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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

 

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.