by Matthew Worwood

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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Matthew Worwood
Matthew Worwood is an educator, Creative Studies scholar-practitioner, and co-host of the Fueling Creativity in Education podcast. He is a professor of Digital Media Design at the University of Connecticut and a husband and proud father to three young boys.

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