Do you see what I see?

Do you see what I see?

The Best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see –Alexandra K. Trenfor

We all go through the motions of life mostly on autopilot ,oblivious to our surroundings and to a large extent ourselves too. With smart screens dominating every aspect of our lives, we rarely have time to even look at our reflection in the mirror! It is only when we occasionally lift up our heads and look around that we realize what we are missing. We fail to understand the immense power of observation. Wait a minute! What has observation got to do with creativity? Creativity is all about creating something new right? Well , not quite!

“Have you noticed how nobody ever looks up? Nobody looks at chimneys, or trees against the sky, or the tops of buildings. Everybody just looks down at the pavement or their shoes. The whole world could pass them by and most people wouldn’t notice.”
Julie Andrews Edwards.

 

It so happens that observational skills are a powerful propellant of creativity. At the very basic level, it is observation ,that mostly leads to inspiration and later creation. But there’s more to it than just that. Research shows that if we keep observing something for a long time, our mind gets bored of it and starts to look for alternate ways to perceive it by breaking it into smaller parts and looking for the interesting parts. Initially you are only aware of the sense of boredom but later these interesting bits surface into your consciousness thereby leading to exciting creations! A healthy habit of observation also helps us notice patterns and can thereby lead to creative associations and problem solving.

“We try so hard to instruct our children in all the right things―teaching good from bad, explaining choices and consequences―when in reality most lessons are learned through observation and experience. Perhaps we’d be better off training our youth to be highly observant.”   –     Richelle E. Goodrich

 

Developing observational skills in our children not only increases their focus and attention span but also helps them perceive and comprehend things in new and creative ways .The more data you feed your brain with, the more creative solutions it comes up with! There are lots of fun ways and exercises to encourage observational skills in children. Here are 5 ways to get started.

  1. Spot the differences – As a child this was my favorite activity from  Children’s magazines ! you basically have two almost identical pictures and have to spot the differences between the two. Here is a cool link which has lots of ‘spot the differences’ games.http://www.spotthedifference.com/
  2. Maintaining an observational journal – This is as simple as having a small sketchpad with you where your can draw and write your observations of people you see, animals, nature etc…. A quite time at the park observing and noting down everything you see might be a fun exercise!
  3. Observational challenge – Challenge yourself or your children to look for something new in familiar places . For example look for 2 new things in your room. Something you have never noticed before. It could be a crack in the wall  or a tiny rubber ball under the desk. Or look for something new in your car or classroom or your favorite park. A scavenger hunt is always a winner with kids!
  4. Finding hidden faces in pictures and other brain teasers that require observational skills. Here is a great place to find exactly what I’m talking about.  http://www.funwithpuzzles.com/2012/06/hidden-faces-puzzle.html.      and picture-puzzles
  5. Finally use your other senses to observe . Observation doesn’t start and end with your eyes alone! Taking in the smells, feeling textures and listening carefully to sounds are all ways of observing.

 

A little more to read up here.

Creativity is essentially interacting with the world around in a deeply inspired manner and observation is where it all starts! So let’s not sleepwalk through life . Lets wake up, lift our heads and pay attention to the world around us with all our senses and encourage our children to do the same. As always , I would love to hear your valuable thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

Image courtesy : Pixabay

It’s all in your hands

It’s all in your hands

Sometimes if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands. -Clint Eastwood
 

 

I know the blogosphere has been flooded with Mother’s day posts and rightly so. Whatever we do or say about our mothers  and our roles as mothers is never enough. I have been a little tied up the last few days and so couldn’t get my post out in time but any day is a good day to honor mothers ! 🙂 So even though the focus of my blog is creativity, today I decided to wrap my post around the spirit of motherhood and the lady who started it all in my life, Yes my very own Mother. No mother has ever gone to a school to learn how to raise her children and every mother has her own creative ways of dealing with her own little angels ( or devils 🙂 ) . My mother is quite exceptionally creative ,be it her hobbies or her persona. A rule breaker and a trend setter.

We all can agree that creativity is stifled in an environment of ‘Right ,Wrong, Yes, No , Should ,Should Not ‘ and numerous other similar rules that aspires to make a clone out of us. Of course ,code of conducts are  important guidance systems to ensure a sense of security and trust but when it comes to creativity, the best gift we can give our children is Freedom. Freedom to make mistakes , freedom to be messy , freedom to be different and freedom to explore the heights of their true self.

Isn’t Creativity essentially more about the process than the end result? The minute  a slight hint of anxiety over the end result creeps in, it instantly destroys the joy of creation. As mothers ,we all tend to expect the best out of our children, and unknowingly we pass on a vibe of expectation that our kids promptly pick up. The pressure of living up to their parents dreams can crush quite a many budding creators. So this Mother’s day , I remind myself of one of the most important lesson my mother modeled during my growing up years, the freedom to be completely me.

I was free to explore ,get hurt and learn my own lessons yet she was always there to guide me when I needed it. As much as I try to give the gift of freedom to my boys, I am yet to match up to the level of total faith and confidence that my mother had in me. All I know is that I am not a perfectionist and I can bear the fact that my house is nowhere close to looking like a museum. I don’t expect my boys to color within the lines or follow the instructions on the manual. I can most certainly live with the mess after my boys help me out with dinner or the mountain of books, after they are suddenly in a mood to explore every book on the book shelf. It’s totally okay to be loud, make unearthly animal sounds and act silly in our house.

Today I would like to touch upon just one binding, that might do us well if given up, to spike up the creativity in our children or even us! And that is to explore the non dominant hand. We all have a dominant hand that we use to write, draw, eat, open doors etc.. And the non dominant hand or opposite hand playing a supporting role. It doesn’t matter if you are right-handed or left-handed, the non dominant hand can get you in touch with your creative side. It has been proven that when you use your dominant hand, one hemisphere of the brain is activated ,whereas the non dominant hand activates both the hemispheres! Leading to surprisingly creative ideas or out of the box thinking. The dominant hand is linked to the logical, analytical part of the brain while the non dominant hand is connected to the creative and intuitive part. So writing or drawing with the non dominant hand will activate and strengthen those parts of the brain that are not used on a daily basis.

 

A man paints with his brains and not with his hands . – Michelangelo

 

Giving kids the freedom to use either or their non dominant hand  while they draw , do a fun art project or write a story  might be a great way to start. Neatness or perfection is not the key.The process is. It sure may take some time getting used to using the opposite hand and the first few attempts might produce totally undecipherable masterpieces!! 🙂 but with patience and practice it will definitely get better. So  just break the rules and try this easy technique to activate a few extra brain neurons when stumped for ideas or to generally boost up  creative thinking skills. Whatever it is, don’t forget to have fun!!

Few ideas to get started .

  1. Start with teaching your opposite hand to write your name.
  2. Draw basic shapes or stick figures.
  3. Have a spontaneous dialog between both hands in writing. Don’t think too much! Go with whatever comes to your mind first.
  4. Try doing other normal routine activities with your opposite hand like pouring water, opening doors etc…
  5. finger paint using your non dominant hand.

You can find more information about the non dominant hand here  and  here  .I hope your non dominant hands open up wonderful creative thinking avenues  and ,my love to all the amazing moms out there ,who tirelessly lend a helping hand to put a smile on their little miracle’s face and finally, thank you mom for your wonderful hands that are always a blessing above my head.

 

Featured image courtesy: pixabay

 

 

 

 

What if??

What if??

“In school, we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question.” – Richard Saul Wurman

 

Now that its sunshine time, Me and my boys are opting to walk more often to school and places nearby. This has opened up a whole new world of conversations adding to the otherwise non-stop chatter! With occasional references to the beauty of nature ,a huge chunk of their conversation are almost always centered around Legos!!and Lego ninja warriors!! A current favorite, that they just can’t seem to get enough of!! Since I  obviously have no idea about these tiny plastic figures and bricks , I can’t seem to be an active participant in their hot discussions . So when I am pulled into one of these exciting conversations, I tend to blurt out insane stuff about the esteemed ninja warriors ,much to the amusement of my boys!!!I have a looming doubt that they are secretly glad that mom is finally stumped at something!

Not wanting to miss out on wonderful conversations with the boys (actually due to my ignorance about the brick world)and to direct their mind to thinking beyond the Lego Ninja, I decided it was time to introduce a little game to spark up their creative minds and have a little fun during our walks. I believe creativity always starts with a question, “WHAT“. What is it, that we wish to create or solve? What, is the destination that ignites our creative journey. I knew a plain What was just not enough. I had to add possibilities to see their eyes light up! and so we started playing the ‘What if’ game.

Its a no brainer. You basically ask each other what if questions and watch your imagination take flight!

All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.” — Albert Camus

 

Me :What if tomorrow all the grass turned purple!!??!!

Big Boy: I need time adjusting to that mom! I’m used to seeing green grass under a blue sky.

Little Boy: Could that really happen?

Me: What if???

Little Boy: All the birds flying in the sky will get confused and come down to explore purple grass.

Big Boy: What if ,upon exploring purple grass birds lose their power to fly??

Me: That’s a whacky possibility!!

Little Boy: Then who will bring down all the baby birds and eggs that are in nests on top of trees?

Big Boy (to little boy) : You are welcome to take up that job!

Little Boy: What if Dragons were real and they spat stars from their mouth?

Me: That would be an amazing sight!

Big Boy: If they agreed, we could use dragons instead of fire works! Less pollution! what do you say?

Me : I like your way of thinking.

By the end of the walk we had enough content to write a fantasy novel!!!

The what if game caught on like wild fire. The boys started playing it often among themselves and having fun thinking up the most bizarre things they possibly could!!!

Big Boy is busy preparing for an upcoming test, when out of the blue Little boy starts the game

Little Boy: What if you get zero on the test!!??!!

Big Boy: What if I shoot you back in time 65 million years ago right in front of an open mouthed T-Rex !!!???!!!

All I can say is , I should have known!!

You can play the What if game to generate ideas or even teach safety and scenarios to kids. For example, What if you got lost in a crowd? Or What if a stranger offers to drop you home? What if a stranger offers your favorite ice-cream? What if our neighborhood catches fire? What if you accidentally get locked inside a public restroom? It’s a more playful approach to teaching life skills and sparking their creativity. I would love to hear your What if stories in the comments below!

 

 

Featured image courtesy: pixabay

 

 

 

 

Self talk

Self talk

Of course I talk to myself. Sometimes I need expert advice-Author unknown.

Have you ever seen a young child talking to himself or herself? It is not uncommon to see young children indulge in self talk and sociodramatic play. They could go on and on for hours speaking on behalf of their toys , making up wonderful dialogs and stories. I have often wondered and marveled at this amazing skill which needs no teaching and transports children into a creative world instantly! Self talk is often dismissed as rubbish by adults and its valuable benefits are overlooked.

In reality Self talk or private speech adds much benefits to Children’s development. communication and language is the obvious foremost but it goes way beyond that. It has been proven that self-regulation, emotion-regulation, memory, motivation and of course creativity are all linked to self talk. If we  wait for a few minutes in the shadows and listen to the private speech kids engage in ,we can pick up many clues as to what their little minds are processing. Most of these dialogs are instructions to self or self-regulation in an imaginary situation. “Hey Spiderman! Don’t go near that huge fire, it will burn you!” at times emotional regulation ,”Don’t feel sad Ninja, you can win the battle next time.” It has been proven that self talk also enhances memory and motivation. ” Common Lego batman! You can do it! Just try a little harder.” Essentially children are teaching themselves social skills through indulging in self talk. With every new character, setting and story they make up they are exercising their creative muscles and adding to their creative skills.

If you are interested to read more about Private speech or Self talk, you can find information here .

As a curious mother I have enjoyed watching my boys create their own world and engage themselves in creative self talk but as they grew older and started school ,I noticed unpleasant language and unkind situations creep into their imaginary world. I knew interrupting them and correcting them would not be a proper approach and I had to find ways to introduce positive self talk which could add benefits to their developing social skills. The most simple, direct and outright way I could come up with to introduce this was to just model it.

If I was cooking with my boys hanging out in the background, I would talk aloud ,” Dinner is taking longer than I expected but I am going to PERSEVERE because PERSEVERANCE will help me accomplish any task. I just have to break up the task into tiny chunks so it feels EASY.” Or if I am upset with cars in the traffic I think aloud to myself  ,” Having to  wait in traffic is tiring me but I will divert my mind and listen to MUSIC because MUSIC CALMS MY MIND when I feel upset.” I feel self talk can be used in many more creative ways to decipher information and help with problem solving . Indulging in positive self talk can become a valuable tool for Self-motivation and to achieve goals!

 

Featured image courtesy: pixabay

 

The ancient art of story telling

The ancient art of story telling

Telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering.

— Rachel Naomi Remen
Since the beginning of time humans have indulged in the art of story telling. As a way of understanding the world around them.Wide eyed and huddled close to the storyteller, generations of children and adults have been mesmerized and touched deeply by the stories they hear.More than mere entertainment ,it is the single most powerful tool used for influencing, and instilling deep-rooted values and ideas into young minds ,not to forget stimulating their imagination and creativity.
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Most families have a grandmother or mother who leads little children into the magical world of stories introducing them to ancient legends ,morals and tradition.Some of the first and earliest lessons about life are imparted through stories.I’ve always felt, however different people may look on the outside and whatever country or culture or religion they may belong to,once you peel the layers, humans are all the same on the inside.They are all driven by the same emotions, mainly Fear and Love and stories capture those emotions in the most powerful way.So whichever part of the world you may belong to one thing that binds people together are the stories they share.
Personally I have used story telling in every aspect of raising my boys.The first being,capturing their attention !If I need their attention for anything big or small, a sure way to grab it is by starting a story!” Once upon a time,in a small hamlet far away, there lived two brothers who owned a magical casket that gave them ideas on how to cooperate with each other no matter how impossible it may seem to them….” It has also been a vital part of problem solving and understanding.Sometimes its easier for children to relate to a story and use them as reference points to understand their world.So if something is taking us too long to finish, we pretend to be like the tortoise from the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ and persevere until we accomplish what we started . Stories are also an important part of our daily bedtime routine,in fact we enjoy a good story anytime of the day!I have realized that the best way to bond and build a relationship with my children is through the stories we share everyday.Sometimes we share the same stories over and over again!
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Some simple ways we turn our joy of story telling into games that spark our creativity and imagination are,
Continue the story : One person starts writing a story and each person continues the story without looking at what the other person has written and in the end the last person to finish the story reads it out and we share a good laugh!
The story box : We write several topics or one liners on strips of paper and put it in a box.Then each of us picks a paper without looking and makes up a story on the topic and shares their story for 2 mins. 
Making books and comics : I fold few leaves of papers into half and staple them to make little booklets which the boys use to draw and write their own stories or comics.
Puppets: We make simple puppets by drawing our favorite characters ,gluing them onto cardboard and cutting them out and gluing a popsicle stick behind!and Lo !we have endless hours of fun!
But by far our favorite is always the bedtime story we share huddled together in each others warmth!
So what is your story? Do share your memorable stories in the comments below!
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