Asking kids to use their imagination seems like a no brainer, right? If kids used their imagination more then they could occupy themselves through the day without iPads or video games. But are we missing the most important reason for encouraging creativity? And are we also missing out on the day to day opportunities where they can utilize it that doesn’t involve just playing games or keeping busy?
I am going to use a few examples again of our observations from our assorted booths that we set up at a variety of events in the Tri cities area such as Daisy Day, RibFestand, coming up, Car Free Day on St Johns Street in Port Moody.
If you have been to our booth, we always have a Problem-Solving game set up where we ask kids to help us solve everyday problems. I will admit, of all the games you see at events, it doesn’t sound that exhilarating but honestly, it is often one of the busier and repeat attending games wherever we are.
3 problems are set up on a whiteboard. An example would be, help us find new or more fun ways to…
1. Keep our shoelaces from coming undone
2. Keeping our teeth clean instead of brushing
3. Keeping our room clean
4. Stopping ice cream from melting all over our hands on a hot day
5. And so on
When the kids enter our booth, they always ask what this crazy looking board is that is covered in other kid’s drawings, writing, or a combo of both. You can see their mind working with “what is this and how can I show off something on there too?”
We ask them one question. “Can you help us solve a problem?”
It’s actually the second best part of this game for us because they light up with the flattery that someone wants their help, even though they don’t even know what we need yet.
We present to them one or two of the problems. Some kids give us an answer right away, others need a bit of help getting their brains going. But no matter what their answer is, we give them a big high five and ask them to write it down or draw us a picture so we can post it on our board.
“Thank you so much for your help! That was a great idea!”
There in lies the best part of the game for us. Giving them the high five because 4 out of 5 times, they ask if they can help with another problem.
Now I will be honest. Sometimes kids really give some crazy ideas. One kids came up with a slide that you go down and because you are smiling from the ride, a brush comes out and cleans your teeth as you go by. Another said a robot cleans your teeth for you that also holds a TV screen. Others come up with some really practical ideas like gum, candy or a lollipop that cleans you teeth.
But for many, they come up with ideas that aren’t all that crazy like wearing Velcro shoes instead of laces, eating ice cream in the shade, or using your finger to brush your teeth.
So why do all kids get a high five? Yes, encouragement is important in kids, but back to the question of this blog, “what is the purpose of encouraging creativity & imagination”? Because it, like everything we mentally or physically do, is an exercise and needs practice in order to get better.
Parents, I’m not trying to call you out here but I really want to encourage self-awareness in you so it rubs off on your kids.
Often when we ask the kids entering our booth if they can help us solve a problem, some parents laugh and say, “he’s a problem maker, not solver”. Or, “she isn’t very creative, but you can try”. Or once their child gives an answer, they say, “is that it?”
Creativity is not something that only comes up when they sit down by themselves and do it out of boredom because there are no other options. That just doesn’t happen much anymore with iPads and video games around. Creativity is an exercise that can be exercised when shopping in the grocery store, or when running errands, or when preparing for company coming over.
Rather than saying, “go clean your room”, or “keep busy while we get this done”, how about “can you help me with a problem? We need to go to the grocery store to buy a bunch of groceries and then get home to clean up before grandma and grandpa come over for dinner. How can we get all of these items off our grocery list faster?” and then wait. What do they say?
Do they suggest that if everyone splits up with 5 items to grab that it could go faster? That if we put rockets on the grocery cart we could get around quicker? That you should wear runners when you go to the store instead so you can run around instead of walk? Who know? Maybe they suggest you find someone to get your groceries for you? (that’s a thing and it is actually super helpful and cost effective depending on the grocery store you use. Order online and find it at your door)
Or maybe they don’t have any suggestions in the moment but they come up with something along the trip. Either way, you got them thinking and engaged in what you are doing. They are practicing practical creativity.
Yes, it actually may end up taking a bit more time or patience for you to complete your to-do list but just like our kids, we, too, need to practice seeking opportunities to find better and more creative ways to complete everyday tasks and help our kids feel more engaged in day to day life tasks.
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