behavior · children · creativity · learning · play

The Power of Play and Creative Playful Spaces

Three kids, now all high school graduates, dedicated their recesses to digging up a gigantic rock out of their elementary school yard. The principal decided to keep it and now future generations of kids are getting a chance to play with the “magical” rock.

The kids started working on the gift unwittingly. It was 10 years ago. They were in second grade and out on the playground during recess when one of them saw a little rock — or what looked like a little rock — sticking up out of the ground.

But year after year they returned to the project. Digging mostly with sticks and plastic spoons they got from the cafeteria, the kids dug down — through second grade, third grade, fourth grade and fifth grade — until finally, just before moving on to middle school, they finished.

The principal brought in heavy equipment to lift it out of the hole for them. That was 2008. Now the three are like rock stars around Kittredge, partly because of the accomplishment itself, but mostly for what the rock has become.

more, including the video, via How a rock on a school playground became “magical” – CBS News.

The kids now use the rock as a “neutral” zone, or a spot to hang out and wait for kids to come invite you to play, which as  a former kid I can tell you does indeed feel magical.

It is amazing the dedication that kids can show in play and exploration. They spent years! digging up this rock with improvised tools. An amazing lesson in perseverance, creativity, and teamwork.

Incredible props to the elementary school principal who let the kids dig up the yard to get to the rock, so many may have discouraged the behavior.

behavior · brain · children · creativity · mental health · play

Letting imagination win – The Washington Post

I am definitely competitive by nature, as well as a game-rule follower, but I also appreciate and value the ability to think beyond the rules and explore “what if?” That is essence is the entire definition of play, questioning, what else can this be used for. It helps brains grow and is also the spark behind science, art, math, and all the other great discoveries. It’s nice to see that other people also understand and appreciate that need to explore and ask “what else does this do?”.

At 8 and 6 years old, my daughter and oldest son prefer to pick out the pawns from board games and use these figures for imaginary role-play rather than play the games themselves. This drives my mother crazy, and not just because the kids also use her antique water bird decoys as super villains.

“Aren’t they a little old for this?” my mother asks, exasperated and reaching under the couch to capture roving tokens from Clue and Monopoly, setting the games back in their proper boxes “for the umpteenth time today!”

The truth is that my children are not too old for it at all. Nor are they too old for those evening song and dance numbers in which anyone over the age of 21 is required to sit in a row, sweaty thigh to sweaty thigh, while the children put on a variety show after little to no rehearsal.

read the entire article at Letting imagination win – The Washington Post.

behavior · brain · creativity · environment

How Acting Like a Scientist Can Help You Play

playing in the woods and acting like a scientist look pretty similar
I heard this story on NPR recently, and I think it’s the best advice I’ve heard in awhile on how to get out in the woods and explore, relax, and as they say in the article, take time to smell the roses! The answer: make an exploratory game out of it. “Pretend” to be a naturalist. Yes!

In this permanent state of hyperventilation, the issue for us all is not stopping to smell roses. It’s not even noticing that there are roses right there in front of us. Joseph Campbell, the great scholar of religion, hit the core of our problem when he wrote, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.”

But how can we experience “being alive” in the midst of the crushing urgencies that make up modern life?

Well, it might seem strange, but one answer to that question is “science,” at least science with a lowercase “s.” Science, you see, is all about noticing. This is where it begins, with simple act of catching seeing the smallest detail as an opening to a wider world of wonder and awe. And here is the good news. You don’t need a particle accelerator or well-equipped genetics lab in your basement to practice noticing (that would be science with a capital “S”).

You already are a scientist. You have been since you were a kid playing with water in the tub, or screwing around in the backyard with dirt and sticks and stuff.

If you want to rebuild your inner-scientist-noticing-skills, the best place to begin is with a walk in the woods.

There are lots of reasons to take a walk in the woods. To get away from it all, clear your head, smell the fresh air. The problem, of course, is that even if we get ourselves into a park or a forest, we might still be so lost in our heads that we miss what’s right in front of us. Practicing noticing, like a scientist, can change that by binding us to experience in ways that are thrilling, even in their ordinariness.

Noticing can take many forms. One trick is to count things. Scientists love to count stuff. How many trees are there on the sides of a steep hill compared with its crest? How many leaves are there on the stalks of the blue flowers compared to the yellow ones? How many different kinds of birdsong do you hear when you stop and listen, (by the way, this requires really stopping and really listening, which is awesome). Counting things forces you to pay attention to subtleties in the landscape, the plants, the critters.

Other things scientists love: shapes, colors, patterns. Do the rocks at the stream’s edge look different from the ones near the trail? Do the big cattails have the same color as the small ones? Get your naturalist on and bring a notebook. Pretend you are or John Muir. Jot down your findings, make little drawings and always, always ask your yourself those basic questions: why, how, when?

Read the full article.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but scientists are all about creativity and exploration, and noticing things outside of the ordinary, so acting like a scientist is great way to see the world in a whole new way by playing with things, seeing what happens when you mess with something. Kids are natural players/explorers/scientists, so you can even bring one along as it might be helpful to get you in the explorer mode.

I would also argue that it doesn’t have to be “the woods” necessarily to get the same playful/exploratory benefits, it can also be short walks around the block, whatever works to get your observational juices flowing.

children · creativity · design · education · learning · Nature

Toys in space!

Toys are not only great for thinking outside the box with, they’re also great for thinking outside of our world! Two Canadian students recently sent a Lego man out to the edge of space:

Matthew Ho and Asad Muhammad used a weather balloon to carry a camera and a toy lego man high above the clouds.

(source: BBC News)

What the video here:

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