“I’m bored!” Every parent knows this phrase well. Time to roll out the boredom busting box!
So, is it a box of ideas or a box of things? Simply put, it is both. More importantly, it is a way to enable children to grow in creative ways of thinking by developing their fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration, which are four elements of creativity identified by E. Paul Torrance, a pioneer in creativity research and education.
Tapping into these elements of creativity is as simple as creating a box full of goodies following these four simple steps.
Step 1. Gather the goodies.
Get them involved from the start in gathering the materials for their box. Suggest they dig out an old shoebox, use the Amazon delivery box from your doorstep, or even last years’ “not-so-stylish” backpack.
“Why?”, may very well be their response. Physically moving shifts mental gears, opening their minds to new possibilities.
Next we need to fill the box: straws, paper cups, paper plates, empty toilet paper rolls, index cards, magazines, junk mail, sticky notes, craft sticks, clothes pins, binder clips, sticky tape, masking tape, string, yarn, dental floss, paper clips, coins, small stones, twist ties, rubber bands, tin foil, pencils and small scissors (customize based on age appropriateness).
If you don’t have it all, don’t worry. What’s important is that you have materials to build with and materials that can attach things together.
Step 2. Model the method.
Hopefully by now your child’s curiosity is piqued. Now what? Try one of these challenges. It can last from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.
If they seem hesitant to start, pick a prompt and complete a challenge while they watch. The ultimate goal is to facilitate as little as possible. Try not to make suggestions. Leave them to imagine, problem solve, take chances, and explore largely on their own. Holding something in place while younger children try things out let’s them know that you are along for the ride but not the driver.
Encourage them to add their own problems to the list. Jot them down on an index card and pop it in the box. They now have ownership and are invested in the creative process. Now they can "unbore" themselves.
Step 3. Share the success.
Showcase their creation. It’s your turn to ask: “Why? How? What?” No matter the outcome, designate a public celebration space in your home. A shelf, a counter, or a coffee table acknowledges the value of the creative process as well as giving the artifact pride of place. Even the oldest child tends to want to share their creation. Grab your cell phone. Interview them. Get them talking.
Step 4. Make it mobile.
Make a selection of materials. Pair it down. Pack it. These are great on the go whether in the car, on a train, or in a plane. They are also perfect for drop-off playdates. My boredom busting box is well traveled. It has undergone many revisions, and was often returned from a playdate with new goodies.
Boredom busting can become a healthy habit, and is a great way to reset and recalibrate. Take a chance. Make a few shifts in thinking. Share this post. Help bring out the creative tinkerer’s of the next generation. Next time you hear “I’m bored”, smile. Creativity awaits!
Shelley Weiss is the Art Department Coordinator PK 3-12 at North Broward Preparatory School.