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PLAY and CREATIVITY: 3 Question interview with Play Expert, Jeff Smithson

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‘Play is a space of discovery. It is how we originally approach the unknown: with a sense curiosity and wonder.’

– Jeff Smithson

Our writing on this blog primarily centers on the recognition and celebration of childhood creativity. We look for ways to identify and nurture creative thinking skills at home, and often find that many of these characteristics will manifest when kids play. In this 3 Question Interview with Play Expert Jeff Smithson, we explore what we mean by play, and how we as parents might better create the opportunities where it can flourish.

What do you consider Play? For instance are we talking about rough and tumble play, imaginative play, and the ‘playing’ of video games in the same sentence?

The word Play is similar to the word Love in that it covers an enormous spectrum of possibilities: from the mundane to the sacred. Like the word Love there is great value in a person or a family examining what Play means to them.

Play is a space of discovery. It is how we originally approach the unknown: with a sense curiosity and wonder.

My definition of the word Play changes depending upon who is in the room. Play has an openness that encompasses what and who are present in the moment. While it may be helpful to learn the appropriate developmental (play) stages for a specific age, learning to be in the playful space for one’s self, discovering Play as a state of being is of great benefit; you teach play through sharing your own playfulness and through mirroring what your child shares.

Optimally, Play is a space of freedom, a space of discovery that allows you to both be who you are AND, simultaneously, who you are becoming. In imagining, pretending, stretching and striving kids and adults develop themselves and each other. 

In what ways does play support childhood development and the cultivation of creative thinking skills in your children?

In working with professionals in the field of Early Childhood Education I learned about 3 ways that parents/educators can engage their children in play (in increasing levels of involvement):

  • Observation: Set up a safe play area and allow the child to explore and discover on their own. Self-facilitated play offers opportunities for self-discovery. While they play ask yourself some questions:
    • What if your child is your teacher?
      • What are you able learn from your child?
    • How do they approach new experiences?
    • What have they learned from you? vs. What have they discovered on their own?
  • Direction: Most children appreciate structure and rules. From the sidelines we can offer instructions, suggestions or encouragement. In instances of play, I believe it is important that we share without an insistence upon it being done the “right” way. I once met a poet from Northern Ireland who’s goal as a parent was to pass as few of his own neurosis on to his children.
  • Participation: Be a partner in Play. Take off the “Parent hat” and get on the same level as your kiddo. Shifting your physical perspective to that of the child is not only helpful in bonding it also offers insights into how they see the world.
  • Feigned Ignorance is a fun way to empower your child to be your teacher. Try using an object for something it is not (think banana as a telephone); This can elicit both laughter and learning.
  • Don’t be afraid to be Silly! Play with sounds, facial expressions, repeated gestures.
  • Use “I don’t know. What do you think?” or “Let’s figure it out together.”
  • And, keep in mind, the wonderful “What if…?”.

SEE ALSO: Creativity for Everybody: 3 Question Interview with Kathryn Hayden

How might parents better facilitate and guide the type of play that is particularly conducive for Creativity?

Imagine Play as a state of being accessed by a connection with breath, a deep listening and curiosity without agenda.

  • Alphabet Animals (“the car ride game”):
    • An Angry Ant in Atlanta that Ate Apples at Airplane school.
      • It doesn’t have to make sense!
      • [Structure: adjective, animal, (job?) who verbs in a place]
  • Story structure:
    • Once upon a time there was a _________.
    • Every day ___________.
    • One day ____________.
    • Because of that __________.
    • Because of that __________.
    • Because of that __________.
    • Until finally: ____________.
  • What’s in the Box?

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As parents we are both conscious and unconscious models of behavior for our children. Play allows us to highlight transparency in our own learning process. By sharing both what and how we discover our kids will witness a parallel to their own experience of learning and becoming.

For many years Jeff has worked with kids with chronic and life-threatening illnesses as part of The Big Apple Circus Clown Care program and Paul Newman’s The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp: Hospital Outreach Program. He also teaches in the Physical Theater department at Trinity Rep/Brown University, and founded Proponent of Play in 2011. You can more about Jeff and his work at Proponentofplay.com, or alternatively check out his awesome TEDX talk below.


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You can also view the entire film for free by simply commenting on one of our articles. Anyone who shares or contributes content via the comments below* will receive a FREE download to Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance.

If you choose to comment via social media be sure to sure to include reference to @dads4creativityor share from our Facebook page. We’ll follow up with details via a private message.

 

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Capturing Wonders with our Mobile Devices: 3 Question Interview with Phoneographer Bea Leiderman

There are many cool things that parents can do with their children using smartphones – one of them is Phoneography – the capturing and editing of photos with a phone. In this 3 Question Interview, we introduce the OlloClip – a tiny camera lens that connects to a mobile device and helps capture unique perspectives of our world. When I talk about the potential of this little gadget with parents and educators, I usually go straight to a Bea Leiderman’s work, which is full of inspirational images that engage the curiosity and wonder that can be found in nature. Bea’s work has been shared in a number of her digital books that are available on iTunes. I asked her to provide some advice on Phoneography and how we might use this activity to engage creative thinking skills at home.

How do you take such awesome photos with a device like the iPhone?  

The iPhone has a very powerful camera. I started taking photos with the iPhone 4. Now I’m using an iPhone 6 and I can see the difference when I look through my iPhone library. Each new iPhone has produced crisper images with better color reproduction. But, my macro shots do have outside help. I use the Olloclip lens, and I have also gone through a series of those. 

It takes lots of patience to get macro shots in focus with the iPhone and the Olloclip. I have to get very close to the bugs. So, I have to employ one of two strategies with the fast ones. I either move faster than they do, or I wait and wait and wait until they get used to me and let me get close enough. Keep in mind that I have to get my lens about an inch away from my bug or everything will be blurry.

I find the best times to photograph bugs are early morning and close to sunset. The light is soft enough that it does not glare off wings, eyes, or shells.

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Copyright – Bea Leiderman

What ‘technical’ advice can you offer parents on how to capture that perfect image?

While I don’t take bugs out of their environment, I do work hard to make them look beautiful and interesting. Working with something as small as an iPhone gives me the opportunity to find a good angle. I like showing bugs’ faces. Some look silly, some look serious, and some look surprised to be having their picture taken.

Bug pictures are not for everyone. Still, I think taking good pictures involves many of the same principles regardless of what you are shooting. Make sure what you want to showcase is clearly visible, so look for an angle where the background is not cluttered with distracting stuff.

Copyright - Bea Leiderman
Copyright – Bea Leiderman

How might Phoneography help cultivate creative thinking skills at home?

“Put your device down and go outside to play.” Has anyone heard this? Devices and the outdoors are not mutually exclusive. When kids take pictures of what they find when exploring the outdoors, they create a record for themselves. They also have the opportunity to observe and explore well after the weather has turned stormy. Photography teaches kids to observe, to look closely. With a bit of guidance, kids can make beautiful art with a camera.

When I share my bug photos with kids, I call attention to details that might not be noticeable when they see the bugs in the wild. With pictures, kids can notice all kinds of details and take their time comparing, making inferences, generating hypotheses. Kids could even write a book to share their findings with people all around the world. An app like Book Creator would be the perfect tool for the task.

Little kids love nature and exploring. They are also fascinated by the “ew” factor. I have been writing books for kids that showcase my pictures and are written in accessible language with the hope that the books will encourage parents to explore with their children to help keep the love of science learning alive. I have a big camera with a big macro lens, but I do all my work with my iPhone and my Olloclip because these are much more affordable and easier to use. So, anyone can do what I do.

 Go outside. Find the beautiful bugs in your yard and other green spaces around you. You don’t have to go on a safari to a far away place to discover amazing creatures. Have fun and don’t stop learning.

Click here to view the full interview, or check out one of Bea’s four Digital Books, Calling Nature: Macro Photography and the iPhone, which shares more advice on how to go about working with Macro Photography with mobile devices and is available for free from the iTunes Store.


If you liked this article and interested in capturing video, check out another DadsforCreativity 3 Question Interview with Lego Animator, Alex Kobbs.


FREE FILM for parents and educators

We believe the first stage in counteracting the imbalance of creativity verses content, starts at home. Help us share the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Anyone who shares or contributes content via the comments below* will receive a FREE download to Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance.

If you choose to comment via social media be sure to sure to include reference to @dads4creativityor share from our Facebook page. We’ll follow up with details via a private message.

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Introducing young children to Computer Science: 3 question interview with Professor Jeremy Sarachan

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In June I was at the New Media Consortium Summer Conference, meeting great educators from around the world. During the Idea Lab (my favorite event of the conference), I stumbled across a strange table that had a banana (or at least I think it was a banana), attached to a wire that plugged into a computer. Yes – I knew what it was – the Makey Makey Kit, which is one of the more popular Electronic Invention Kits, which are proving to be a great way to introducing young children to computer science, by connecting everyday objects to simple programs. Jeremy Sarachan, who among other things has studied the use of ‘cool’ tech in education, shared his experience using these types of kits with middle school students, and I asked him to offer some advice to parents who might want to explore this device with their children outside the classroom.

What do you consider the value of introducing electronic or computer science starter kits (like Makey Makey) to young children?

For some kids, their highest level of creativity emerges in using these tools. Digital technologies often require kids to incorporate other skills—drawing, crafts, and writing—and so they find connections between various techniques. Technological tools [like Makey Makey] also appeals to kids by bringing together both artistic and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills and hopefully, will encourage adults to stop placing these skills/experiences at two ends of a spectrum, instead allowing kids to see how the various topics they are studying (including content from other disciplines) can be brought together. It also allows them to communicate their ideas and feelings in new ways, and gives them an outlet for expression.

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Many parents might find electronics or computer science type activities intimidating, what advice can you offer to those with little knowledge in this area, but who want to introduce their children to these subjects?

Three things to consider.  

One, some kits are really quite easy–like the Makey Makey, and this provides parents an opportunity to get over some of their fears of technology. 

Second, one needs to trust their kids and allow them to experiment, and more importantly, let them lead the way in exploring and finding new technologies. Parents will often know less than their kids, and that’s okay. I had tried to introduce my daughter to block programming with both Scratch and Mindstorms and it didn’t take hold (and I didn’t push it). She found Blocksworld, and entirely taught herself–one day, she just showed me the coding she had done–I hadn’t even known she was doing it.

Three, if neither one or two works, multiple opportunities exist in many communities–perhaps at a local science museum or college–where your child can explore new technologies with other kids —and then let them teach you!

What type of starter activities do you recommend to parents who have recently purchased an electronics starter kit like Makey Makey?

Scratch is an old standard now.  Its block programming format has been adapted in countless other software interfaces. For work on the screen, Blocksworld and Minecraft are great. Blocksworld allows for block programming; Minecraft for 3-D building, although there are now multiple books and online learning opportunities for kids to learn about coding mods (modifications to the Minecraft world–from adding new tools to changing the weather and beyond).  App Inventor (and online Android app creation site) is another easy and free opportunity for preteens and beyond. For building in the real world, the Hummingbird Robotics Kit offers a more flexible and easier interface than the standard Arduino systems and (although I’ve yet to order a kit), Little Bits is an up-and-coming option.

If you’re interested in technology check out another 3 Question Interview, with award winning educator Jonathan Nalder who shared 3 mobile apps for Creativity.


FREE FILM for parents and educators

We believe the first stage in counteracting the imbalance of creativity verses content, starts at home. Help us share the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Anyone who shares or contributes content via the comments below* will receive a FREE download to Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance.

If you choose to comment via social media be sure to sure to include reference to @dads4creativityor share from our Facebook page. We’ll follow up with details via a private message.

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Creativity for Everybody: 3 Question Interview with Creativity Expert, Kathryn Haydon

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Everyone is creative! And as part of my travels on the subject I’ve met many innovative educators, and highly engaged parents, who actively look for ways to improve their practical skills in cultivating creativity. Kathryn Haydon, founder of Sparkitivity, works with families and educators to change the educational paradigm to one based on student strengths and creative thinking and is an author on the subject. I asked Kathryn to share some of the ways parents can better cultivate creativity at home. Be sure to comment on the article for a chance to receive a signed copy of a new book Kathryn co-authored, called Creativity for Everybody.

What do you consider to be some of the greatest myths about creativity?

MYTH: Creativity means arts and crafts, music, and theater.  

REALITY: Creativity is problem solving that results in ideas that are unique and valuable.  We use creative thinking in all facets of our lives (at work, parenting) and it is innate to everyone.  It also can be practiced and improved, just like basketball or soccer or writing or cooking.  

It is true that people express creativity in different degrees.  You can think about it this way: Highly creative people are those who continuously practice creative characteristics, just like Michael Jordan continuously practiced basketball.  Some people are more inclined than others to do these things, but we all are capable of curiosity, exploration, and new thinking.

What advice do you have for parents who want to cultivate creative thinking skills at home?

We begin to understand our own creativity identity when we have opportunities to discover and express our individual thinking, values, and motivations.  Each of us, including children, need freedom for self-discovery.  As parents we can give our children this freedom by releasing them from pressures to conform to pre-determined expectations, such as our own parental desires to raise a star athlete, musician, Ivy League grad, or successor in the family business.   

It is exciting to view parenting as an adventure of child-discovery.  In what ways might you become an observer of what makes your child light up?  Make connections to known interests and motivations, and find different ways to explore them.  Keep in mind that interests and motivations change, sometimes quickly, and that’s okay, too.

Where’s a great place to start?

Curiosity is a wonderful place to start.  In our busy lives, it’s so tempting to live in the realm of factual inquiry and responses.  But what if we ask questions differently to encourage original thinking, curiosity, and exploration?  

“What if . . .?” questions are open-ended and call for higher-level thinking in the response.  Another way to form open questions is to use the phrase, “What might be all of the ways . . . ?”  The phraseology alone implies that there are many possible responses.  We can have fun answering these with our children.  

Even if you are about to encounter a battle, like room cleaning, you can employ open questions.  A tense “Clean your room!” could change to “What might be all of the ways you can clean your room?” followed by a little humor in coming up with answers that diffuses the situation and involves a little humor.  

Check out another 3 Question Interview, with award winning educator Jonathan Nalder.

Don’t forget to comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of Creativity for Everyone. You can also purchase the book on Amazon or www.sparkitivity.com/creativity-for-everybody.

Follow Kathryn on Twitter @sparkitivity and Facebook ttps://www.facebook.com/sparkitivity

FEATURED IMAGE: Molly Gibbs


FREE FILM for parents and educators

We believe the first stage in counteracting the imbalance of creativity verses content, starts at home. Help us share the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Anyone who shares or contributes content via the comments below* will receive a FREE download to Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance.

If you choose to comment via social media be sure to sure to include reference to @dads4creativityor share from our Facebook page. We’ll follow up with details via a private message.

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