I’m a creative spirit. As a maker/crafter/DIY addict, I am constantly trying to bring my ideas to fruition. Sometimes its a winning bet, other times it is a big old mess. However, no matter what the outcome, when I am making, I am modeling critical thinking and innovation skills that will help my children achieve in the future and stand out from the crowd.
I want to support my children’s outlandish ideas and messy creative processes, and I do it using the following four strategies. Do you want to foster your children’s inventive ideas?
1. Become Innovation Ready
As 21st century citizens, children need to easily adapt to new technologies and ideas. It helps children to position themselves for innovation if they have had the opportunity to experiment and do things themselves at an early age. As a Partner in Play for Fat Brain Toys, I have been impressed with Fat Brain Toy‘s extensive selection of toys and kits that support creative thinking. My favorite at the moment is a kit called Makey Makey.
We have a Makey Makey kit at the university, and I have enjoyed experimenting with it! Basically, little makers can use the alligator clips to make anything into a keyboard. At school, we have a sheet of paper set up as a working piano, but that’s just one way to create. Kits like these allow children to become “innovation ready” by using simple tools to create new, unlikely products.
2. Find Multiple Solutions to Everyday Problems
Want to instill in your child the type of innovative thinking that makers need to be successful? Play games that force them to push boundaries, but in a context that is familiar. Having trouble removing the crumbs lost between the seats of your car? Send your children off to find the best solution. Will they attach tape to a stick? Will they make a vacuum attachment skinny enough to slide between the seats? Will they throw the dog in the car and have him eat all the leftovers? This activity is as much about the process as it is the end result.
3. Think Out of the Box
Real innovators think outside the box. Encourage play that pushes the boundaries of traditional use of objects. My oldest son is a huge fan of both LEGOs and Hot Wheels. When he first started building LEGOs, he quickly realized he was pretty good at using the directions to create the intended project. It became a routine – break apart the blocks, build with the directions, and display the finished product. He’d do this over and over and over again. Luckily, one day he realized that LEGOS could be so much more than a kit, and Hot Wheels could serve as people.
This week, the creation of choice is a Hot Wheels Ice Rink. Using Hot Wheels track for the rink, loose LEGOs for the goals, minifigures for the fans, and sets of similarly colored cars for the hockey teams, all of my son’s favorite toys merged together into something even better.
4. Realize, The More Far-Fetched the Idea, the Better it Probably Is
Think of real innovators. Ben Franklin, Steve Jobs, or Betsey Johnson – what do they have in common? They all pushed boundaries when others questioned their choices. Help your children think like real innovators by helping them realize that any idea can be a good idea and no idea is too silly to share. Think twice before you question the crazy idea your child just came up with…it might just be the next great invention!
Disclosure: This post was written as part of my role as a Partner in Play with Fat Brain Toys. All ideas contained within are my own and have not been influenced in any way.