The Quest For A Better Bubble
When a flimsy useless bubble-wand actually inspires a bit of problem solving and prototyping to create a new improved design solution.
If you don’t like it, then make a better one.
Rather than giving up on a cheap toy, Mr Six went in search of a better idea and we couldn’t help but notice the result from the shouts of excitement.
Now everyone want’s the better one, so Mr Four makes one too.
There will always be an even better bubble. It’s just a matter of who takes the opportunity to discover it.
Nurturing Opportunities For Curious Minds
Today’s Solar Eclipse, the moon passing between the sun and the earth, was an opportunity for children to discover something rare by experience. I hardly gave it thought until our spontaneous morning turned science on us, leading to many curious questions from Mr Four along with some random experiments.
Grabbing my camera I attempted a few quick photos without any prior planning, preparation or knowledge of how to do it. Meanwhile Mr Four excitedly picked up two balls he found outside trying to work out what was happening from the little I had explained to him on the go.
Unfortunately without viewing glasses we just observed the photos straight on the camera itself. I explained it’s hard to capture because we don’t have a special filter to view safely through. Inspired, we scrambled around finding many materials like coloured cellophane, foil and paper to use as experimental lens filters. In the limited time we had, Mr Four enjoyed finding the materials to try out and creating various effects, before it was all over.
Sometimes lack of knowledge or preparation can make for more creative explorations because we were testing and working it out together. We discovered the thick clouds formed our best filter to see the eclipse clearly.
Following some endless questions - “Is the sun bigger than the moon”? “How fast does it go”? “Why does everything look funny outside”? “Is it dangerous”? “Where does the moon go”?…. We took the opportunity to do some research online together to find some fun answers that I could benefit from too.
These, in hindsight are often the most exciting opportunities to feed kids curiousity. Sharing the discovery together, not having all the answers and creatively experimenting on the go. It’s always the hands-on real-time experiences that get the imagination and questions flowing while building strong memories with little effort.
Never Stop Questioning
- Mr Six: Does hair have 'feel buds'? If I squeeze your hair can you feel it?
- Exploring with questions. >> Do you have an imaginative question from a child you would like to contribute? Please use the submit button above.
1 Of The 100 Curious Knowledge-Gathering Question's Of The Day:
- Mr Four: "Why is water so fast"?
We need to stop dividing the world into the ‘creative’ and the ‘non-creative,’ and realize that people are naturally creative.
Pattern’s Of Play
Pattern’s of play emerge when children develop an interest - motivating them to continue their own exploration and discovery. Recently, it’s been fascinating for me to observe a burst of play interest in circular repetitive motion.
Young children will naturally seek out familiar maths and science concept’s such as symmetry at play, but they may also discover geometry, pattern, balance, harmony, space, repetition, motion, order, shape, position, size, proportion, number, sequence, visual perception, spatial orientation, coordination… and more. My kid’s may not yet grasp some of the complex concepts but they are inherently drawn to explore many of them during their creative play.
A daydream … is just a means of eavesdropping on those novel thoughts generated by the unconscious. We think we’re wasting time, but, actually, an intellectual fountain really is spurting.
Inanimate Objects And Imaginary Friends
Are imaginary friend’s really just that - friend’s for the imagination? My son had two imaginary friends, ‘Monkey’ and ‘Dinosaur’. For a few years before he started school, they played with him and joined him where ever he went. Every morning he would set up two mini-bowls and spoons for their breakfast alongside him. They could never be excluded. My son enjoyed true companionship with them, he often spoke of all the creative things they would do together. His days involved a lot of imaginary make-believe play and the three of them created wonderful ideas and stories together.
Tools For The Imagination
By having imaginary friends it was like observing his imagination leaping out to take action with his inner creative energy, forming external interactions from his internal thoughts and ideas. Pretend playmates are known to be good for children’s creative development and it was clearly obvious his ‘friends’ were like the tools for his imagination to be set free.
He had created these relationships completely out of his imagination. With his imaginary friends he would practice taking both sides of conversation, different roles, think abstractly and develop new ideas. These connections help children explore and understand their world around them, a companion at their playing level, that they can relate to and communicate openly with.
The Red Balloon
Today, my three-year-old son and I watched ‘The Red Balloon’ online - the beautiful 1956 French Oscar winning children’s film. After watching intently without a word, he then begged for his own balloon - clearly inquisitive about the connection he could form with one. Luckily we had one, a red one too, which he played and interacted with just as the little boy in the movie did, as if it were a special friend… as if it really did have a magical connection with him too. It wasn’t just a balloon, it was his play companion. What he had observed from the movie - the playful connection he desired - was replicated into his own experience by his highly enthusiastic imagination.
Inanimate Play Friends
It’s somehow similar then, when young children attach themselves to a stuffed toy or ‘Linus blanket’ as comfort/transition object during development. My son claimed his before he was one-year-old and two years later he still talks about it as a member of our family. It’s a ‘he’ and he can ‘hurt’ and ‘feel’ just like my son does. He has many imaginative stories about his Snuffy. Their depth of connection goes much further than we would ever imagine, it’s almost a part of him. He even speaks to this inanimate object giving it life. I once glued some googly-eyes on it, intending to make it more fun and ‘real‘ like a teddy but that was a big mistake. Clearly distraught he removed them and showed my how he can already ‘see’ by holding his fine-muslin-cloth-snuffy up to the light - it was transparent. He could see through it, so Snuffy indeed could see too.
The creation of a transition/comfort object at just a few months old could be the first actual creative act of a child as he uses his imagination to create reality out of nothing. His Snuffy becomes a tool for practicing interaction with the external world. It has a warmth and vitality that indicates it has a reality of its own. It clearly exists independently neither a part of him or the external world.
Toys That Underestimate The Imagination
Many toys have happy-little-human-faces on them like train sets, and some toys even a voice, begging for kids to swoop them up by trying to be ‘real’ little buddies while totally underestimating their imagination. When a simple red balloon, a linus blanket, or an imaginary friend can create such a deep connection we realise that creative play is not just limited to kids and manufactured toy experiences, but rather a child exploring and developing various playful relationships connecting with the world around him - physical objects, imaginary or make-believe worlds. A child brings anything to life by adding their imagination to it.
Friendship and Free Time For The Imagination
My six-year-old son still spends a lot of his time in elaborate fantasy worlds, imagining his secret spy team, their fort and their missions. They solve problems by acting them out and inventing characters, magical locations and things. He has since moved on from his imaginary friends to real-life friends but still throws himself into make-believe play with them - friends whom he can play and collaborate with, develop ideas and together continue to spark that incredible imagination they start life with.
A six-year-old still craves time for imaginative play, time to escape adults expectations and enter fantasty worlds where anything is possible. For my son his play is often dramatic and exciting, contemplative and quiet with thinking and planning, challenging and physical - a lot of skills are developed along the way. It reminds us how important any friendship is to a child, one that is not just about being in the same sports team, or in class, or other scheduled activities, but free time to play together to get in touch with their creative imaginations and be kids the way kids want to be.
Children live in a world where magic is real, they believe in fairy tales, monsters, and super powered heroes, they lack the abstract thinking abilities of how the world around them works. Sometimes letting them believe in things keeps the imagination alive, rather than cutting it off with a finite explanation. If creativity comes from believing in the impossible then imaginary worlds are a fabulous open-minded place to start.
Just Because Something Isn’t Possible Now, Doesn’t Mean It’s Impossible
Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi who helped popularise Zen Buddhism was quoted “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Children dream up the wildest ideas. I try to refrain from telling my kids that it can’t work or it won’t happen, or it doesn’t exist. Their imaginary world full of creative thinking and crazy ideas is a place much desired by many.
Imagination - A World Where Anything Is Possible
A pair of painted-on ‘super-action-shoes’ are the latest rage in our house. “They are a lot faster because they are not heavy and I have better grip with my toes.” My six-year-old is so convinced they are superior to shoes and bare feet that his younger brother requested a pair too. Those super-action-shoes helped them climb trees higher too and of course they are much more fun to put on than regular shoes.
While driving one day an excited voice announced “My windmill is making you go faster.” Positioning a toy windmill out the car window it generates visible motion, to him, comparable to generating energy to speed up the car? Like a propellor my three-year-old is convinced when it spins the car goes faster, not when the car drives faster the windmill spins faster as more air is pushed through it.
If he doesn’t have his windmill with him he uses his out-stretched arm like a gliding wing, helping us to fly along. Their facial expressions are almost as convincing and just priceless with that look of sheer excitement and fresh discovery all rolled into one.
Sometimes ideas flow from possible explanations, answers or suggestions to a question such as those contrails from a jet’s exhaust in summer - “Maybe that’s the edge of the sky?” Thoughts and ideas generated in this way provide a great launching pad into imagining the many things it could be. You can always follow up with some research to actually find out more, or maybe not! Does everything have, or really need, an answer? It’s the curiousity that keeps the imagination firing.
My hungry three-year-old asked me how they got the food in the recipe book while he sat staring at a glossy realistic photo of something delicious he was drooling for. I asked him if he knew how, he took a sniff of the photo “they smell so yummy, they must have squashed the food flat in some very heavy books.” Just like the food-press of flower-presses and with such a powerfully convincing imagination he could even smell the food in the photo.
Age and Experience: Growing A Judgemental Mindset
The way children think - their creative ideas, that free thinking - comes with an open mind, a fresh imagination, a new life with limited experiences, not having the specific knowledge or ability to combine factual answers to make sense of things. Kids are not hindered by the constraints of reality, recognising or understanding something is not possible. To them, everything is potentially possible. Children have no inhibitions, they are more open to criticism, sharing their ideas and taking on board new ideas.
Having preconceived judgements can restrict the flow of ideas. As young children grow older they tend to become more self conscious of their creativity, feeling judged and instead prefer to conform to just fit in and be accepted. Too often success becomes focused on knowing what is wanted, not what is interesting. Just because something isn’t possible now, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
As renowned entrepreneur, designer and visionary David Kelley from IDEO says; “everything you need to know you learn it in kindergarten because that’s when you had innate confidence in your own creative power”.
A child’s mind is an innovative mind- children don’t know what they don’t know, vs the limitations of age and experience.
Children’s ability to use their imagination, to think and generate creative ideas so efficiently, is an inherent skill they embody with such innocent passion. It’s often a long-lost skill much desired upon by any adult.
You don’t always need age, expertise or knowledge to be the most creative person in the room.
Neoteny, one of my favorite words, means the retention of childlike attributions in adulthood. Childlike attributes include learning, idealism, experimentation, wonder, and creativity. In our rapidly changing world, not only do we need to continue to behave more like children - we can teach our children to retain those attributes that will allow them to be the world-changing, innovative adults who will help us reinvent the future.
Time To Notice The Little Things
Avoiding The Rush
Imagine a child wandering along through a bustling village market, an environment replete with a layered richness of noise, smell, textures, colours, for all our senses to soak up and experience. Or picture the CBD where it appears people are all going somewhere in a hurry and not even noticing what, or who, is around them anymore- taking everything for granted.
If you watch a child in any environment it’s fascinating to observe what they notice, what stops them in their tracks. Often we hurry them along from an apparent dawdling state, but they are in fact taking it all in. They notice the little things. Kid’s listen, learn, observe, think and question. They use all their senses and in a different way to us. They don’t want to be hurried along like adults in their busy, rushed lives. They want to stop to explore, to absorb, to discover as they go. Mini researchers quietly in action. They are interested in what’s new to them- experiences they want to understand.
We in contrast are often preoccupied, not stopping to take it all in- instead meeting deadlines while sometimes missing the obvious- that a ‘child’s mind’ would otherwise see. I try to let my kids slow me down and focus on the little things that can actually mean so much and are so easily forgotten or overseen.
Observation Skills For Innovative Thinking
Innovative thinkers must notice what needs a solution- the problem, before they can attempt to solve something. An ability to slow down a little and observe even familiar things with a fresh ‘child like’ mind.
In an earlier video post, founder of IDEO David Kelley speaks about the power of a ‘Child’s Mind’ and elaborates on having a mind that notices things that can be improved. Observation skills are valuable if we are to be innovative thinkers, but actually allowing the time to observe is something else all together.
We want our kids to have time to discover- while they still have the freedom to. They crave unhurried experiences to practice these observation skills, helping to understand what is around them and where they are. I hope my kids will take every opportunity they can to explore their world.
Pearls Before Breakfast
Time-pressured means making priorities- we know we miss out on some things. I hope you find time to read this widely circulated article from the Washington Post, if you haven’t already- it’s fascinating. In the context of a ‘child’s mind’, I don’t think it’s even relevant who the musician was, It’s just a wonderful example of how children can remind us what we’re missing out on. So when will kids get to experience these things? Sooner or later they too will be just as busy as we are…
The following is a summary of the original article.
A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.
A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.
A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?