about how my child uses Google Voice Recognition to locate video about Pangaea, “he was teaching me about Pangaea” I said, but he reminded me that this behavior isn’t that different to past generations. Ultimately, he’s seeking out information about topics that he finds of interest – what’s changed is the method to which he accesses that information. When he said this I could immediately relate  – I remember using my parent’s encyclopedia to seek out new information about similar to my eldest. However, as I went away and thought about it a little more, I soon remembered that while I would seek out information in my parent’s encyclopedia, I was ultimately limited to what information I could access based on my level of reading. I did not have the ability to access the massive amount of information that is now available to young children through YouTube – this would have required skills that I probably wouldn’t develop until high school (and I might add that with my Dyslexia it took me longer that the average child to develop these skills), as well as access to a library with a vast selection of books. The ease of access, the selection of videos, and the fact that a child no longer needs to be at an advanced reading level in order to consume content, has allowed our little ones to begin pursing information related to their interests at a much young age. And it’s this use of YouTube, that I feel offers exciting opportunities when it comes to learning and promoting Creativity (on  a very important side note – I still read A LOT to my boys and would never in anyway suggest that YouTube should be a replacement to reading!!!!!).

Of course there are issues to what I’m promoting. For starters the ubiquity of information, and it’s availability to children of all ages, brings unique challenges for parents and education. Have we really studied the consequences of preschool aged children learning about 1st and 2nd grade topics, out of sequence, and without the guidance of a teacher? Do we know how to evaluate one’s understanding of a topic when the information has been obtained through video? In addition, the information accessed within the classroom is usually vetted by the teacher before it is made available for consumption by the student, however the information that our children access on YouTube is non-vetted, and so there are genuine issues surrounding it’s accuracy, which if not addressed at some point in the future, might contribute somewhat to our growing culture of Fake News. Ok, I feel this article is getting too long, so let me conclude my point.

5 Ways Parents Can Better Utilize YouTube for Learning

YouTube can be used as a tool for learning, it doesn’t have to be all about entertainment. However, in order to progress beyond the mindless unboxing videos, we need to be more active as parents and encourage teach children how to use it for learning outside the classroom. Here are five suggestions on how one might make this happen:

 

  • Download YouTube for Kids, and hide or delete the YouTube app. Tools such as ‘Google Complete’, and the selections that come about after a search query like Green House Effect, will be geared toward children.

 

  • Sign into YouTube, and create a playlist of videos based on topics that are of most interest to your child. For example, a playlist on Volcanoes, will be helpful, and after your child has consumed them, a further selection of videos on Volcanoes that they haven’t seen will most likely appear next.

 

  • Teach children how to search use Google’s Speech Recognition, which is the little microphone in the search bar. My youngest is only two, and obviously struggles, but he’s still in his unboxing phase – I’m talking about children four and up.

 

  • Engage children in conversations about the content that they access, and keep an eye out for fake or bias content. They’re probably too young to evaluate the content by themselves, but it would be great if they at least develop a tendency to say ‘hmmm, Climate Change is made up by the Chinese?’ Mommy, is this true? (I might add that I haven’t stumbled across too many wild or whacky videos on YouTube for kids).

 

  • And perhaps most important – try and encourage your child to come out of the iPad to express their understanding of the information that they have accessed. This could be a conversation where you ask questions, it could be picture that illustrations their understanding like the one above, or it could be through the creation of videos as demonstrated below.

 

*The American Academy of Pediatrics, have recently changed their recommendation of two hours of screen time per day. They now recommend no more than one hour per day for children 2 to 5 years of age, For children 6 and older, parents can determine the restrictions, and it should be noted that homework conducted on a screen does not count. Finally infants aged 18 months and younger should no be exposed to Digital Media.


 

CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.

 

 

 

7_Ways_to_Cultivate_Creativity_for_ParentsFREE BOOK on Cultivating Creativity

7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

Read More

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Making a Christmas Card: 4 Things to Consider

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I consider it my absolute duty to make the Holidays a magical experience for my two boys (soon to be three come January). At first merging family traditions with my wife offered some challenges, but through the years we’ve successfully merged the best of both worlds, and established some of our own traditions along the way.

SEE ALSO: Check out lessons learned from last year!

One of my new favorites (which started two years ago) is the making of a ‘festive’ picture for the Holidays. Thanks to Digital Technology, it’s now easier than ever to turn this creation into the artwork for the family Holiday card.

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Through experience, I wanted to offer 4 things to consider when making a Christmas Card.

Making a Christmas Card: 4 Things to Consider

1 Know the Size: I make this mistake every year, but it’s helpful to know the size of the card prior to making the picture. Without this you might lose some parts of the image when it’s uploaded and scaled to fit the template.

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The first picture we produced for our Christmas card. It shows our tree and fireplace, and was a joint effort between Daddy and Son.

2. Pick the Right Time: I suggest that you identify a ‘good’ time to create the picture so that’s it’s not too rushed. Take sometime to let them know how it will be used, and ask them some questions about the picture that they plan to make.

One of the few times Arthur was engaged. This year wasn't the fun and magical experience I remember from last year.
One of the few times Arthur was engaged. You can see how we had to add a second piece of paper to accommodate the fireplace.

3. Leave Them Alone: If your little one is past three you probably need to give them the freedom to produce their own image. Last year I found my eldest to be particularly resistant to the activity when I offered too much in the way of direction. I recognize it’s difficult as we probably want the picture to demonstrate their best abilities, but unfortunately, the more we get involved, the more we risk diminishing the opportunity to engage Creative Thinking skills.

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This year’s card. I had hoped to move away from the Tree and Fireplace, but he was having none of that. The new addition was the flags of his family – which I thought offered a nice touch. It was also the first card that he produced by himself.

4. Involve them in the Upload: Involve them in the process afterwards, let them see how their image is being used on sites such as Shutterfly and Vistaprint. This is a great way to introduce them to Digital Technology, and it might even offer some reading and writing extensions, should you decide to seek their help in crafting the Holiday message.

I recently wrote an article that referenced the ‘Maker Movement’, which has offered new ways to engage young children in Creativity, through creating and making. Ultimately, this activity is another example of how Digital Technology, can take an original picture produced by a child, and turn it into something that can be enjoyed and cherished by others – there’s something ‘Christmasy’ in that concept. I hope you enjoy!

How to Make a Family Christmas Card

  1. Paint or draw the picture*
  2. Capture and crop finished picture using your smart phone
  3. Visit online printing company (I use Vista Print)
  4. Select a customized card option that best fits the size of your picture*
  5. Upload image and be sure to preview sample
  6. Confirm order

CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.

 

 

 

7_Ways_to_Cultivate_Creativity_for_ParentsFREE BOOK on Cultivating Creativity

7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

Read More

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4 Great Things for Advocates of Creativity

As humans we have a habit on focusing on the negatives, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion, as I feel (or hope) it’s part of our natural instinct to produce solutions to problems. However, given that it’s Thanks Giving, I thought it would be nice to identify 4 great things for advocates of Creativity.

SEE ALSO: Introducing some of the principals Design Thinking to young children

1. Digital Technology

In some circles within education, digital technology might be perceived as a distraction, or worse, a nuisance to the traditional system of information transfer that is still a significant component of the classroom experience. However Digital Technology, which continues to evolve as a rapid pace, is offering new opportunities for our children to create and make. Many of us see this in our little ones, who having been inspired by their favorite YouTube videos, ask for our devices so that they can produce their own content. With minor adult intervention, these videos can not only be impressive, but also engage a variety of Creative Thinking skills along the way.

SEE ALSO: DadsforCreativity – Moviemaking Tips and Activities

Moviemaking is just one example of how digital technologies have encouraged creating and making, which also encompasses 3D Printing, Digital Game Design, Authoring iBooks, and storytelling through a variety of mobile apps.

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2. Maker Spaces

One of the greatest outcomes of our Digital Age, has been the transformation of the everyday user from consumer to producer. As I mentioned above, Digital Technology now offers a variety of opportunities for people to create and make, and this has spawned a new type of D.I.Y movement, which has led to Maker Spaces, popping up all over the place. Libraries, museums, schools, and universities are redesigning rooms so that they can accommodate this exciting venture. While many of the early Maker Spaces usually centered on 3D Printing, they have since evolved to include, not only other forms of Digital Technology, but also traditional arts and crafts as well. More importantly, from a Creativity perspective, the facilitators of these spaces often encourage participants to apply Creative Problem-Solving principals to their process, with one of the preferred favorites being Design Thinking, which I particularly like because it places significant emphasis on the intended user, as well as some type of Iteration process.

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One of our first inventions using Little Bits. We took a trip to Michaels to gather the materials needed for our Solar System.

3. New Toys

The combination of new technology, and the interest in engaging young children in creating and making, has led to some exciting developments within the toy industry. Little Bits, which is an electronic kit, has offered support to the Make Movement, and with a vibrant online community users can be inspired to make absolutely anything. I might add that with the introduction of the Little Bit apps, children can also interact with their creations using their mobile devices, which I feel is taking this toy to another level. The base kit is a great place to start for the little ones, and runs between $80-$100.

Little Bits is not the only cool new toy to embrace the Maker Movement, Makey Makey is another cool example that engages young children in computer engineering and software development, and Legos now offers kits that teach children about robotics and programming.

4. Growing Discussion

With an energized community of parents and educators, who are engaging young children in creating and making activities outside the classroom, the discussions about Creativity in Education is expanding. Once more, as the alternative learning opportunities outside the classroom begin to define themselves further, the school system and the traditional role of the teacher might be challenged for the first time by parents – who are taking an increasing interest in Digital Technology, Creativity, and Project-Based Learning.

As I look at the 4 great things for advocates of Creativity can be grateful for this Thanks Giving, I can’t help but highlight the opportunities that have arisen because of Digital Technology. Yes, it certainly brings about challenges within society, but the innovation that is has spawned has allowed people like me to share my voice, and engage my little boys in Creative activities that wasn’t possible just 10 year ago – for that I’m truly thankful!


CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.

 

 

 

7_Ways_to_Cultivate_Creativity_for_ParentsFREE BOOK on Cultivating Creativity

7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

Read More