Fab Fridays 11: Ten Tips to Cultivate Creativity

Now is when children learn to learn

Happy Friday!

Greetings from Panama.

I’ve received inspiring messages from parents sharing the creative things their kids are coming up with during quarantine. Keep them coming!

Instead of trying to “recreate schools at home," I encourage you to give kids the freedom to play, explore, and pursue their own interests during this quarantine period. This freedom won’t diminish their educational opportunities, but rather expand them.

In this email I share:

  • 10 ways to cultivate creativity at home

  • 4 AWESOME virtual game ideas to play during quarantine (through Zoom, Face-time, etc)

  • Simple and fun ways to learn at home


Ten Tips for Cultivating Creativity

by Mitchel Resnick, Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT

“The challenge is not how to ‘teach creativity’ to children, but rather how to create a fertile environment in which their creativity will take root, grow, and flourish”—Mitchel Resnick

1. Show examples to spark ideas

A blank page, a blank canvas, and a blank screen can be intimidating.

A collection of examples can help spark the imagination.

Always start by showing sample projects to give a sense of what’s possible and to provide ideas on how to get started.

Suggest that they insert their own voice or add their own personal touch.

What might they do differently? How can they add their own style, connect to their own interests? How can they make it their own?

2. Encourage messing around

We tend to assume that imagination takes place in the head, but the hands are just as important.

To help children generate ideas for projects, encourage them to start messing around with materials.

As children play with LEGO bricks or tinker with craft materials, new ideas emerge.

What starts as an aimless activity can become the beginning of an extended project.

3. Provide a variety of materials

Children are deeply influenced by the toys, tools, and materials in the world around them. To engage children in creative activities, make sure they have access to a broad diversity of materials for drawing, building, and crafting.

New technologies, like robotics kits and 3-D printers, can expand the range of what children create, but don’t overlook traditional materials. 

  • Popsicle sticks are good for making skeletons

  • Scratch is good for making things that move and interact

  • Pens and markers are good for drawing

  • Glue guns and duct tape are good for holding things together.

Different materials are good for different things.

The greater the diversity of materials, the greater the opportunity for creative projects.

4. Embrace all types of making

Some kids enjoy making castles with LEGO bricks.

Others enjoy making games and animations, or writing a poem.

Help kids find the type of making that resonates for them.

Even better, encourage them to engage in multiple types of making.

5. Emphasize process, not product

As children work on projects, highlight the process, not just the final product.

Ask them about their strategies and their sources of inspiration.

Encourage experimentation by honoring failed experiments as much as successful ones.

Allocate times for kids to share the intermediate stages of their projects and discuss next steps.

6. Extend time for projects

It takes time for children to work on creative projects, especially if they’re constantly tinkering, experimenting, and exploring new ideas.

Squeezing projects into the constraints of time discourages risk-taking and experimentation.

Give kids large blocks of time to work on projects.

7. Play the role of matchmaker

Many kids want to share ideas and collaborate on projects, but they’re not sure how.

You can play the role of matchmaker, helping them find others to work with, whether in the physical world or the online world. 

Learning communities make the experience more meaningful and fun.

8. Get involved as a collaborator

Parents sometimes get too involved in children’s creative projects, telling children what to do or grabbing the keyboard to show them how to fix a problem.

Other parents don’t get involved at all.

There is a sweet spot in between, where adults and children form true collaborations on projects.

When both sides are committed to working together, everyone has a lot to gain.

Here is a great example in which parents and children work together on projects at local community centers over five sessions.

9. Ask authentic questions

It’s great for children to immerse themselves in projects, but it’s also important for them to step back to reflect on what’s happening.

Ask questions that push them away from just describing the project and toward reflecting on their experience.

  • “How did you come up with the idea for this project?”

  • “What’s been most surprising to you?”

  • “What were you trying to do?”

In describing what they were trying to do, they often recognize where they went wrong, without any further input from adults.

10. Share your own reflections

Talking with kids about our own thinking process is the best gift we can give them.

They need to know that thinking is hard work for everyone, and they benefit from hearing your strategies for working on projects and thinking through problems.

By hearing your reflections, children will be more open to reflecting on their own thinking, and they’ll have a better model of how to do it.

Imagine the children in your life as creative thinking apprentices; you’re helping them learn to become creative thinkers by demonstrating and discussing how you do it.


VIRTUAL GAMES TO PLAY DURING QUARANTINE

Today we celebrated 4 of my former students by having a surprise birthday party on Zoom! We had SO much fun playing different games and making personalized virtual cards for the birthday girls on Canva. Parents have been kind enough to compensate for my time by donating to virus relief efforts in Panama. (Big thank you!!)

You can watch the video of the zoom party here.

I hope these fun games inspire you to gather virtually with your friends, family or loved ones.

1. SCAVENGER HUNT

Make a list of things available at home that kids can collect. Call each item, and have kids run and get it. The first person to return with the item gets a point.

Examples of things they can collect:

  • kitchen utensil

  • an item in the living room that starts with A, B or C

  • a salt and paper shaker

  • a roll of toilet paper

  • an instrument

  • an item that rhymes with spot

  • something that begins with X, Y or Z

2. HEADS UP!

(Download HEADS UP! App on phone/tablet and make sure your child has it available for this activity)

  • Kids can take turns being the callers. The caller holds the phone/tablet on their forehead, and the rest of the kids will need to give him/her clues so that he/she can guess the word that’s on his/her forehead. You may choose to keep track of points or not 

  • The categories we chose for this zoom party were Act it out and Just Kidding

Here is a video of Ellen and Owen Wilson playing “Heads Up!”

3. THINGS GAME

Things is a funny game that is great for a zoom group call. The caller starts by proposing a creative prompt such as:

  • Things that are sticky

  • Things that you shouldn’t keep in your pocket

  • Things you could buy with $5.00

  • Things you shouldn’t chase

Players send their answers privately via zoom chat to the reader, who would read them off without revealing who wrote each one. Players take turns guessing who wrote what. Points are rewarded for correct guesses. You can read more specific instructions here.

4. GOING ON A PICNIC

This is a talking and guessing game, where players try to discover what can be taken on a hypothetical picnic. One player starts by thinking of a rule for things that can go on the picnic; the other players try to guess the rule.

For example, the rule can be “you can only bring items on the picnic that start with the same letter as your first name” (so Julie could bring jam to the picnic, but Todd couldn’t, though he could bring a truck).

The player who comes up with the rule can choose something as complicated or as sneaky as they want; the point of the game is to keep the other players from guessing the rule. Players go around saying what they would take to the picnic and the one who thought of the rule will respond with “yes you can come, or no you can’t come yet”. The game keeps going until everyone discovered the rule and is able to join the picnic.

Possible rules:

  • Only yellow things can go on the picnic (bananas, the sun, dandelions, etc)

  • Only things you can eat can go on the picnic (apples, oranges, pancakes)

  • Only things bigger than a person can go on the picnic (elephants, houses, moon)

  • Only things that are spelled with five letters can go on the picnic (apple, grass, honey)


We may be separated by distance, but we can always promote togetherness by connecting in new and fun ways.


SIMPLE AND FUN WAYS TO LEARN

FOSTER A LOVE FOR READING

When it comes to fostering a love for reading, choice is the secret recipe. Let kids read freely and wildly these days. Let them try books and abandon them. Let them skim through books and dive deep into what interests them. Let them read poems, comic books, nonfiction, magazines, cookbooks. The same book over and over. As long as it satisfies their genuine intellectual curiosity, it almost doesn’t matter what they read at first.

Naval started out reading comic books at age 7.

“Eventually, you just get to like reading, you run out of junk food, and you start reading the healthy food.”— Naval

(If you are reading this and you have NOT yet listed to Naval Ravikant’s podcast with Shane Parrish titled The Angel Philosopher, here is the link— game changer!)

CREATIVE WRITING AND LEARNING THROUGH MAKING

  • Write a newspaper, novel, poetry anthology, play, cookbook, or joke book. This 8-year old started his own newsletter.

  • Make a movie, share it, get feedback, and then make it better

  • Create a virtual museum and share it with peers and family members via Zoom

  • Digital Making at home—every week, Raspberry Pi will be offering videos to support Digital Making at Home. This week's videos explore strategies for making games with Scratch.

SCIENCE & MATH

  • For young kids, play is scientific discovery—promote free play with open-ended toys like pans, blocks, scarves, blanket forts, and cardboard boxes

  • Set up a science experiment with household objects and then have kids write their findings

  • Cooking and almost any board game can be used for math learning!

SOCIAL STUDIES


Now is when children learn to learn. We may not always see the fruit of what they are learning right away, but we can trust that they are growing deep roots. As long as kids are moving, creating, or playing, they’re learning. Let curiosity and fun be your guides.

Until next week!

Ms. Fab