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Creativity Chit-Chat: Hollywood’s Hidden Call for Creativity

Lets be honest – one of the best things about being a parent is having an excuse to watch kiddy movies. This weekend we re-watched The Croods, for the zillionth time. For a while it was my eldest’s favorite film, but has since been replaced with A Night of the Museum.

This typical Hollywood blockbuster follows the journey of the last cavemen family – ‘The Croods’. Unlike other cavemen families, they have managed to survive being eaten, or getting sick, or consuming poisonous berries, or freezing in bad weather, all achieved by staying in their cave and resisting the temptation to be curious. In his desire to keep the family safe, the Father teaches his children to never think differently, he believes that thinking differently is bad and will get you killed. Obviously we know where the film is heading – the Croods are about to survive certain doom by thinking differently. Forced to leave their cave after an Earthquake, the family embark on a journey and meet Guy, another cavemen who brings with him new ideas (though I think he’s meant to be from a more intelligent species as well). The Father sees the character of Guy as a threat at first, but after a number of close calls he soon realizes that Guys ideas are the only thing that will save his family from volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that are consuming the land around them.

The Croods is a great movie, and I believe a sequel is in the works, but there is also a hidden call for creativity sandwiched within the storyline. Young children naturally think differently, they’re curious, open-minded, can tolerate ambiguity, and produce and consider many alternatives. Unfortunately, we as adults are not always great at cultivating this type of thinking and very quickly impose rules and ways of thinking that can threaten the natural characteristics that allow their creativity to flourish. This challenge only increases in education as the required learning of specific content quickly assumes priority. Education institutions are becoming increasingly aware of this situation and some are making genuine attempts to change, but parents must assume some level of responsibility and allow for some level of curiosity and ambiguity within the home.

We’ve certainly written a lot on this subject during our creativity chit-chats, but as I reflect on storylines in recent films that I’ve watched I’m able to quickly  reference other titles that offer similar calls for creativity. For example the storyline in The Lego Movie, centers on the battle against Lord Business who requires everyone to stick to the instructions, and adult films such The Divergent series is about a culture that considers thinking differently a threat. What exactly is Hollywood trying to tell us? Or rather, why are we as a society producing these types of storylines?  If we already know it’s a problem, then surely the next stage is to do something about it – as our child’s first teachers it’s important that we’re conscious of the situation and make efforts to recognize and encourage creativity in the home.

 

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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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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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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


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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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