The Ultimate Block Party's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘creativity

Imagine that you walk into a preschool and see a toy you haven’t seen before.  The teacher walks in and says, “Hi there!  This is a new toy that we just got from the store.  I haven’t had the chance to play with it yet, but here, take a look and see what it can do.” What would you do with the toy?  Now imagine that she said this instead, “Hi there! This is a new toy that we just got from the store.  I really like it. Look at what it can do!” She then pushes a button on the toy to play music. Now what would you do with the toy?

How did your responses differ in the two scenarios? In the first example, the teacher was naïve and didn’t know what to do with the toy.  You would probably explore and play with the toy to see what fun things it could do, right? In the latter case, the teacher showed you what the toy did.  You would probably hit the button to play the music a number of times because this is what the toy does. Would you do anything else with the toy?

New research published in the journal Cognition explores how teaching influences children’s exploration, discovery, and learning. Similar to the example above, children were shown a brand new toy and an adult (a) directly and purposefully showed them one of four possible functions of a toy (explicit teaching), (b) accidentally discovered a function of the toy, or (c) did not show any functions of the toy.  Then, children were given as much time as they wanted to explore and play with the toy. Children who were explicitly taught spent less time exploring the toy, discovered fewer functions, and played for a shorter period of time compared to those who were not taught!

What does this tell us about how children learn?  Does it mean that we should never directly show our children anything so that they explore the world?  No!  On the one hand, this is great news because it means that our children learn when we try to teach them about new objects. BUT, when we directly show our children how something works, we also “constrain” how they see the object by zeroing in on one particular aspect. Remember, creative thinking begins with ‘flexible thinking’—and is grounded in exploration, discovery, and play. As the researchers state, this creates a ‘double-edged’ sword.  What can we do?

• Allow our children to explore an object first.  Let them experiment, turn it upside down, push, pull, and shake!  Then, after they explore, we can then show them what they haven’t yet discovered (if anything!).  This lets your child be creative, but also lets them benefit from your expertise.

• Prompt your child to keep exploring an object even after you showed them something about it. This way, they see an example of what a toy might be able to do, but you also encourage them to make their own discoveries!

• Choose what to teach and when. Some situations require direct instruction (e.g., tying a shoe), others may not (e.g., how to play with a toy) and some situations may require some initial, gentle guidance (e.g., creating a collage).

Remember, learning should be fun, creative, and enjoyable – for both you and your child!

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine.

Featured Article:

Bonawitz, E., Shafto, P., Gweon, H., Goodman, N. D., Spelke, E., & Schulz, L. (in press). The double-edged sword of pedagogy: Instruction limits spontaneous exploration and discovery. Cognition.

Interested in Learning More?

Csibra, G., & Gergely, G. (2009). Natural pedagogy. Trends in Cognitive Science, 13(4), 148-153.

 

Have you ever been stumped on a problem and later on you had the “aha!” moment when you are watching TV, playing around, or even taking a shower? What ignited that moment of insight?

According to an article in the  New York Times this week, new neuroscience research  shows positive mood may prep the mind for the “aha moment” when we are faced with a tough problem. How? The research suggests that a positive mood may increase attention, perhaps on a subconscious level, so that we can pick up  important details that are often overlooked. So before your next big project maybe you should watch a comedy show or tell a good joke!

Have you noticed that children are highly creative? Perhaps the positive mood  incurred from playful experiences may also promote creative problem solving. Evidence suggests that children who play generate more creative solutions on subsequent tasks compared to those who do not (Pepler & Ross, 1981; Smith & Dutton, 1979; for a review, see Hughes, 1999). Some theorists suggest that children and great innovators alike engage in “bricolage,” a playful attitude that allows them to openly tinker, explore, collaborate, make mistakes, and rebuild their way to discovery. It is this mindset, scholars suggest, that makes play a powerful informal learning experience, one that naturally engages processes of experimentation and imagination—and one that is necessary for  creative innovation in the ‘knowledge age’ (Brown, 2010; Papert, 1994).

 

Featured article:

Carey, B. (2010, December 7). Tracing the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving. New York Times.

Interested in learning more?

Brown, J. (2008, October). Tinkering as a mode of knowledge production in the digital age. Presentation at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Stanford, CA.

Hughes, F.P. (1999). Play, creativity, and problem-solving.

Papert, S. (1994). The children’s machine: rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Pepler, D.J. & Ross, H.S. (1981).  The effects of play on convergent and divergent problem solving. Child Development, 52, 1202-1210.

Smith P.K. & Dutton, S. (1979). Play and training in direct and innovative problem solving.  Child Development, 50, 830-836.

 

 

This blog was written by Dr. Kelly Fisher, Postdoctoral Fellow at Temple University.

Do you remember that magical feeling of curling up in the lap of a loved one and ‘reading’ a brightly colored and beautifully illustrated picture book when you were a child?  You always knew that there was something special in that experience – from the time you got to spend with the people you love to the creativity and imagination you relied on to help tell an amazing story.  But research is telling us two key things.  First, picture books help kids to develop key skills that lead to becoming successful readers and thinkers.  And second, picture books are starting to disappear!

Mariska Hargitay & her family reading together at the Ultimate Block Party.

Emergent literacy skills are the ‘building blocks’ children need to learn how to read in the future. For a child to be able to read, he must know which way to hold a book (upside down or right-side up!), which way to turn the pages, that we start reading the page on the left rather than the one on the right, that those squiggly things on the pages are different from pictures  (even if they can’t read the words!), and that the last page means that the book is over are all skills that help children to become successful readers in the future. So, how do children learn these skills? One simple way is to surround your child with books and to engage them in story-time!

This sounds like common sense, but according to this article in the New York Times, picture books are starting to disappear from today’s bookstores, libraries, and homes!  The article highlights the power of picture books and the perspectives of today’s parents.  But we also recommend that you check out the Letters to the Editor about this topic – we think that they show how today’s parents, researchers, and educators truly feel about picture books and how important they are to our children.

But there is great news!  There are still AMAZING picture books that you can buy for your family.  Check out The Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2010 list published last week by the New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly “Best Children’s Books 2010 for some great recommendations.  Picture books and story time are exactly what your child needs to build the skills – from emergent literacy skills, to creativity, curiosity, imagination, social skills, content knowledge, and communication – which are the real building blocks of 21st century success!  It’s time to read!

Interested in Learning More?

Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2003). Einstein never used flash cards: How our children really learn and why they need to play more and memorize less. Emmaus, PA:  Rodale Books. (Translated into Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indonesian).

Jalongo, M. R., Dragich, D., Conrad, N. K., & Zhang, A. (2002). Using wordless picture books to support emergent literacy. Early Childhood Education Journal, 29(3), 167-177.

National Early Literacy Panel. (2009). Developing early literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel. Jessup, Maryland: National Institute for Literacy.

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine.

What is the capital of Pennsylvania?  Who is the President of the United States?  What are mitochondria? Where are the everglades? These are all questions that our children face every day when they go into the classroom or talk with adults.  And it makes sense – we want our children to have knowledge about the facts of the world.  But does memorizing facts lead to children becoming doctors, engineers, or scientists?  The answer to this question may

Where goeth creative thinking?

surprise you!

“The Creativity Crisis” appeared in Newsweek over the summer and makes a strong case for emphasizing play and creativity over facts and IQ scores.  The authors of the article highlight the fact that children’s scores on tests of creativity have FALLEN over the past two decades even though they had been rising steadily for decades.  And these creativity scores do a much better job of predicting lifetime creative accomplishment than childhood IQ scores.  Our children are becoming less creative and less flexible – certainly a worry for today’s parents and for tomorrow’s future!

But don’t despair – creativity is not something that today’s kids just don’t have.  Instead, we can help foster creativity, ingenuity, flexibility, and a love of learning in children through play!  For instance, at the Ultimate Block Party, we will give your children the opportunity o problem-solve and work with new friends to create a new skyscraper or a block tower.  They will be able to create their own art and use everyday materials to create new structures.  They can practice how to express their feelings and emotions while pretending they are chefs or learning how to ‘clown around.’  The opportunities for your child to learn how to be creative are endless and the Ultimate Block Party aims to show you just a few ways that we can reverse this “Creativity Crisis.”  We look forward to seeing you soon!

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine.


Knowledge is doubling every 2.5 years. That means that even if we learn every fact there is today — in just 2.5 years, we will know but 50% of information. In 5 years, we will be down to 25%! One thing is clear… memorizing facts is not enough. We must move beyond learning the basics to becoming  critical, innovative thinkers and problem solvers.

How do we adapt and reinvent education to meet these needs? What will it take to succeed? Scientists have some ideas. Hear what the voices of science can tell us about young children’s playful learning in the new video on the Ultimate Block Party’s YouTube channel —and  discover the answers to help your child succeed tomorrow!

Then join us at the Ultimate Block Party on October 3rd, 2010, in New York’s Central Park to see the science in action… as you and your children join in 25 fun playful learning activities! And remember, how you play is who you become!



  • Amanda Gambill: Playworks is so happy to have the Ultimate Block party here in Baltimore! The event is going to be amazing! We are also looked forward to being the mo
  • Shaping Youth » AHA & Nintendo: Tag-Teaming Innovation To Get Kids Moving (Pt2): [...] “fun and games” started taking on an electronic, screen-based focus and child’s play shifted from the ramp-n-rev of the recess bell to bra
  • Beth Kimberly: Absolutely! Recess is an invaluable part of the school day. I love that, as you point out, "there were NO negative impacts of recess." I find it awful
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: