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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.


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‘No Lucas, this Lego doesn’t go here’: Am I Lord Business from the Lego Movie?

Am I in danger of becoming Lord Business from the Lego Movie? Anyone seen this film? SPOILER ALERT – Based on the Lego sets, this story follows the character of Emmet, an ordinary Lego mini-figure, who has been prophesized to save the world from the evil, and I mean really evil, Lord Business – ruler of the land, and enforcer of rules that prohibit anyone from deviating from their instructions. It’s not rocket science to realize that this film is all about creativity, and how we as adult, perhaps without realizing, can hinder the imagination and creative thinking that manifests when children free play.

As this awesome film progresses we eventually morph into the real world, and quickly discover that the story we’ve seen unfold on the screen is actually a child’s imaginative play with his fathers Lego sets. Obviously the Dad is upset to see his models broken and the pieces used to make other creations that do not align to his model town, and do not really resemble anything ‘normal’. He says ‘that’s not right… this doesn’t belong here’… and I must now make a confession – I used very similar words over the weekend when my nephews invaded my house and broke one of my airplanes engines to secure parts they ‘apparently needed’ for their own model. This is where Lord Business popped his ugly head – I took back the piece and said ‘that’s not right… it doesn’t go here’. Seriously! How many times as parents have we uttered these words? Ok there are some items that have a home (I’m hearing my wife in my head right now telling me the correct shelf for the cheese) but our children, when engaged in free play, should be allowed to use any toy they want, and build anything they desire, in any way that they think works.

The plane's wheels was also removed, as well as the engine.
The plane’s wheels was also removed, as well as the engine.

We’re obviously not discouraging sharing, and certainly do not condone the deliberate destruction of someone else’s creation in order to secure something for your own, but this type of free play should be about deviating from the instructions, mixing toys, and building on the imagination and there are some obvious takeaways from this observation in regard to cultivating creative thinking:

  • It’s interesting to see how my nephews had very little interest in playing with my ‘correctly’ modeled airplane and instead preferred something that they had built own, suggesting that there is something about ‘their creation’ over someone else’s, that supersedes the ‘order’.
  • This incident expands beyond Lego. I’ve regularly seen Lucas mix different toys as part of free play and often quote Lord Business, ‘Lucas if you’ve finished with one toy, put it back before getting another toy. I sometimes miss the fact that he’s using both toys in conjunction with his overall game (and this is why we see Lightening McQueen invade the world of Thomas the Tank Engine, who has just run over my favorite Lego figure).
  • Interference from adults, or even structured aspects of the adult world are not wanted during this type of Free Play.
  • Buying brand new Lego box sets is a waste of money. Instead, purchasing second-hand Legos via eBay is the better option, and certainly better bang for your buck – just be sure to ash them.
  • And obviously us Dads will continue to buy our really cool box sets, but evidently there is a need to buy two of everything so that our children can have one of their own to brake and misuse. (Mommy please click on this link – hint hint!).

If you liked this article you might want to check out Finding your Child’s Creative Characteristics.


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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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Dads for Creativity: 3 Question interview with LEGO ANIMATOR, Alex Kobbs (Stop-Motion Lego Movies)

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Being a Dad comes with a genuine excuse to buy and play Legos, and I can’t wait to turn this into a moviemaking venture with my boys. Alex Kobbs is an animator and filmmaker, who has racked up millions (and I mean MILLIONS) of hits on YouTube for his stop motion Lego movies. Now it’s unlikely that the average parent will achieve the awesomeness of Alex’s work, which include an array of old-school filmmaking and practical effects, but with mobile devices like the iPhone and specific stop-motion apps available – there’s not really much stopping us having a go, and as Alex points out – we’ll likely engage a variety of creative thinking skills along the way.

How did you get into making videos with Lego?

Lego bricks have always seemed to be a part of my life (thanks to my parents) as I was attracted to the Trains, Space, and Pirate themes that reflected my natural childhood interests. I started animating Brickfilms when I was 12 years old after receiving the Lego Stephen Spielberg Movie Maker Set for my birthday. 

This was a simple system that I could experiment with and learn the fundamentals of animation. At about the same time, Lego® started manufacturing their Star Wars branded line, and I was immediately hooked.

Where do your story ideas come from and how might parents generate ideas with their kids?

I think parents should go with whatever feels natural to both them and their child concerning story creation. As a kid, I loved to make things up in a spontaneous manner, and I’m not sure that structuring the stories in a storyboard-type way with my parents would have worked. Structure was already abundantly prevalent in school, and I used my animations and Lego bricks to escape that. 

I have always had a vivid imagination, and had been acting out my own stories way before I had a digital camera. I can remember one particular instance when I created a story with my Lego bricks over the course of a 3 day period. I remember feeling very disappointed at the end of my imagined adventure because I could never re-tell or share the miniature drama I had brought to life on my bedroom floor. That realization led to my desire to capture the story to enjoy later, and filmmaking is the natural extension of that.

What advice can you offer parents who are looking to make Lego videos with their kids?

The first piece of advice I have for parents trying to create brickfilms with their kids is to allow them to experiment and fail. It’s so easy for us as adults to immediately see what the “right” or “correct” way to do something is because our brains have already developed and we’re drawing on a lifetime of experience. No one wants to see a child founder so our natural instinct is to help them…almost to the point of doing it for them. This may be helpful with other tasks like a golf swing, but creativity is somewhat random and needs room to be spontaneous. Simply forcing or telling the child how to accomplish a task doesn’t allow them to figure out all the nuances associated with that task. This inevitably leads to the “let me do it” line so often repeated by young children…

I think the best way to go about brickfilming with children is to animate along side them at first. So, the parent could animate their own car or character, while the child does their own thing in the same shot. The child will often try to imitate the parent instead of being told what to do. At the end, the comparison is often a sharp contrast and the child will want to replicate and surpass the parent’s efforts. Allowing the child to play “director” also puts them in a position of power and boosts their confidence.

Luckily, due to the democratization of the new technology, there is almost no downside to allowing a child to make as many films as they want!

Alex’s stop motion work can be found on his YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/kooberz. And a tour of the studio that all Dads will want can be seen in the short documentary below.

Alex had a lot more advice to offer in his interview – check out the full interview here.

If you liked this article, check out another DadsforCreativity 3 Question Interview with award winning educator Jonathan Nalder or see ‘Interactive Storytelling with Legos‘. 


 

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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Using Lego to make your story come alive (Lego Story Starter Kit)

Can we all agree that Lego is the greatest toy on the planet? It’s so great that you are still cool playing it as an adult (at least that’s what I tell myself). A colleague of mine has an office full of Lego characters and I’m filled with envy each time I go there for a meeting. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve enjoyed using Lucas to revisit my childhood toys, and I’m always looking for ways to integrate Lego into our play and learning. This weekend I used Lego to introduce my eldest to some of the things we often associate with the United Kingdom (I want him to know about Daddy’s homeland). I started by putting together a map of the country, and then using my collection of figures to create historical characters that I integrated into my story as we traveled through time, and started a really cool story about the country I call home.

Spot any characters you know? King Richard the Lion Heart, Robin Hood, Big Ben, and don't forget the coal miner!
Spot any characters you know? King Richard the Lion Heart, Robin Hood, Big Ben, and don’t forget the coal miner!

After completing our Lego session I had a better appreciation of how powerful this type of activity could be in the cultivation of storytelling skills. It’s certainly different than free play, where children interact with the toy outside of the guidance of an adult, and needs to be guided by an adult. Lego has an amazing collection of resources to expand this type of activity and help cultivate creative thinking, as well as literacy skills. I will certainly be making the investment in a story starter pack (though you might be able to work with the collections you already have) and plan on experimenting with my youngest on how we can bring classics like ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’ and ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to life off the page. The focus will be identifying the beginning, middle, and end of the story and ways these parts can be changed to effect the outcome. If you’re intrigued start by checking out the Lego Story Starter Kit.

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 ourFacebook page. We’ll follow up with details via a private message.

*Contributing content includes comments on existing articles.

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