How to make kids more inventive | Learning from Playing


Playing with the right toys can make kids more inventive. The key ingredient is mixing strategy with imagination. The problem is that not all kids enjoy strategic thinking.

What if we can inspire them to do so?

Most adults forget what childhood is like. This has always astounded me. To many adults, toys for kids are a necessity to keep them busy or entertained, or something parents are supposed to buy their kids – but toys are much more than that. Toys offer important brain activity… imagination. I have strong credentials in this matter – I used to be 8. (And 4 and 5 as well.)

As a mom of a bizillion kids, I know kids process a lot of information by playing. They learn problem solving. They learn to have humor, and to share, and play nice. Great play creates an almost orchestral, hypnotic quality in the young minds who are enrapt with their imagination. That’s even more fun when it becomes a group thing, and you have some awesome playmates with the same imagination. (Musicians get this – playing together in a band sometimes has the same feel). Time slows in these moments, and deep learning occurs. Sometimes I think modern play seems creates stress, and doesn’t deeply affect all of the brain. Great playing builds people, and creative trance moments for kids – for lack of a better description – I think is critical to good brain development.

Remember yearning for Christmas day as a small child? I remember the angst well. My grandmother (who was a child during the Great Depression) told me that the wishing and pining for Santa was the most magical part of Christmas. The anticipation and wonderment, and excruciating waiting (as it felt to me) was what was great about it, she said. Of course, at 7 years old I thought it was unbearable to wait 24 hours for Santa, but looking back she was absolutely right. The value of wishing and imagining is boundless. Anything is possible when you’re wishing. Certainly receiving is never disappointing, it’s just that the wonderment is a treat in itself. I remember the magic angst more than most of the gifts.

Pining and doing without has merit – and the merit is POSSIBILITY. We make that happen with imagination – even as adults. Ah, the daydreaming I’ve done about possibilities! No matter my age, my whole life through, imagination was much more thrilling than reality. When you arrive there – to the reality of the moment you hoped for – your wishes are now defined and limited. This is the magic of playing as a child. ANYTHING can be. As adults we master strategy, and our imagination then has the tools it needs to turn what we envision into reality. But the critical moment of imagining is the first part of doing, being, getting, becoming. Strategy follows as we mature.

This is why toys are so important to me and why I’m driven to create them. I think the idea of kids making their own toys is critical to their development; and the good development of children is critical to the world. Kids – in fact, all of us – use imagination to envision, and strategy & problem solving to create.

I have a hunch (as a mom) that StickerSkinz, and toys like them, bring the strategic thinking into a kids’ imagination earlier than with ready-made toys. Getting kids to define, in their own minds, what they need or want for a better play scenario, and offering tools to build them, is rather adult – and yet magical. This, I think, is what creates inventiveness in children. I like to think that this method of training this type of thinking – imagination with strategy – is someday applied to peace, energy, irrigation, eradication of disease, and so on.

What kind of a world would it be if we can teach children how to imagine wonderful things, and implement their ideas, at very young ages?

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