What if…..Your Child’s Imagination Could Soar!

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Reading a story with your child, watching a movie together or listening to music with them all have the potential to take your child’s creative thinking skills to a new level.

Then by encouraging your child to respond thoughtfully to what they have read, heard or seen – you can also nurture the development of their imagination.

Asking your child, “What did you think about a book or movie?” often evokes a response such as, “It was good,” or “I didn’t really like it.”

When your kids are ready – my colleague Matthew Worwood suggests that you encourage your kids to take the next step: ask them how they would improve upon “the model” – in this case, what they have read (books), seen (movies) or heard (music).

http://dadsforcreativity.com/parent-participation-and-bag-of-legos/

If they are unsure of how they might improve upon someone else’s creation – try to engage them in a discussion that will prompt some responses.

My daughter recently finished a book that she didn’t like. When I asked what she didn’t like about it she said, “The ending.” This provided a great opportunity to go to the next level of analysis in an imaginative and playful mode.

I asked her, “If you could change the ending – what would you do?”

Sir Ken Robinson points out an important distinction between creativity and imagination in his groundbreaking book, “The Element.” If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Essentially it is about using creativity to find your true purpose – or element:

http://sirkenrobinson.com/finding-your-element/

According to Robinson, imagination deals with thinking of something that is not there. So after Natalie finished reading the book, h20 the two of us tried to imagine a different and better ending. (Creativity, by the way, then involves doing something meaningful with your imagination.)

A great way to jumpstart the imaginative juices in your kids is to play a game of “What if….”

For example:

-What if at the end of the movie, E.T. – Elliot decides to leave on the spaceship with E.T.!

The possibilities are endless. As my colleague and school librarian Cara McConnell points out:

-What if at the end of The Giving Tree – he plants a new tree.

-What if at the end of Cinderella – the shoe doesn’t fit.

-What if at the end of Green Eggs and Ham – he doesn’t like them.

Be attentive to your child’s responses to books and movies and songs – and take the time to help them go beyond their initial responses.

This activity can provide wonderful opportunities for the two of you to engage in explorations that will broaden their imagination and further develop their creative thinking skills.

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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.


FREE FILM for parents and educators

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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MINOR PARENT PARTICIPATION can help expand the CREATIVE THINKING that manifests with a BAG OF LEGOS

Ah Italy – what do we think about? Fine food, wine, crystal waters, sandy beaches… yes we experienced all of this during our family vacation, but also the unexpected, and a little more than occasional, thunder storm. What do you do with three children aged between 4-8 during a rain out in the mountains of Calabria? No Internet, no television, and dead iPads! In comes my brother-in-law to save the day with a suggestion of Legos. Legos? Luckily for us, my wife’s sister and husband who we were traveling with, had been sensible and packed accordingly, with enough of these wondrous bricks to be shared among three young energetic boys sitting around a kitchen table. The game was simple – create ‘something’ – which is not really anything unusual for Legos, but my bother-in-law integrated two additional elements that helped expand the creative thinking opportunities within this experience.

  1. He informed all the boys that they would be presenting their creation to the group.
  2. Each of them had to listen, and then respond with comments about what they liked about their cousins/brothers model.

Two simple additions, that not only helped engage them for more than 45 minutes, allowed these young children to showcase their imagination by explaining the purpose for each of the unique elements that they included on their model – and without explanation, would probably go unnoticed by most adults. The models were good, but receiving a detailed presentation made them all the more impressive, and allowed us to celebrate the creativity that had manifested over the past hour.

SEE ALSO: Prototyping a Sailboat: Introducing DESIGN-BASED thinking to young children

The feedback piece was also valuable to the cultivation for creativity, because it specifically relates to a previous article I’ve written about ways to introduce elements of Design-Based Thinking to young children. By facilitating comments on what they liked about each other’s creations, they were challenged to conduct simple observations and evaluations about theirs and others work. Had they been a little older we might have encouraged suggestions on ways to improve each model (and perhaps even getting them to think about the end-user as part of this experience).

After making a few observations - I feel the best bags of Lego must contain a few flats, wheels, long single row brinks, and a few unusual pieces from the space or fantasy sets!
I feel the best bags should contain a few flats, wheels, long single row brinks, and a few unusual pieces from the space/fantasy sets!

Yes this is a simple activity, and perhaps one that we might relate to a classroom, but how often do we as parents take them time to integrate ourselves into these types of activities? As an observer it still appeared to resemble ‘free play’ with Legos, and my brother-in-law was still able to go about his business during this time, but a few minutes of parent participation at the beginning and ending of this home-based activity helped expand upon the type of creative thinking that can manifest with a bag full of Legos.


FREE FILM for parents and educators

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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In what ways can we nurture Creative Thinking in young children at 30,000 feet?

I get a little anxious before flying, I don’t know why, but it’s something that I’ve had for a while. However, since flying with my boys it’s certainly become less of an issue during the actual flight. As you can imagine, or have perhaps experienced, the preoccupation of crying toddlers, or needy little ones, in such a small confined space with little chance of exit, turns out to be the perfect distraction for any fear that might manifest during a period of light bumps – in fact I’ve actually began to feel a sense of excitement before each flight, as I’ve come to appreciate how this time can provide an opportunity to be at one with your family, absent from everyday distractions, and with a sense of adventure. You’re in the moment, where the Internet is (currently) non-existent, and your little ones are about to experience something new and exciting. They look to you for answer about the clouds, and geography, and space, and aerodynamics, and everything else that engages their curiosity during flight – I find it a magical time, that no longer has to be associated with panic and anxiety.

There’s also the opportunity to begin or complete planned activities that can stimulate creative thinking around your destination and journey. Sadly, this is not a post filled with completed examples, but does have six ideas that were partially tested prior to the interruptions of the 17-month old younger brother.

SEE ALSO: Doing a long drive this summer? Five Creative Thinking Games for the Car

  • Get a window seat! The take off, the landing, the clouds, the stars, it’s all new stuff that will generate a variety of questions.
  • Use Play Doh to model famous landmarks that relate to your destination. This will help build knowledge and heighten anticipation for the trip.
Activity lasted about 20 minutes, but during this time Lucas modeled Big Ben, and other London buildings that he remembered from his past trips.
Here my eldest modeled Big Ben, and other London buildings, which he remembered from his past trips to the UK.
  • Create a map of the journey using paper and crayons. This activity actually expanded to include a paper plane that was used to help answer the question – ‘how long until we land Daddy’. You can also bring up the flight map on the seat monitor if it’s available.
  • Load up new apps on the iPad – one of my favorites for toddlers, is the Seek & Find Activity Book from WonderKind. They create one called Tiny Airport and I highly recommend this app to introduce young children to the interactivity of today’s mobile devices.
WonderKind offer a variety of artistic interactive books. The average price for each app is $2.99.
WonderKind offer a variety of artistic interactive books. The average price for each app is $2.99.
  • Take photos of your journey and ‘begin’ to create an ebook of your trip.
  • Books, books, and more books. Reading cannot be emphasized enough.

Obviously these six activities can be used intermittently and/or in-between the movies and video games, but it certainly adds a little bit extra to the journey.


FREE FILM for parents and educators

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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