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

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Mind mapping

Mind mapping

Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill — Tony Buzan

 

My older son just finished his state testing and the process taught me a very important lesson. As much as I would like to believe that testing scores don’t matter much to me and that my children are way beyond the scores, I realized with slight alarm that the entire testing process does affect me on some level. It’s not so much the scores but the fact that the scores  might change the way my son saw himself and the subtle ways in which it might alter his self-confidence and self-worth,  was something I pondered over the past few weeks. He’s at an age where his friends talk about the upcoming tests and I think I saw fleeting traces of worry on his face on  couple of days leading up to the test . I also read a timely post from fellow blogger Intentergy that reminded me that testing is a pretty stressful time for teachers too! You can find her wonderful post here .

With competition hitting rooftops ,we are all stuck in a world where our children are expected to prove their academic worth and skills in less than 3 hours . Unfair , I agree , but that’s just the way it is and we all need to  fasten our seat belts and get through the ride, however bumpy it may be! As a mother , all I could offer was support and encouragement. It was pretty heartening to see my son’s self-confidence though! Whenever I suggested  to put in some time practicing, pat came his reply ,” Mom! I am so prepared, I could give the test right now!” While I tried my best to keep his self-confidence intact, I wanted to help him strike a balance between being self-confidant and not getting over-confident. My quest to help my son stay relaxed and get excited about giving tests ( after all this is just the beginning !) brought me to mind mapping . I stumbled upon some wonderful resources and books which gave me a great head start on the fascinating subject! I would like to add at the outset that I didn’t get enough time to practice this with my boys extensively due to lack of time before the tests,  but this is something I am planning to work on over the summer holidays and hopefully do a follow-up  post!

“I have so many ideas buzzing around in my head. How else could I capture all these mini inspirations,quickly, without the simplicity of Mind Mapping?” – Dominic O’’Brien, nine times World Memory Champion

 

So now ,more about mind mappingMind mapping is  a more creative way of studying and retaining information which are two of the most important skills needed in academic life. It is an extension of a couple of aspects of creativity that I had explored in previous posts, story telling and pictures in the head . Mind mapping combines these two skills to give you an edge over traditional study techniques like rote learning or cramming. In simple words Mind mapping is all about linking information using pictures and words which resembles a map and helps you recall content and facts about your topic quickly and efficiently !

Lets get down to the basics then. You can start as soon as children are old enough to hold pencils, markers or crayons . Start with describing a simple short story and ask them to draw pictures and write key words about what they are hearing. Be as descriptive as you can. Give them basic guidelines or a simple template of the main idea in the center and basic branches to key events or concepts . Remember, there are no hard and fast rules in creative learning! Their mind map doesn’t have to match your vision of the story or concept, and each person’s mind map is different. Be there to guide, but please refrain your temptation of teaching. The most important idea behind every creative approach is to enjoy the process and always remember to have  FUN! Mind maps can prove to be excellent tools to comprehend science, history ,book studies or just about anything! Your imagination is the limit! Narrating simple concepts while children draw their mind maps will be the only guidance they will need from you initially. Once they get a hang of it ,and as they move up to higher grades, they can dissect and assimilate complex topics using mind maps. A simple habit of mapping concepts as they read and study can create wonders in the way they comprehend and recall information. Here is a basic template to get you started.

And a simple mind map by me .Please excuse any errors, I am still learning this fascinating tool 🙂 .

mind-mapping1

 

 

Some of the resources that helped me learn more about mind mapping can be found here , here and here . I also went on to buy a wonderful book by Tony Buzan called Mind maps for kids . It covers all the basics in a simple yet concise manner providing lots of ideas to work on! I have just skimmed through the book for now and plan to go through it in detail over the summer. I hope mind maps change the way children view learning and helps them actually look forward to it! 🙂 As always, I would love to hear the ways mind maps helped your children , or your mind maps trials in the comments below ! What are you waiting for?Unleash your creativity and  let the fun begin !

 

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

 

Pictures in the head

Pictures in the head

During the early years we know how great kids are with their imagination. A large chunk of their time devoted to pretend play or role play where one minute they are a mighty warrior and the next minute they transform themselves into a prehistoric dinosaur stomping  through wilderness. Their world is filled with wonder, magic and imagination. As they enter school and the big world however, they are encouraged more to think critically and analyze information rather than think creatively. While critical thinking skills are important ,it is equally important to hold on to the creative side too.

One incident that clearly stands out in my memory was when my younger son entered Kindergarten. He is a little shy person by nature and was a boy of none to few words in school. During my first parent teachers meeting his teacher showed me a picture he had made in class which was colored completely in black crayon.” You should encourage him to use colors that resemble real life.” She pointed out and continued while I was trying to comprehend what exactly was the issue. ” like using peach for human skin and blue for sky. Your son uses colors which sometimes don’t pertain to the real world !”.I nodded still a bit confused but requested to have the picture which she gladly handed to me. After going home I called him and asked him what the picture was about and he said,” Oh this is a black panther walking in the forest at night!”. It made perfect sense to me and I never really bothered telling him what colors to use in his pictures.

Now I must point out ,I really valued the constant feedback my son’s teacher gave me about him which was more than usual due to him being tight lipped and shy and I made it a point to be in touch with her regularly through emails so I could help him flourish. “I’m having a hard time assessing him because he wouldn’t answer my questions!” she told me one time and as much as he was loud and vocal at home ,I had to help him come out of his shell while in a social setting. As much as I wanted to preserve the unique personality that my son was,I couldn’t deny the fact that in the real world ,he had to give tests and he had to meet social expectations! I had talked to him about it many times and he really didn’t have an answer for why he would not talk in school. I knew he was nervous and afraid and I had to find a way to help him overcome this mental block. I realized children are mostly fed on a regular diet of math and science which are considered more important that creativity is often pushed to the back burner.

creative_visual-194x210

Creativity doesn’t always mean painting or music. Its more a way of thinking . To find unusual ways to solve problems and look at the world. I knew I had to look at the world through his eyes in order to help him. A wonderful solution came to me as I watched him play his favorite game, role play! If I could get him to see the picture in his head, I knew it would instill belief and confidence in him that he was capable of voicing his opinion and communicating outside home just as he did at home! He already knew how to relax using calm.com so every night as he got ready to sleep, we played a little game. He would close his eyes and take deep breaths and I would name each body part and tell him to relax. Then I would tell him to see whatever I was talking like a movie. I would ask him to see himself walking into his class confidently. I would ask him to see himself starting a conversation and making friends. I would ask him to see himself raise his hand and share his opinion with his teacher and friends confidently. Before dropping him at school I would encourage him to do exactly as the pictures he saw in his head at night. After doing it for many nights , I noticed changes in him. He made two new friends! and his teacher informed me that she was starting to hear his voice! Over time he overcame his fear and was much relaxed in a social setting.

 

Teaching kids the skill of mental imagery became a valuable technique I started using in various scenarios .I read up about the benefits of mental imagery in kids which can be found here,power of a child’s imagination .Every night before my boys went to bed I would ask them how they felt about their day and five things they were thankful for about that day.If they were upset about something, I would make them see themselves holding a bunch of balloons in their hands.I would include the five senses and describe in detail the colors, sights, sounds and even smell they had to imagine.Then I would ask them to put their worries in the balloon and let it go one by one and watch it slowly float up, up and away until it disappeared. I found some wonderful imagery scripts online for kids that we could say to them in a soft calm voice while they relax and imagine.

imagery script

more scripts

 

 

I truly believe that teaching children creative techniques can prove to be a valuable tool for them to use to solve problems in life in unique ways .It can help them maintain an uplifting self image and give them the confidence that they are always in a position to change their life for the better! not to forget the added benefit of helping them keep themselves  happy and always maintain a positive attitude in life.

 

 

 

Finding silence

Finding silence

One of the most significant aspect I have noticed in Today’s lives, be it adults or kids is ,’The need to rush’. The need to hurry and accomplish only a million things a day! Because hey! Life doesn’t wait for anyone !does it? And so we rush off our little champions with a hurried breakfast to school where they need to cram up facts and figures . Then since they have to be the next sports star, we head them straight to soccer or basketball coaching and since the music industry can’t afford to miss a prodigy ,we drag them straight to voice or instrument lessons. wait! what about art? And all the new hobbies like roller skating ,dramatics and robotics? After rushing to all the classes and living up to their parents, relatives ,society and just about everyone’s expectations, our little champions are drained to say the least. Even if they have a moment here or there, the laptop or cell phone steps in very graciously and speeds up their tiny brains ,tossing out their only chance to slow down.

 

The question I find myself pondering over quite often is ,”How can creativity ever be nurtured in this mad rush?”” What is the point of turning our kids into little super intelligent robots?”” Has rushing ever done anyone any good?” This led me to think of ways to slow down my kids lives and to find silence. Silence to nurture their individuality. Silence to think about their dreams. Silence to listen to their inner most selves and Silence to allow their creativity to blossom. I always thought life skills like meditation and personal development skills to increase productivity and reduce stress were missed in main stream education and was looking for ways to introduce the same into my kids lives when one fine day my younger son ,who was then in Kindergarten brought home a note sent by his teacher. It had a link to a meditation site they were using in class everyday and the teacher thought it might be a good idea to extend the practice of meditation at home too! Boy was I excited? I immediately looked it up and have both my sons practice it whenever possible. It has a timer and few sound options as well as a guided meditation option which is good so it doesn’t get monotonous. I started with only 2 mins! And try not to push it beyond 10-15 mins. It gives them a quick mental refresher ,slows their speeding mind and I’m crossing my fingers that it will also ultimately help  calm themselves during their tantrum outbursts!( too ambitious!?). Anyways here is the link to the website.

https://www.calm.com/

If kids are taught to manage their minds through meditation from a young age, we could hopefully erase the most fashionable word of modern times,” Stress” from their vocabulary and inculcate much more tolerance and positivity in their lives not to forget their creativity that will have more of a chance to blossom in the few minutes they spend to listen to their breath and relax.

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