Friday, October 15, 2010

Creative Prompt - Look to Nature

My article today is the sixth in a series of prompts that I hope might spark some creative expression in your kids, and maybe you too. Our first prompt was a general one, where we looked for something else to innovate on, our second took a poem as a model; the third used video as a prompt; the fourth simply focused on things we like; the fifth used those two magical words, what and if. I hope you and your kids will join me today so we can all challenge ourselves to be more creative. 

Going outdoors to look for a prompt for creative expression can be liberating. I often find if I'm stuck on a story, I am more successful getting unblocked if I go for a walk, have a change of scenery and pace. It's a great way to combine creativity and imagination with fresh air and physical activity. And it can help kids get in touch with their natural environment.

So, let's go outside. We're looking to the world of nature for an idea to get us started in some kind of creative activity. Kids are so good at this. They can see a million potential uses for a single stick, or transform a tree or a cloud with the simple but amazing power of their own imaginations. Let's look for an object, a gift from nature, and see if we can respond to it in some way.

What I did

I went on a bush walk and found a banksia tree. If you're not Australian, you might not know these very large seed pods or cones. One of our wonderful Australian classics is the book, The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs, an author/illustrator who also saw their potential as a prompt!

I found a seed head lying on the ground, and took photos of some still attached to the tree. Taking photographs of what we see and find is a great way to make a digital creation later when the walk is over, and lends itself to cartoons, stories and book making. Because the seed heads had "eyes", I began to see personalities emerge. I decided to use Comic Life (reasonably priced software available for PC and Mac) to create a cartoon about my banksia boys.

First of all, I fooled around with the seed head I brought home, and stuck a chooky hat on him. That gave me the idea the others would be jealous of his finery. A simple story line emerged in the form of a conversation between the banksia boys, each of them bragging about their hats. I quickly added hats with Skitch to each photo I'd taken in the bush, then used Comic Life to add dialogue and speech bubbles. All up, including walk, the project probably took two hours. 

(Because I reduced the file size for the web, I lost quality in the jpeg of my cartoon. Comic Life makes the words crystal clear, unlike the way they appear on this page.) 

You and your child might find an unusual stick that you bring home, dress up, and turn into a dragon or stick princess. Maybe some leaves will inspire you to print leaf people, and add details to give them individual quirks. Perhaps you will lie on your backs and gaze at clouds, inventing adventures for your imaginary cloud creatures. Sharing activities like these with our kids shows them that we play too, and helps us all to exercise our imagination muscles.

{If you and/or your kids respond to this prompt and you'd like me to showcase it on my blog, I'd be thrilled to do that. If you post it on your own blog, please let me know (in comments or email, via the Contact Me tab), and I'll add your link to the relevant post.}


  1. I'm still yet to take photos of the girl's The Grape Sister book. I haven't forgotten... just been so busy. LOVE nature prompts. We might just go hunting for some pine cones. There are a heap around where are.

  2. Oh yes, they would work well. I can make you something with Comic Life if the kids would like.

  3. This is such a fun mix of nature and technology. I'm with you, when I am stumped for an idea or inspiration, nature seems to be ready to transform my thinking with a never ending supply of inspiration!

  4. Kelly, you're spot on with that remark. For me, using something from nature also allows me to think more laterally, use my imagination more. I had so much fun with this one!


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