How Many Ways With Boxes?
Over the course of a few weeks our fruit & vege boxes were like usual the most played with item of all in our house. Everybody know’s just how much a child loves to play with a simple box. It can become so many things… perfect for little imaginations to run wild, an ideal blank canvas for brainstorming and discovering new possibilities. The options for play are endless.
Generating Ideas- Rapid Prototyping Style
What was most interesting was to watch just how many ways the boxes were used during play until they became crushed beyond recognition. I was only called upon for lending a hand with tape when frustration set in. I missed a few concepts but I was able to capture a selection of ideas the kid’s created before they were quickly modified, moved and the play started all over again in a new way.
Pushing The Limits- Thinking Beyond The Box
When children have something in their hands at their control, they manipulate it and try new things over and over again. It’s no wonder so many kid’s toys get broken when they push the limits of what it can do, many toy’s constrain children’s imaginations and they quickly tire of them.
Finally, with dramatic boy-ish enthusiasm the boxes were piled high and crushed with all the effort and energy they could summon from the height of the couch.
The ideas pictured were described by the kid’s as: Pirate Boat, House, Chase tunnel, Ball rolling tunnel, Train track tunnel, Car ramp with bumps, Slide on the stairs, Maze, Red fort.
Learning Without Teaching?
Can young children learn without parent-led teaching if most learning is incidental to the experience?
The brain is constantly looking to make connections between what is known and what is new. Constantly looking for new interesting things. So it seems creativity and play is the best place to begin life’s learning journey.
It’s obvious children are wired to learn. They have natural curiosity. But I think there certainly is the ability for adults to interfere with that natural creative instinct and potentially de-rail a child’s innate way of thinking, their passion and their desire to learn. I think we need to stop making learning like a chore. I believe if children are supported and encouraged to use their skills they begin life with, they have a much better chance at continuing on to be creative, innovative individuals throughout adult life.
Fun To Learn
With my children, learning is often the result of an interesting experience. Not always one that has been taught, repeated, practiced and tested. I think we can all relate to this. I remember events that were memorable, enjoyable and interesting. I tend to forget about those that were a bore. It’s actually quite easy to make things more fun, throw in a little more love and laughter and children may even learn better this way.
Curiosity = Interest = Attention = Learning
Curiosity creates interest and with interest there is often greater focus and attention to the now. When children are focused they are learning. They are interested. They are connecting and taking it all in.
Fail Often To Succeed Sooner (David Kelley, IDEO)
It’s sometimes hard to not correct a child who is learning, but mistakes and failures are part of their learning. It forms part of the experience of improving, evaluating and trying again. Mistakes lead to discovery. I try to let my children work it out themselves rather than showing them how, even if it it would be quicker and easier to step in.
Everyone Is Different
Not all children like to learn the same way. I can see how clearly different even my three are. We know boys and girls often like to learn differently from each other too. There seems no one right way to teach them, instead maybe we can set our children free and let them lead the way with their learning.
Critical Thinking Skills
We can help our children with ways to think, which is more important than telling them what to think. Play time is certainly not trivial, I think it’s vital to children’s development.
Children, Please Play With Your Food
Stop playing with your food and just eat it! ….Sound familiar?
I’m sure it all started with the ‘train-of-mushy-baby-food-to-get-my-baby-to-eat’ and it hasn’t stopped since. Even if it takes a little longer to get eaten its much more fun to play with it. Their ideas are far more imaginative than mine. Last nights dinner ended up as stuffed potato pirate boats with broccoli and bean sails and the peas and corn are treasure when you put the top back onto the potato. Carrot sticks became swords, but we had to constrain some of the play when their imagination took over from our table manners and peas became cannon balls flying across the table…
There is a lot of creative food play at our house, not all the time, but often. They enjoy it and when they have fun they actually eat too.
Last week there were no lemons to juice but my son quietly found a way to make his boring water into a refreshing watermelon drink.
When our kids eat they are not just filling their tummies. I hope they enjoy every last bite.
Do Our Children Have Enough Time To Play?
We’re all just so busy these days. Rushed and scheduled activities and planned entertainment for the children are common nowadays. But we also need to consider the importance of giving our children time to just explore and play. Time to discover, to develop ideas to move beyond boredom into exploration mode.
Discovery Through Play
A great example is how a 5yr old who initially appeared bored, quietly sitting under a tree at the edge of a lake, went on to create this beautiful raft which is constructed with a bundle of sticks and soft pumice stones. Items that were scattered across the beach others may not have even noticed. With enough time- half an hour, he sat down and ‘played’ or ‘experimented’ with them until he discovered he could ‘drill’ holes through the pumice with sticks. It was with this combination of simple and limited available materials that further inspired him to build his ‘discovery’ into a raft.
No one disturbed him from his intense concentration until the exciting stage of seeing if it would work- he had a captive audience. Testing it was a big part of the evaluation of the building materials and the design. The pumice to his surprise, floated wonderfully and the resulting raft provided much pride and accomplishment on his part. So much so, that he raced into the water after it fully clothed to retrieve it.
We were so close to rushing off to make it home in time for dinner, but this experience was well worth getting home late for…
Design Thinking Skills
The above scenario describes a child exhibiting very similar skills as a designer using the design process to innovate. A designer builds prototypes to evaluate an idea. Simple, quick mock-ups, communicating the way it works, how it looks, feels and the experience. Testing, getting feedback, evaluating, refining, are all part of the design process.
Do we underestimate what children are learning during play time?
How can we schedule ‘free time’ into our busy lives?
Blu-Tack And Discovering How To Share Ideas
Yesterday I purchased a kids world map and my son watched curiously as I used Blu Tack to hold it in place. This was nothing new to me, but he had discovered Blu Tack. A squishy reposition-able reusable adhesive. He quite obviously wanted to try it out.
Within a couple of hours he had made up a make-shift desk in his room and created dozens of drawings, lots of robot plans, rocket launchers and other vehicles which he had carefully stuck to his bedroom wall with Blu Tack. He would draw an improved version and replace an earlier one, editing and refining his set of ideas. He requested more Blu Tack, and eventually asked me to come down and see what he had created.
His wall was covered and he was proud - he was sharing his ideas, telling me stories about the robots that he developed in his mind as he drew the pictures. His room had become rich with imagination.
Communicating With Design Thinking
Designer’s share their ideas and brainstorm in this manner. Dozens of thoughts, building off other ideas, quick fast sketches- quality of idea not quality of drawing, sharing, presenting, evaluating and refining. There’s no hiding of ideas, no protective attitudes or precious ideas, but an open free-flowing method and communication tool. This is a core element of the design process and innovative thinking.
Why doesn’t this skill stay with us?
How can we support and encourage our children to continue ideating like this as they grow up?
Why should we feel judged and feel self conscious of our ideas?
Shouldn’t this skill be a tool for sharing and communicating ideas for everyone?
Idea Generation During Play
Take a 5 year old boy and a pile of cut flax leaves. During an hour of intense concentration and un-interrupted play we see weaving, knots, wearable items followed by “warrior” outfits and lasso traps. Many ideas with a few lengths of flax.
A great example of deep exploration and creative play. Ideation, prototyping, building and role-play. A simple version of the process of innovation and where it can all begin.