Friday, April 15, 2011

Let's Celebrate Creativity and Innovation

by Susan Stephenson,

Have you ever noticed how creative and innovative your own or many of the kids you see are? A child will throw his leg over a stick and ride it off to rescue a friend, wield the stick as a sword or shore up a ramp for his toy cars with it. Children's art work and problem solving ability often amazes us, and I know I'm not the only one who just loves to watch kids involved in creative play. Creative play is also a powerful tool for experimentation, and it can enable kids to deal with their fears and insecurities in a secure and comfortable way.

Although I believe we're born with the ability to create, I also believe that creativity needs to be nurtured within us. Within our children and students too. It's so easy to get bogged down in passive activities, particularly when we're tired. But creative expression, innovation, improvisation and activities where we use our imaginations can actually be very rejuvenating. Kids might think all they want to do is flop down in front of TV, but sculpting, painting, playing or dancing will make them feel so much better. I promise!

This week is Creativity and Innovation Week. Kids or adults, we can all use inspiration for being creative and innovative in our everyday lives, so what better time to focus on it and celebrate it than this week? April 15 is also believed to be Leonardo da Vinci's birthday, a creative genius if ever there was one.

World Creativity and Innovation Week April 15 - 21 is a celebration of our ability to get new ideas, use imagination and make new decisions to make the world a better place and to make your place in the world better too. Do what you can, do what you like. There’s only one rule: do no harm.

Here are some quick activities you can incorporate into lessons or family life to help your children think creatively:

If this is the answer, what's the question? Answers can be in the form of text or images or objects or numbers. Easy example: "Four is the answer; what's the question?" (2+2?/how many elephants can you fit in a bus?) There can be many responses.

Think about the world differently. Ask questions like: What does the wind taste like? How does fear smell? What colour is happiness? If you were a bird, what bird would you be?

Play what if. What if you had a sausage instead of a nose? What if we had wings? What if your pet giraffe escaped? If ants ruled the world, what would we see?

Combine ideas. Take two random words, like pencil and cherry. List what you know about each, then think of ways to combine them. Could we perhaps have cherry flavoured pencils? Could a cherry be used as a pencil somehow? If we stuck a cherry on top of a pencil, how would that be useful? Can two pencils be used as chopsticks to eat cherries with? Could we create a sculpture using only pencils and cherries?

Encourage kids to look at the world flexibly. See if they can generate multiple ways of looking things. Any idea can be good, bad or interesting, depending on how you look at it. Take something that occurs in your family - like somebody has to walk the dog. What's bad about it? I must stop the game I'm playing. What's good about it? Spot will really enjoy getting out, AND I might see my friends. What's interesting about it? What if there were a dog walking machine in our backyard? What if Spot had to walk me? What if I could harness Spot to my billy cart and have him pull me along?

Lie on your backs on the grass and watch clouds drift by. What do you see? What might you see? And then what might happen?

Creative prompts. Grab some more ideas on encouraging kids to innovate and create via my series of Creative Prompts for Kids.
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