Doing a long drive this summer? 5 Creative Thinking games for the car

I write a lot about the scholar E. Paul Torrance, nicknamed the father of creativity. One of his greatest accomplishments was the identification of a creativity skill set that was used to teach and test for creativity.

The Torrance Tests of Creativity include simple questions that measure creativity skills, for example the ability to produce and consider many alternatives – basically coming up with lots of new ideas. Evidence suggests that the more ideas we can generate, the more likely we are to move past the obvious ones and produce ideas that can be considered creative, or lead to creative outcomes. I try to avoid anything too heavy on this blog, but this is one of the skills that I’ve seen lacking in many high school students.

So as well as a fully charged iPad, you might want to check out some of the creative thinking games listed below. All can be played in the car, and most have been specifically designed to encourage players to produce and consider many alternatives.

  • How many alternative uses for a bucket? (you could repeat this game with other everyday objects like a bath, brick, or car tire).
  • The Cloud Game is probably better when stuck in traffic, but it’s basically a challenge to see how many things we can see in the shape of a cloud.
  • Imagine if we could suddenly fly. How many problems would exist if this scenario suddenly occurred. Another similar type game is to imagine if there were no cars or buses, how many alternative ways could we get to school?
  • List 15 things that are commonly red or contain red.
  • And yes you’ve got it – ‘I Spy’. The objective of this game is ‘originality’. Players must come up with ideas that are not obvious and less likely to be guessed by the opposing player.

Two other games that might be a challenge to play in the car but still promote this important creative thinking skill (or characteristic).

  • 30 Circles: Print or draw out a sheet that contains 30 empty circles. Turn as many circles as you can into recognizable drawings in three minutes.
  • Trace a picture of a child-friendly object such as a truck, house, or animal. Come up with as many labels for the picture as possible.

If you’d like to learn a little more about ‘Fluency’ and ‘Originality’ check out an extract from my documentary ‘Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance’. This scene references a proposed Creativity Crisis in education and how these two skills diminish as we children reach 5th and 6th grade.

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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.

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When did you last play the cloud game?

One day when Lucas was two years old, we sat back on a tiny hill outside our house and looked up at the clouds in the sky. I introduced him to the concept that clouds take on different shapes, and that with our imagination these shapes can become objects or animals floating in the sky. Two years later this has become one of his favorite games in the car whenever we’re on a long drive (which for Lucas is classified as anything longer than five-minutes).

As I’ve referenced many times, the ability to produce and consider many alternatives is considered a characteristic of creativity, or more specifically one of the creative thinking skills identified by E. Paul Torrance. Below is a list of seven items that I remember Lucas coming up with for the cloud below. Unfortunately, he had to scream for me to look at the crocodile head before I realized he was even playing the game.

  • Dragon
  • Skeleton Dinosaur
  • Turtle
  • Snow Mountain
  • Crocodile Head
  • Spaceship



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* will receive a FREE download to Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance.

Unfortunately, we’re not super sophisticated (or perhaps lack creativity) so in order for us to know that you’ve shared content we need you to tweet to @dads4creativity or share from our Facebook page. We’ll follow up with details via a private message.

*Contributing content includes comments on existing articles.

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We must make more of the ‘Micro Bursts’ of Creative Thinking

I first heard about the concept of ‘Micro Moments’ from Susan Keller-Mathers, at the International Center for Studies in Creativity, she was referring to the brief moments of creativity that occur during the day and may only last for a few seconds. I’m going to call them ‘Micro Bursts of Creativity’ as I think the word burst is better associated to the little ones, but they’re certainly moments. They’re usually associated with a creative response to a question, or responding to a presented problem in a new and surprising way. Usually we notice these actions and perhaps might respond with a ‘well done’ or ‘hey did you see that… my girl just did this’… but because they’re so brief we usually let them glide by and fail to celebrate the creative thinking within the action.

Here’s a perfect example, my little boy was helping me prepare the Christmas cards. It was kind of annoying as I wanted to get through them quickly, but he’s currently in this fix of wanting to join in with adult jobs and gets very frustrated if he’s not included, so I suggested he write his name in each card, which then turned into drawing pictures. I confess I didn’t look at any of the pictures as I was too busy writing each address on the envelopes, but I noticed him looking a little puzzled after we’d got through about 10 cards. ‘Lucas, what’s the problem’ I asked, ‘I’m thinking what to draw next, I’m trying to draw a different picture in every card’. Wow, this was a really cool creativity exercise that only a three year old would invent! Through his many years of studying creativity, E. Paul Torrance identified a creativity skillset, and one of the skills identified was the ability to produce and consider many alternatives, it’s often referred to as the Fluency Principal. This would have been an excellent fluency exercise, and has similarities to activities like ‘come up with as many alternative uses for a bathtub, or a brick, or a bucket, etc. The goal of this type of exercise is to focus on quantity over quality, to resist the temptation to find the one ‘right’ idea and instead generate a variety of ideas. This is one of four principals of brainstorming and has proven to be effective in the production of innovative ideas during ideation sessions.

What’s the point of this article you might be saying… well I believe the action above has now dwindled from Lucas’s mind. He probably doesn’t realize the recognition I gave it, and certainly didn’t associate it with anything special, but when he first spelt his name I reached for my phone and immediately pushed record. If I ask my family if they’ve heard Lucas spell his name they’re all going to say ‘Yes Matthew’… if I ask them if they heard about the story above they’re going to say ‘No… and might not be that interested’… so my point is we need to value these micro bursts of creativity as much as the micro moments of academic development. I mean seriously, most kids know how to spell their name by five or six (and who cares when they started). If we want to better nurture creative thinking we need to recognize the ‘coolness’ of generating twenty-five different pictures* in the space of 5/10 minutes? I’m not even sure I could do that!

*Full disclosure, I didn’t actually take note of the pictures Lucas was drawing so he actually might have failed miserably if this was one of E. Paul Torrance’s Tests of Creativity.

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