Creative projects to keep busy while “sheltering in place”

There is no mistaking that we are in a very unusual and some might even say scary time, but we have to remember to look for silver linings and to control what we can control and rest in the knowledge that we have done just that. One of the silver linings of the “shelter-in-place” directives is there may be more time in the day for your kids and for your family to incorporate things into your new norm that provide fulfillment. 

Creative activities are often one of the first things we as adults let go of when our lives get busy, and it is one of the best things we can do for critical thinking, focus, incubating ideas and solutions, and improvement of mental health. And as for our kids, we know they love being creative and have the most amazing imaginations. Here are a couple challenges for you and your children to do together or separately. They can modified very easily for different aged children by throwing in some math and other challenges for the older kiddos and simplifying it for the younger.

Landscaping Challenge

A lot of kids don’t know anything about landscaping and the process that goes into designing a great outdoor space. There are a number of challenges that going into landscape design.  Encourage your child to create a landscape design for your home. If your home’s landscaping is already in tip-top shape, have them design their own terrarium or succulent garden, or have them create their dream backyard with a swimming pool and a skate park.

This is video you can watch with your kiddos – it is a peek at what a landscape designer does during a typical day! This video created by Lowes, gives the basics on what to consider when you are creating a great outdoor space. Google images will give you hundreds of landscaping plans to give your budding designers a place to start drawing and planning.

Sculpture Challenge

Recycling is not only good for the planet, but it can also be a great medium for creating beautiful and fun pieces of art. Kids can make tree sculptures using old palettes; bottle cap lid mosaics can be extremely interesting and fun to create. Even paper towel and toilet paper rolls can be used to make visually appealing abstract artforms.  Whatever you are collecting in your bin is sure to spark the imagination of your youngsters, and if the materials don’t get their creative juices flowing there is always pinterest.

Our kids are rarely encouraged or allowed to play with their food, but sometimes, it is MANDATORY! Make this edible sculpting clay and your kids will have a ton of fun playing with and eating their food!  After washing their hands (for a long, long time), they can take a can of white frosting and a bag of powdered sugar and make a sugary medium for art creation. All they have to do is gradually add and mix the powdered sugar into the frosting until it is too difficult to stir. Shazam, you and your kids have an edible and moldable medium! They can create some minimalist sculptures or add some food coloring and create all sorts of colorful and delicious art forms.

Museum Challenge

Everyone loves field trips, and we love them even more when we can’t go on them!  Fortunately, there are a number of museums that allow visitors to virtually check out a number of their exhibits. How about each week your family chooses a new museum. Each person has to pick out their Top 3 pieces in the museum and share what they are and why they like them!

  1. Smithsonian Natural History Museum
  2. Science Museum
  3. Google Arts & Culture (Links to a number of museums)
  4. Eternal Egypt

Shelter in place can make many of us, kids included, feel confined and anxious. But, using this new found time together in positive productive ways can lead to new norms where families feel closer and more connected. Try a few of these missions and see if they don’t help you and yours relax and enjoy hunkering down (at least for the time being).

STEAM Gift Giving for Your Colorado Kids

The holidays are upon us and because time appears to be moving faster than normal these days, it’s important to get your shopping started early (as in last month). With that said, it can also be difficult choosing gifts that seem worthy of your hard-earned dollar and that provide your child with a little “more” than the average Frozen 2 dollhouse and the Fortnite Jumbo Loot Llama provide! Fortunately, we have a great little gift guide to help you with the purchasing decisions for your child that will not only provide loads of fun but help them develop other skills as well (and you are supporting local commerce)!

For Building:

Sure, you could buy your child another lego set, but how about this year go for something a little more unique. At Traxart Toys, you can buy Kinazium which is the premier course builder for robotic and rc toys.  Building is both technical and creative, and when your child finishes building they can have hours of fun navigating their robots and remote-controlled toys around their creation. Check it out!

Does your child love to create models, dioramas and/or posterboards?  Do they like to teach others how things work? Do they have interest in programming electronics with computer software? If so, 1010 Technologies has the perfect product for them.  To find out more visit Youtube to see how your child can turn another “volcano how to” into a dynamic demonstration.

At Sphero, a Boulder company, they seek to inspire the creators of tomorrow, and clearly, recent collaboration with big names like Disney and Star Wars, it’s no doubt that the app-enable spherical robots they have designed are all that and a bag of chips. Get your budding inventor into robotics, programming, coding, and other STEAM principles with these unique and futuristic robots and all the accessories, not to mention, a number of other products that will feed your child’s imagination.

For Crafting:

There is nothing more therapeutic not to mention warm than knitting a scarf. The Longmont Yarn Shop has gifts for your child and you. They have everything you could need to get your child started on a lifelong hobby that will bring them hours of relaxation and an opportunity to create some functional or just plain beautiful art. Your child and three of her friends can even arrange for a small group lesson from one of their experts or you can sign your child up for one of the many classes they offer including crocheting, knitting, rug hooking, weaving, and even spinning classes. Pretty cool! 

Arts Parts Creative Reuse Center in Boulder has an awesome mission worthy of your contributions, “to inspire and promote creativity, resource conservation, and community engagement through reuse.” They accept donated, reusable industry surplus, and other arts and craft resources from businesses and individuals to provide you low cost materials for your budding creative geniuses. Best of all, you can host your child’s next birthday party at their space and your kids can create artwork and have their cake, too. They also promote local, environmentally conscious artists and their work.

For Everyone:

And finally, for the parent who just can’t imagine buying another toy that sits in the toy room unused or worse, cluttering up the living room. Or, for the parent who just wants to give their child a memory that they will love, there is STEAMfest!  Order tickets for your child to attend the 2020 Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest March 7-8. Your child will have opportunities to participate in “hands-on, interactive hacking, building, tinkering, and imagining!” The event is a celebration of all things creative, imaginative, and exploratory. “STEAM Fest is an awe-filled, jaw-dropping chance to tinker, hack, build, crumble, fly, drive, taste, DO, dabble—PLAY!”  There will be exhibitors with the latest and greatest gadgets, activities, entertainment and of course: arts and crafts, robotics and electronics, building, Legos, marble tracks, science in action, and of course, food for the whole family! You can get your tickets for the family or individual tickets at MakerBolder.com.  Likewise, if giving back is something of a tradition at your home, you can purchase a scholarship to STEAM Fest for students who wouldn’t be able to afford to attend STEAM Fest on their own.  

Now that your shopping is done, you can sit back and actually enjoy a cup of cocoa, the lights on the tree, and a good (oxymoron? Well at least a sweet heartfelt) Hallmark holiday movie.

Tie Dye Ta-Da – using fruits and veggies

The Saturday morning farmer’s markets are in full gear.  The sweet summer air, the rambunctious rainstorms and warm toasty sun have nurtured a bounty of lovely vegetables and fruits for human consumption.  But guess what, they can be used for a number of other things besides filling your belly, one of them being a dye for clothing.  

There will be some decisions you need to make because there are a number of designs and of course, vegetables and fruits to choose from.  But first off, gather the materials you will need to do this cool functional project. Of course, in order to tie-dye a t-shirt you will need a shirt (duh, I know, but can’t forget the basics). It is recommended that you wash the t-shirt before dying to remove any chemicals that it was treated with to prevent stains.

Then gather: 

  • heavy duty rubber bands
  • circular objects (balls, marbles, rocks) 
  • fruits and veggies like beets, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, cabbage, onion skins, the spice turmeric, and even herbs like mint or parsley (organic foods make great dyes and are good for the environment too)
  • salt
  • last but not least, vinegar

Here is a list of the fruits and veggies to help you decide which fruits and vegetables you will need.

  • Beets- fuchsia
  • Beet greens – green
  • Raspberries / strawberries – red/pink
  • Blueberries – blue
  • Green cabbage – light green
  • Red cabbage – purplish pink
  • Onion skins – yellowish brown
  • Spinach – green
  • Turmeric – yellow/orange

You will want to decide on your pattern next.  Here are a few ideas, but frankly, don’t be afraid to create your own one-of-a-kind original work of functional art!  The directions for the following designs might just get those creative juices flowing. 

Starburst

To make the circular pattern you often see in tie dye, you will put a round object in the center of your shirt.  It can be a tennis ball, a rock, or even a marble. Wrap the t-shirt around the object and tightly put a rubber band around the t-shirt.  Then like the one before, add rubber bands every one to two inches all the way down to the end of the t-shirt. 

Stripes

If circles aren’t your thing, then you can make a more linear pattern by putting rubber bands in a line all the way down the shirt.  Don’t forget the sleeves. You can also achieve big stripes by tying knots all the way down the shirt. These lines will be much less uniform than if you used the rubber bands.  

Circles

To make a shirt with a number of circles you will put a round object in the center of part your shirt.  It can be a tennis ball, a rock, or even a marble. Wrap the t-shirt around the object and tightly put a rubber band around the t-shirt.  Then add more round objects all around the shirt, securing each one with a wide, heavy duty rubber band.  

Choosing your fruits and vegetables may be a tough decision.  If cost is an issue, then red cabbage and beets are a great choice.  If you have ever cut open a beet, you know that its juices are a beautiful bright fuchsia and boy does it do its job to stain things that color.  If you want a lush green instead, use spinach.

The standard formula for the special sauce that will change your bland white Hanes t-shirt into a work of art is 1/2 -1 cup chopped fruit/vegetable (depending on the intensity of color you want) for every 2 cups of water.  For a large child-sized shirt you will need approximately 8 cups of water. Then add two cups of vinegar and ½ cup of salt. These ingredients help to set the color so it doesn’t bleed and fade.

Boil your water and fruits/vegetables for approximately 1 – 2 hours to get the natural dye out of the fruit.  The longer you simmer your fruits/veggies, the more intense the color will become. Strain the water to remove the food.

It’s time to DYE! Place your fabric into containers with the dye, or add your dye to squirt bottles and squirt the dye onto the fabric directly. 

Rinse in the sink, and then run it through the rinse cycle of your washing machine.

Ta-da, your own very organic, amazing, totally terrific, most beet-ific original masterpiece that you can wear on the first day of school! 

Kitchen Science – Easy Indoor Fun!

water, conservation, child, activities, science

A little water, ice cubes and some rock salt, and you can watch “instant ice” develop!

Turn Winter Couch Potatoes into Kitchen Wizards

Getting your kids off the couch and into the lab will be the hardest part of these fun and amazing kitchen projects. With some simple ingredients you can turn your child into a mad scientist whose amazement and wonder will make the mess a small price to pay. (FYI: these aren’t even that messy.)  

Instant Ice Experiment

Ask your child if they ever wondered how Frozone was able to make ice instantly.  When he or she yells a resounding, “YES!” Break out a little rock salt (you probably have that handy), ice cubes and a bottle of water.  Check out the video here for directions.

A simple butter sculpture – fun and easy.

 

Everything is Better with Butter

Put some sticks of butter in the freezer and then allow your child to carve fun shapes into them with a butter knife.  Google and Pinterest have a number of easy and more complex ideas that will get your children’s creative juices flowing! You can even have kids make their own butter and show how matter can change states from a liquid to a solid!  And once you have made butter, you might as well make some ice cream.  All it takes are a few ingredients, a couple coffee cans, ice and rock salt combined with some elbow grease and a little patience.

kitchen science, honey, bees

This experiment from Experimental Express will WOW your kitchen science team!

Kitchen Science Question: Is it Really Honey?

This experiment is pretty darn cool.  Take your child on a Bee research project – if the weather is OK, head to a local bee farm and let them see the bees in actions.  Crummy weather? Do a stay-at-home field trip and research on the internet to provide background for this kitchen experiment.  Once children understand how bees turn nectar into honey and where they store the honey, try this supertastic honey experiment from Experimental Express that is cooler than Hollywood special effects!  Can you tell which “honey” is real honey?

Color Explosion

Don’t worry, it isn’t as bad as it sounds!  Fill a cookie sheet with a shallow amount of milk.  Then have kids paint the milk by putting drops of food color into the milk (don’t stir).  Now take a q-tip and dip it in dish soap and then touch the milk then observe the fireworks (no actual fire, just color explosions).

Bounce off the Walls

When you kids are bouncing off the walls, why not make some bouncy balls.  This cool project will have your kids wild about science and kitchen creations as they watch a chemical reaction where liquids turn to solids.

Slime

It’s likely that you and your kids have made slime before, but if you haven’t, you absolutely need to.  If you have, there are so many different kinds to make that you should do it again.  A few ingredients create a mesmerizing substance that will have your kids playing for hours.

You Survived the Bomb Cylone – Wanna Build a Snowman?

Turn that Plain Jane Snowman into a Traffic Stopper!

“Do you want to build a snowman?”

“NO!” Your children exclaim.

snowman, creative, activities, winter

Photo from Andrea_molnarova29 on Instagram

Building snowpeople can lose their charm quickly, especially when you have to spend an hour getting dressed and you’re entertaining children whose boredom meters jump off the charts with the slightest repetition.  So, now what?  It’s time to think outside the box and get rid of Frosty’s 1960’s Burl Ives attire and persona and actually make him (or her) come to life!  Instagram is, of course, a great place to find ideas.

This is one of those slap yourself in the head moments where you think “why didn’t I think of that.” Why not make an actual snow person!  Your children can make one that has human parts and dress them up with items that define their likes and personalities.

Snowman, winter activities, familyUpside Down, Girl You Turn Me… Old Classic Snowman, Made New!

 

This clever snowperson from Mommy Shorts has things all upside down.  Visit Mommyshorts.com for other inventive spins on ole’ Frosty that will h

snowman, winter activities

Another creative idea from Mommy Shorts at Mommyshorts.com

ave your kids flying out the door in no time.

 

Use Props for your Snowman!

Snowmen like to play too!  Photos and ideas from Topbuzz.com. Click the link to see more highly imaginative ideas. Spoiler alert, some of them are darn right cute, and some might be better suited for a snowy Halloween.

dinosaur, snowman, winter activities, outdoors, family

Photo from BlotTO on Pinterest

Get Artsy!

Think snow sculpture like those on blogTO and who knows where you and your child’s imagination will go!  And, why not give your kids squirt bottles and/or spray bottles filled with water and food coloring or tempera paint. They will have a ton of fun turning your snowy yard into a winter masterpiece.  Check out Resourceful Mama for more ideas.

dog, snowman, winter activities, family

Photo by Jill Yarberry-Laybourn

 

Or check out this snow dog that is sure to get your kids excited about heading out the door!

Better Yet, Drink Your Snowman!

 Once your kids are happy and exhausted come inside for some good ol’ fashioned hot chocolate. Only this time, think outside the box and make one that is not only delicious, but adorable. Check out these whipped cuties!

winter activities, snowman, hot cocoa, hot chocolate, whipped cream, family fun

Photo from carolinaepicurean and @janturally.jo on Instagram

lemons, decision making, brainstorm, family, discussion

Turn Lemons into Lemonade – Unusual Inspiration for Family Problem Solving

brainstorm, family, decision making, lemons, lemonade, worst ideasFamily Problem Solving – Upside Down!

Guest post created by Sara Heintzelman from Createdu.org

CreatEdu worked with a high-performing charter school to explore how to foster more independence in their students as they prepared for college. Sometimes we tackle a challenge and we just hit a wall. Good ideas seem to be unattainable and it’s time to try something new. We jumped into a ‘worst-possible idea’ brainstorm to shake things up.

With this new criteria, people worried less about coming up with “good” ideas, and without this pressure, the ideas started flowing. One educator suggested that we have Oprah give every student a car. Another said “Let’s throw kids out of a plane with a parachute to see if they are independent!” Logistically (and from a liability standpoint), taking high school students skydiving was a terrible idea- but then, we dug into this concept further. What training takes place before skydiving? What scaffold for independence is built before you let someone jump out of a plane? (For more about how this program was developed, read the full story here). This “worst-possible idea” ended up inspiring the program that was eventually implemented, and would never have made it onto the table if we’d only focused on coming up with good ideas.

When you shift the way you think and make the process more playful, great ideas can spring from bad ideas. This technique is not about forcing a bad idea to work, rather about using your brain differently and either flipping bad ideas upside down or identifying valuable components in the bad ideas that act as inspiration for great ideas.

Bring it home – Creative Family Problem Solving

At CreatEdu we sometimes bring design thinking into our homes. We can’t help it. The following is a story about how Sara, CreatEdu’s Director of Operations, used the Lemons-to-Lemonade concept to problem solve with her own family:

The Problem

“Despite my own minimalist tendencies, with two grade-school kids, our house is messy and has lots of stuff. So. Many. Toys. After one too many ‘lego vs. barefoot’ incidents, we called a family meeting.”

Me: The toys are a disaster, it looks like a toy bomb went off and we can’t even walk through the house without injury! How can we keep the toys and house cleaner?

All I got was a mumble about mom cleaning them up every day and diverted eyes, but otherwise it was silent. It was time to try something new. It was time for a worst-solution idea brainstorm. Ideas quickly started flowing:

The Worst-Possible Ideas

Kid 1: Lets dump every single toy on the floor and make a toy carpet!

Kid 2: Yeah, and let’s just break all of the toys as we walk over them every day!lemonade, innovation, creativity, brainstorming

Kid 1: Let’s put every toy we own in a garbage bag and throw them out.

Kid 2: Let’s give all of our toys away.

After the ideas slowed down, we looked at all of the crazy, bad, no good, terrible ideas we’d come up with and you know what we saw? Gems, lots of little gems hidden in these bad ideas.

The Creative Family Problem Solving Gems

These worst-possible ideas helped us identify some of the underlying problems with our toys in the first place: we couldn’t find them easily so they get dumped out frequently, they don’t have designated homes so clean up is harder, and there were too many of them (many of which had been outgrown). Once these worst-possible ideas were mined for gems, actual solutions began to evolve and ‘The Toy Capsule System’ was born.

We dumped every toy we owned on the floor (not joking!). Each kid picked 15 toys to keep in the house (art supplies and books were exempt and sets of toys, like legos, counted as 1), everything else went into a donate or storage pile. The storage pile went in clear plastic bins in the garage where toys could be traded (1 toy out, 1 toy in). Toys had homes and were easy to find. There were less of them so clean-up was quick and “shopping” for toys became fun and kept things fresh. This idea would never have been born without a bad case of ‘lego-foot-itis’ that prompted a worst-possible idea brainstorm!”

Try this now!

The next time your family hits a roadblock around a common issue, whether it be:

  • The use of electronics
  • How to get homework done
  • Collaborative decisions about what activities to do together for fun
  • How to get chores done, or something else entirely

Try a worst-possible idea brainstorm. For ideas, download CreatEdu’s ‘CreateEDU’s Lemons to Lemonade Brainstorm Guide’. See if your brainstorm leads to anything exciting. It won’t always, but you might be surprised and it might help diffuse an otherwise challenging family topic (who knows, it could also be fun!).

Still Curious?

Build on your Brainstorm with a Yes, and…

Why Go For the Worst Possible Idea?

Turn Your Ideation Session Upside-down

 

Maker, Escape Room, Tech, Arduino

Rabbit Hole Brings Cool Maker Tech to New Louisville Escape Room

crossbeams, building, making, maker

Building Fun with Crossbeams

Crossbeams – Building Made Easy (and Fun!)

We caught up with Charles Sharman, creator of the most-excellent building toy, Crossbeams. His story is exactly what we’re all about at Maker Bolder – seeing an opportunity and making something to meet the need.  Here’s his story.

The Aim of Crossbeams

“Dad, can we make a maglev train?” This question, posed by my five-year-old son, sparked the beginning of Crossbeams.  Whether it’s a spaceship, a skyscraper, an animal, or a maglev train, all of us want to make and create.  It’s in our blood.  But when it comes to actually doing it, the task can be overwhelming.  You may have to know trigonometry, algebra, mechanics, thermodynamics, electronics, art, drafting, machining, and more.  I designed Crossbeams to simplify the building task.  You dream, and Crossbeams helps you create.

Many creative platforms exist for younger ages.  Yet many younger active creators become passive consumers as they age, immersed in video games, social media, smart phones, and television.  I designed Crossbeams to hold the interest of older and advanced creators.

Dreams to Reality

Making Crossbeams’ a reality wasn’t easy, particularly with a full-time job and family.  First, I had to enhance my knowledge. During late nights and early mornings, I taught myself mechanics, gear design, and machining.  I studied the limitations of current building systems and identified enhancements.  A plethora of piece-types limits some building systems.  According to Mark Changizi and others building system’s creativity is enhanced by minimizing piece-types an maximizing the ways pieces connect.  Delicacy limits some building systems.  I wanted a model car that could crash into the wall without disintegrating.  Finally, straight lines and boxiness limits some building systems.  I wanted to accurately replicate lines and surfaces.

Next, I needed a way to try out pieces in a complete model without blowing the bank on prototyping costs.  I wanted to ensure models
looked appealing and the piece-types were minimal.  I created the Crossbeams Modeller, a software tool to virtually connect Crossbeams pieces.
I started with three core models:

I believed a building toy that could closely replicate these models could closely replicate many more.  Initially, the models took more than 160 piece-types.  After much work, I narrowed it to the 47 piece-types used today.

crossbeams, engineering, maker, making, STEAM, boulder

Crossbeams can be assembled to support great weights and pressures.

Finally, I needed a sturdy joint that locks pieces much more strongly than the joints in children’s building toys.  Children’s building toys use friction-based joints; the force to connect is equal to the force to disconnect.  That causes an inherent trade-off.  If you make it stronger, you make it harder to assemble.  Instead, I based my joint on a cotter pin two-motion joint.  A two-motion joint unrelates the join force and separation force.  I started with a cotter pin, and it evolved into our patented, simple slide-and-twist joint.

The Future of Crossbeams

While Crossbeams has captured much of its original intent, we still have far to go.  Ages 10-12 and 20+ make our largest customer base. We haven’t captured the hearts of young adults, for whom the system was intended.

We designed Crossbeams from the ground up to handle electronics but later tabled electronics to maintain our debt-free principle.  Most of the electronics package is designed and ready.  Once sales grow, we can make my son’s maglev.

Success won’t be judged by money in the bank but by a sampling of society.  Whether it’s Crossbeams, musical compositions, stories, or painting, once young adults are known for their creating instead of their consuming, our work is done.

Science, Technology, Arts, Math

Local Group Forging Path for a New Regional Science Center – Science Galaxy

Bringing a Galaxy of Experiences to the Colorado Front Range

explore the galaxy of hands-on science

Science Galaxy will bring experiential opportunities to children of all ages.

A grass-roots organization is working across the Colorado Front Range to create the coolest science and tech center in the region – the Science Galaxy Museum.   The group started small but has been gaining steam (…pun intended).   The team consists of scientists, educators, philanthropists and other community members who come from a wide variety of backgrounds – all of whom care about a common theme, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).

Why does the Front Range need a science center?

In a time when our region lacks a sufficiently educated workforce to fill our rapidly expanding technology sector, Science Galaxy will empower a new generation of science and technology innovators.  The science center’s focus of creating opportunities for people of all ages to explore open-ended activities covering a broad range of STEAM topics is shown to boost achievement in STEAM-related careers.

What is the vision for Science Galaxy?

Science Galaxy is a collaborative center that fosters educational partnerships with area schools, research institutions, tech

galaxy, explore, STEM, girls

Robotics, biology, arts – you name it, Science Galaxy will provide access

nology businesses, and existing non-profit science education groups.  The founding committee envisions Science Galaxy as a community resource where everyone can explore science and innovation in an interactive way.  Think of it as a destination for interactive science experiences.

What sets Science Galaxy apart?

Just look around you.  Colorado is an amazing region, and Boulder County specifically is full of accomplished scientists, techies, and entrepreneurs.  Science Galaxy is creating a place to showcase our area’s achievements and encourage curiosity for the world around us.

Who is Science Galaxy for?

In short…everyone!  The team wants to encourage not just students, but all visitors to open their minds to the possibilities. In fact, core to the Center’s mission will be outreach to encourage people of all backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, etc. to explore what STEAM has to offer.  Broad access is essential to feeding curious minds.

Will it ever really happen?

The team is really excited about the overwhelming positive response they’ve received from the community.  We recently released an online survey (still in progress, you can respond here), and the clear message is that the region will welcome a science center with open arms!

Science, Technology, Arts, Math, Making, Engineering

Science Galaxy will feature all ranges of science and technology.

“The process of a “start-up” museum is an amazing learning experience.  Every community member we meet with teaches us something new and helps us move this monumental project forward, which is extremely rewarding,” commented Kristin Lawrence, one of the leaders of the Science Galaxy effort.

What’s the next step?

The team is asking for help to build a new Science Center here in Boulder County.  “It’s important to us,” said, Lawrence, “that this center is built with the greater community at the center of the design.  To that end, we are actively seeking input through a variety of tools, including the online survey.”

The team is also looking for appropriate property, talking with local businesses and practitioners to learn more about what should be included in an experiential museum, and seeking funding to support construction and staffing for the effort.

People who complete the survey can elect to be entered into a drawing to win gift cards to local shops or a brand new Spark Sphero.  You can also let the Science Galaxy team know that you’re interested in helping when you complete the survey.

To take the survey, click the link below or copy and paste it into a Web browser.

https://sciencegalaxy.typeform.com/to/p8peT3

To learn more about Science Galaxy: www.sciencegalaxy.org

Brainy, improv, laughter

The Brainy Benefits of Improvising!

In the world of brainy research, play is getting a pretty good rap right now. Scientists are actively studying the benefits of play on brain development. Let’s not forget about one of the best benefits of Improv – laughing!  Laughter not only exercises our muscles and makes us breathe, it also decreases stress hormones and improves our immune systems!  Here are some of the other amazing benefits of “brainy play!”

Putting the Brakes on Perfectionism

For those of us who suffer from perfectionism and it’s unpleasant manifestations (over-thinking, mental paralysis, undershooting, self-criticism) there is hope!

Charles Limb is a surgeon who studies creativity at John Hopkins University. Using fMRI technology, Limb looked at the brains of musicians while playing a memorized piece of music and compared it to their brain while improvising off the same music. Limb discovered that improvising activated the self-expression portion of the brain while simultaneously deactivating the self-censoring part of the brain.

Limb’s work stresses that as we allow the self-monitoring part of the brain to rest and the self-expressive part of the brain to come to the forefront, we open the door to the creative mind. So not only to we get a rest from the judge in our head, we invite the muse to play.

For Charles Limb’s TedTalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkRJG510CKo

Brainy Play Creativity and Creative Problem Solving

In addition to Limb’s work, researchers have been studying the benefits of imaginative play, which really is another form of improvisation, on a child’s ability to creatively solve problems. The following studies all focus on children.

Wyver and Spence (1999) examined two types of problems: I’ll call them simple and complex (really convergent and divergent problem solving)  and the effects that play had on the ability to solve these types of problems.  Among other things, this study revealed a significant relationship between pretend play and complex (divergent) problem solving.

Most problems in life require complex thinking so enhancing the ability to use creative problem-solving is as intuitive as it gets.

Family fun with Improv!

Family fun with Improv!

Improves Language Skills

Studies have demonstrated a connection between imaginative or pretend play and language skill acquisition.

One psychologist, Edward Fisher (1992) reviewed 46 studies on the cognitive benefits of brainy play. This mega-analysis (aka meta-analysis) revealed that children who participate in dramatic play improve their performance both from a cognitive-linguistic as well as a social affective perspective.

Sounds pretty technical but I think you get it. While language acquisition is clearly important to children, it’s usefulness is with us our whole lives. Being able to express and communicate effectively with others is at the center of most of our interactions and relationships.

Improves Self Regulation and Reasoning

As we continue to see the importance that emotional intelligence (EQ) has on future career and relationship success, it only makes sense that understanding how to activate and develop this in individuals is super critical.

Scientists studying the effects of imaginative play on self-regulation and the ability to reason discovered that the frequency of pretend play in children was correlated with their ability to self regulate. Self-regulation includes managing emotions, impulses and focusing attention – all important aspects to the development of emotional intelligence. I am convinced we would all be happier if we were better self-regulators.

More about the research at: http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of play.html#sthash.iFJsLPzZ.dpuf or http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v4n1/bergen.html

More Improv Please!

Hopefully you are convinced that practicing and doing improvisation/imaginative play can have some pretty great side effects. If this article has peaked your interest, I will venture to make some suggestions. Keep in mind, I am not a scientist (ok- maybe at heart).

First off, life is an improvisation, so in some ways you are activating all these part of your brain everyday. But if you are wanting to increase your creativity, problem-solving, self-regulation, etc. while putting the brakes on your inner critic it makes sense to me that finding a way to improvise could be the ticket.

So if you’re a musician, you can spend more time improvising as opposed to playing memorized pieces.

Otherwise, taking an improv comedy class is a great way to access the imaginative side of your brain. You will play brainy games that get you out of your head and access your creative side. The more you do it, the more you will experience that sense of creative self-expression flowing from you. Plus, you will probably laugh more than you have in months – seriously – and we all know the benefits of laughter on the body, but that’s a whole other blog.

About Pam Farone

Pam Farone is a career satisfaction coach and improv instructor focused on creating joyful careers and cheerful work environments.

www.pamfarone.com

Resources

Buchsbaum D, Bridgers S, Skolnick Weisberg D, Gopnik A. 2012. The power of possibility: causal learning, counterfactual reasoning, and pretend play. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 367(1599):2202-12. – See more at: http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html#sthash.iFJsLPzZ.dpuf

Fisher, Edward P. (1992). The impact of play on development: A meta-analysis. Play and Culture, 5(2), 159-181.

Limb CJ, Braun AR. Neural substrates of spontaneous musical performance: an FMRI study of jazz improvisation. PLoS One. 2008; 3(2):e1679. PMID: 18301756; PMCID: PMC2244806.

Walker CM and Gopnik A. 2013. Pretense and possibility–a theoretical proposal about the effects of pretend play on development: comment on Lillard et al. (2013). Psychol Bull. 139(1):40-4.

Wyver, Shirley R., & Spence, Susan H. (1999). Play and divergent problem solving: Evidence supporting a reciprocal relationship. Early Education and Development, 10(4), 419-444. EJ 593 718.