Thursday, January 6, 2011

Creative Kids

Yesterday, I talked about Aha! Moments in business through the use of Intelligent Memory. Kristen commented on trying to help kids be creative in their learning and recall.

The link above is from Fast Company, one of my favorite magazines, on the "Four Secrets of Playtime That Foster Creative Kids" which talks more about the integration of play and work and why, to treat the two separately, may not be the best route.

As my old fraternity motto taught me - "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

But, within the article, it castigates the idea of kids being consumers and they should rather be creators. I agree with it in the concept that having a child needing to be in organized sports rather than pulling together a pickup game of baseball or football in the summer - is consumer versus creator. However, a big reason for that is the whole concept of "structure."

I'm not sure about structure. Sure, defining boundaries, roles, timelines, etc. are all good and necessary - I'm not a believer in anarchy. However, I'm also a believer that, once a set of boundaries are put in place, let the chaos commence.

Think of it as a pinball game. Sure, there are boundaries, a goal, a score, winners and losers. But, there are an unending opportunity for different plays, different results and experiences and it's all based upon the way the ball bounces (or rolls).

Yes - you can influence it to a degree, but nothing is for certain. And, if you attempt to exert too much influence by you, the player, what happens??


And then you lose your turn. So, what's best to foster and create creativity within your kids, your workplace and your life.

However, unlike the Fast Company article, I don't believe that consumer and creator are separate and nor should they be. We MUST be consumers of information in order to improve our "Intelligent Memory" which then helps create more Aha! Moments and new ideas and innovation. However, the difference to be discussed is between being an Active or Passive Consumer!

And for that discussion, I think about video games.

We had, growing up, the old Stalwart

What a great first experience as a kid! I was able to sit in the luxury of my family's basement on the 70's style yellow striped couch and play Space Invaders to my heart's content. For many, this meant bypassing playing outside, watching TV, doing homework, etc. For me, it was just another vehicle to consume information.

Over the years, I think video games and technology get a bad wrap. Used in the proper boundaries, they can allow for creativity and innovation! What this means is rules - when to play, how much to play, prioritization of homework and chores over games, etc. So, an ACTIVE CONSUMER means they consume within order.

PASSIVE CONSUMERS consume either without boundaries or order, or within order and boundaries which are constructed with paper and ideas and not ever held.

Kids, and companies, and individuals, should be ACTIVE consumers! Take part, understand the role, and then have a blast! I think some of the more modern video games foster that idea. Look at the Wii, Playstation Move and the newest, Xbox Kinect!

The Kinect plays without a controller. YOU are the controller and play an active part in the game! That is being an ACTIVE CONSUMER! Why? Because you have the boundaries, the goals, winners and losers but also have the ability, within "the box" to determine how you play, and how hard you want to go. Very similar to the old pinball game.

So the article touches on some of this, but I don't agree with the phrase "We aren't born with playful minds, we create them." Bullpucky. We're born with brilliant minds capable of creating, with God's help, things like blogs, Xbox Kinects and Sour Patch Kids (yummy)!

What we do with that mind, and what our parents chose to do, and now we, as parents and child raisers choose to do, help determine what we do with those minds. Choose to create ACTIVE CONSUMERS!


  1. You're killing me Hepperla, Another topic that I can rant about forever, Here's the deal: Play is a child's work. That's how they learn, process information and make sense out of this new world around them. You brought up "pick up games" in sports. My husband is a huge jock/coach and often talks about this concept. His memories are of summers playing baseball. They had to make up their own rules depending on how many (or few) player they had. They didn't care about standards or regulations; they just wanted to play baseball. It's that kind of "unstructured" play that kids need in order to foster critical thinking skills. Skills, I believe, are not taught well in our school's curricula. These are the 21st Century skills that our students will need for their future employment. As adults, we try to put limitations on play. We fear they will get hurt, make a mess, or embarrass us. We've created these things called "play dates" which is the weirdest concept I've ever heard of. Who needs a specific date, time &place to play? Just play wherever you are and if someone wants to play with you let em'!........not done yet :)

  2. Then there's TOYS.The child's first entry into the consumer world. I should write a book, Commercial Toys:The Gateway Drug for Toddlers. (no one better steal that I just thought of it) I'm as guilty as the next parent purchasing toys my boys want. They beg for what they see on TV or hear about at school. Exactly the point you are making about being a passive consumer. I'm not even sure my boys even really "play" w/ their manufactured toys. They get out their action figures and simply reenact what the cartoon hero does. They are using someone else's imagination instead of creating something on their own. Fisher-Price will probably strike me dead for this, but everyone knows that if you give a child a box they will create something with it. They'll make some sort of "Super Intergalactic Transporter Alien Finder Camera". To us,it probably looks like a mangled, torn, cut, masking taped recycle bin's BFF. If you listen to them talk about thie invention, it is clear that they are truly visualizing what they have compiled in their little minds. They don't even see the box anymore. Now, if this "intergalactic object really existed it would probably be expensive, so would you just toss it in the garbage? Duh. IT IS that object to them.Resist the temptation to get rid of it-no matter how big it is. You somehow managed to fit whatever came in that box, so you should be able to fit this too. Just a bit more....

  3. Recently our DVD broke. My husband opened it up to get out the 4 DVD's my little "geniuses" shoved in there. :) Have you ever seen the inside of a DVD player? It's sooooo cool! It's got a laser, micro chips & all kinds of colored wires-stuff everywhere. I got a mini screwdriver set, some trays & a pliers and let them go to it. I'm not even going to tell u what they made (cough cough, a bomb, cough). Next, they decided the bombs were for blowing up snowmen.(stop judging me). Their creativity continued & now had a new purpose that stemmed from the original idea. Next, they had to build a snowman to blow up- it was a busy day! A "useless" DVD player provided days worth of learning, creating, & problem-solving. This isn't to say all commercial toys are bad. I'm just saying that our job is to nurture & provide the tools & space for a child's natural gift of curiosity & exploration. The Queen of imagination says it best, "In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun & SNAP! The job's a game!"~ Mary Poppins

  4. There's a similar dynamic between activity and passivity in education. By the time this generation of students get into my college classes, they've -- most of them -- developed a deep-seated attitude of passivity that makes it difficult to get them going, to get them to even take responsibility for their education -- particularly when it comes to fundamental classes and skill areas like Critical Thinking

    It's a sign that what we're dealing with is indeed a vice that it greatly interferes with attempting to inculcate, to steer them towards corresponding virtues, such as responsibility and initiative -- it interferes with their very capacity to grasp the need for these, particularly in the workplace they will be moving into after graduation