Creativity and Stones

Heart Stones dw

I recently spent six days at Kripalu where a true visionary, John Milton, (http://sacredpassage.com) guided a group of sixteen people from across the country on an extraordinary spiritual practice in nature. John taught us the basics of Tai chi and Qigong in the mornings and in the afternoons sent us out solo into the surrounding hills of the Berkshires on a “sacred passage.”

Using Taoist teachings as a starting point, he instructed us in how to use our five senses (and more) to make authentic connections with nature. Slowly we began to respond mindfully (moment to moment) and not automatically to sights, sounds, smells and source messages in nature. I found it difficult at first to shed the patterns of response that often surround and protect me. The daily practice of Qigong enabled me to begin to interact with people, occurrences and nature in creative and perceptive ways that I had never experienced.

Or so I thought.

I realized that I had experiences similar to the ones I had a Kirpalu – when I was a young kid: Playing games and going on backyard adventures – making spontaneous and imaginative connections that amused, surprised and, at times, frightened me. The channels of creativity were wide open and flowing. Then school took over specifically around fifth grade – at a strict, tie and jacket all-boys school where hard work, strict regimentation and order were rewarded. Imagination and creativity were left to wither.

Before I left Kripalu, I found five heart-shaped stones that I planned as gifts for my wife and ten year-old daughter. I was drawn to one stone – it had the color of the night sky with a shimmering white line like a shooting star.

When I got home, I wasn’t sure how to give 5 presents to 2 people.

But my daughter did.

We went to my outdoor writing studio and I laid out all the stones and asked her, “Which one are you drawn to?”

Natalie quietly looked at the heart shaped stones – experiencing each in her own way. She picked the most colorful one. “It’s the most childish – see all the colors,” she explained. “Automatic connection,” she smiled playfully, pointing two fingers to her eyes and then toward her stone.

She patiently looked from one stone to the other, and discovered a creative order and design to them that was crystal clear to her:

“This stone is for Mom because it has two paths – the big path is the one she’s taken for family and the other path is a developing path for her new business.”

“Why are you smiling?” Natalie asked when she chose the night sky stone for me. “It’s my favorite,” I told her.

I saw Natalie was very focused, but also having fun as she teased a story from the stones in front of her:

“And you see,” she added, “My stone is a combination of the colors in yours and Mom’s – because I’m a combination of both of you!”

Here were the basics of visual literacy in the form of a creative activity:

Playfully she was utilizing creative thinking skills to explore and map out information in the form of an image.

Two stones remained on the table in front of us:

She chose a dark stone with a moon-like circle for my wife to keep in her truck – because she explained, “It’s like yours and it will remind Mom of you. And it has different patterns – and she looks for style when she hunts for mid century furniture.”

She chose the final stone for me – “Look – the sand colors are like the colors in my stone and Mom’s.” “Okay, can I go now?” she asked me – already through the deck door and on to something new…..

The stones from nature launched my daughter into a creative and intuitive activity which parallels the wonderful cloud game that my colleague Matt Worwood wrote about in his posting: http://dadsforcreativity.com/when-did-you-last-play-the-cloud-game/

Visual literacy is a key skill today as information is increasingly exchanged in a digital multi-media format.

As parents we can encourage a wide range of creative thinking skills in our kids. One way is to become more present and patient as they explore and map out designs and ideas that spring from their imagination. These journeys often take routes that are beyond what we as parents can imagine – but that’s fine.

 -Nature provides endless opportunities for parents and children to expand their senses and to open and channel creativity into new and different ways.  

-Watch young kids play – they do this spontaneously and intuitively.

 -Encouraging creative activities can be a central focus of how we interact with our kids especially as they begin to inch away from us and shape their own identities.

 -As parents we sometimes have to be reminded of this as our kids leave their single digits and move into their tens and elevens where school regimentation and social pressure can inhibit their natural creativity.

 -Take as many adventures into nature with your kids as you can – and together you may discover new connections there.

 -As a parent be aware of how you might change the patterns of how you interact with your kids – to encourage more creative activities – and journeys that may take you and your kids to places you’ve never imagined.


 

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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.

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Creativity on the Fly!

My daughter’s minor basketball injury sent us hurrying to the 24 hr walk-in clinic. But the tension in the waiting room melted away thanks to a spontaneous outburst of creative play.

Ten year-old Natalie sat between my wife and me – staring at her disturbingly swollen finger. Her nervousness and discomfort silenced her usual playful self.

She watched as I picked up six pages of forms. And then it began. Innocently enough. But once it did – there was no turning back.

First category on the form: Name

My daughter saw me write: Jonathan Flash Furst.

Natalie looked puzzled. She turned to my wife, “Mommy, daddy wrote the NAME OF OUR DOG for his middle name!!!!!” My wife rolled her eyes – as I proceeded to the next box:

Describe Location and description of injury:

I sketched a stick-figure hand with a cartoon-like throbbing finger. Natalie laughed – took the pen & drew a HUGE BOLD ARROW pointing to the injury!

We broke into laughter as a young well-dressed woman hurried ZIP-ZIP-ZIP into the clinic while talking into her cell phone. At the check-in window – she tapped her phone against it and demanded to know: “How long is this going to take – because I have to fly in two days!” Before the receptionist could answer, Ms. Zip-Zip-Zip spun away from the window and continued her cell phone conversation, “I’ll call you back when these people get me checked in.” She turned to the receptionist, “I haven’t slept in two days. My ear is oozing something. (pause) Well not right now. But it was!”

As she sat down with forms, she made a second call and repeated everything she said in the first call – but louder. Finally she finished. There was silence in the clinic.

But not for long…

I picked up my cell phone, “My heart blew a valve,” and then – just a little louder, “it was bleeding all over everything – WHAT A MESS AND HOW COULD I CLEAN IT UP!”

I saw Natalie’s face light up – tuning in to what we’ve done since she could string sentences together: creating a story on the fly.

She took the cell phone from me & played on: “…and to stop the bleeding they put a band aid on it. Of course it didn’t hold –WHO USES A BAND AID!!!…..” And on she went with the story – far beyond what I could imagine…

While a walk-in clinic is not the best locale for creative play– it did get me thinking about several basic points about creativity and how we interact with our kids:

  1. Look for opportunities to use your creative skills – playfully.
  1. Engage in structured activities for exercising your creativity – BUT also open up to spontaneous opportunities where you can create on the fly.
  1. Exercising creative thinking skills = Exercising your imagination.

Run with the spontaneity. Natalie and I leapt on a spontaneous moment. An imaginative dance took form. And isn’t it ironic for parents that once we open up and “really play” – this experience feels so familiar because it reminds us of the young kid in us – who had such open access to imagination and creativity.

Remember:

-imaginary friends, dress-up games, Barbies, creating tents & forts in our rooms or the woods, amazing buildings with blocks and Legos, designing worlds & scenarios with small toy figures and on and on….

As parents it so much fun to share sparks of creativity with our kids.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou

Entries on our blog have listed many cool activities you can share with your kids.

 Keep the creativity flowing! Share activities you do with your kids on our Dads for Creativity blog:

 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.

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.

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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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From drawing stories, to making movies: Plus 7 simple tips that make it easy

It’s been an absolute joy to write about Lucas and his drawing. Watching himself immerse into the imaginary worlds and stories that manifest on his sheets of paper has really got me to think about creativity and the type of content I want to share. In this article I’m going to explain how parents can capture children’s drawings and turn them into a simple movie using a mobile app like iMovie.

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There was no soccer on Saturday morning so I found myself out of my weekly routine. I’d suggested to Lucas that we make one of our father and dad YouTube shows, he declined my offer in favor of drawing, but said after he’s finished we can make a movie. While I waited for the Prince to fit me into his busy schedule I decided to play with Liam (yes on this occasion he was my second choice – second child syndrome is real!). After 15 minutes, Lucas shouted for me to come into the kitchen so he could tell me about the story he’d ‘drawed’. When I arrived I was expecting to see another book stabled together, and another 100 trees wasted, but instead I was pleasantly surprised to see, what looked like, a storyboard sequenced together on the dinning room table. My mind immediately said ‘movie’, so I grabbed my iPhone and, with his permission, began filming 8-second segments of each sheet of paper (or shot). Once I completed the filming, I opened the iMovie app and started to import the short segments into the application. I had no idea how this would turn out, but was intrigued as iMovie has some cool new features. I inserted the clips into the timeline and once they were sequenced together in the right order I asked Lucas to narrate his story – which he did happily. After that was completed (probably the best part), I polished the piece a little more by making sure the images were sequenced correctly to the narration. (made sure the words correlated to the image displayed). After the polishing I added a soundtrack and a filter and hit share on Facebook. I was really surprised and happy with the outcome, the whole activity probably took 5-10 minutes and now we have documented a wonderful moment in Lucas’s development.

I’m hoping some of you might want to replicate the experience so I’ve offered five simple tips to make it an easy process. Please be sure to post on our Facebook page or share in the comments below.

Yes you’re a moviemaker – Don’t over think it:

  1. Avoid vertical phone syndrome by holding the device horizontally. This is a practice you want to get in the habit of doing if the videos will be displayed on a computer or television screen.
  2. Keep it short and sweat. There’s rarely a need to record a segment longer than 8-12 seconds.
  3. It’s a movie, so you need to make sure the images ‘move’. This basically means move into the image so it gets closer or start close and move out. Alternatively you can move across an image, but whatever you choose make sure it’s slow and steady unless you’re going for a specific effect.
  4. Don’t over complicate the narration – simply ask your little one to tell you his or her story. If they pause, mess up, etc.. don’t worry you can edit it out afterwards. It’s better for them to be spontaneous then doing multiple takes.
  5. One of the new and cool features in iMovie is the ability to separate the audio from the video. This allows you to delete the audio so that only your narration will be heard on the final product. If this is too complicated or the feature is not available on your app just make sure the room is quite when you record the images so that you avoid any unwanted sound.
  6. Lengthen or shorten clips in the timeline to help sync the narration with the relevant images. This is probably the most ‘technical’ aspect of the project but will bring about the best results.
  7. Finally, add a soundtrack that provokes a sentimental feeling, but represents the energy and excitement of young children. Avoid anything that is too emotional and corny. It might work for you, but it will probably be too much for others.

 

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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