Tag Archives: Creativity

Overscheduling Kids Negatively Affects Development: Parenting Without Borders, Part 6

In the Introduction, we broached the idea that the way other cultures parent might be more “right” than the way that the culture in North America parents, as discussed in the book Parenting Without Borders. In Part 1, we looked at some of the different cultural thoughts around sleep. There was also that stunning example of how it’s normal for babies in Scandinavia to be found taking a nap on the terrace in the dead of winter! In Part 2, we explored “stuff” and how having more of it might not be best for our children. In Part 3, we looked at how different cultures relate to food in the context of parenting. In Part 4, we looked at how saying “good job” to our little ones might not have the effect we think it does. In Part 5, we talked about the virtues of allowing our little ones the space to work through problems on their own. In Part 6, we’ll look at the importance of unstructured “play.”

There’s an epidemic of overscheduling kids in the US and it’s negatively affecting development. You’ve probably heard or seen the stereotype: afterschool, little Johnny is off to baseball practice on Mondays, piano practice on Tuesdays, swimming on Wednesday, every other Thursday is Boy Scouts, and on Friday, the family goes to the cottage (when there aren’t piano recitals, baseball games, or swimming tests on the weekends). Oh, there’s also little Julie who has all of her extracurricular activities afterschool, too. Don’t get me wrong, certainly those activities will be helpful in little Johnny or little Julia’s development (within those activities), but they will be harmful in other ways.

All of the activities I mentioned above are structured activities. Meaning, there are clear and set boundaries and defined outcomes contained within. Kids will certainly learn from these kinds of activities, but they are being robbed of the importance and value of unstructured play. From the book:

One survey found that 79% of middle and high school students participate in some sort of activities during the weekdays or on the weekends; 57% have an extracurricular activity every day or almost every day. As scheduled activities have increased, the amount of outdoor time children enjoy has plummeted. Today, the average American child is spending only between four and seven [!] minutes in unstructured outdoor play.

It looks like it’s implied in the passage that this is daily play (but it doesn’t specify). Four to seven minutes — are you kidding me? That’s the amount of time we’re supposed to be spending brushing our teeth everyday (three times a day, at least two minutes each). How the heck is an imagination supposed to develop in only 5 minutes a day?

Oh, I guess I didn’t tell you about that yet, did I:

Childhood play is how kids construct meaning and make sense of the world when they are little, and discover what they love as they grow. Play is a springboard for creativity: as kids pretend and make up their own games, they create possibilities out of thin air. Pretend play is an especially crucial way to hone human intelligence because of how it enables kids to envision possibilities.

So I say again, how is an imagination supposed to keenly develop in 5 minutes a day?

In this chapter, Gross-Loh also tries to draw connections to the rise in childhood obesity and increase in the use of antidepressants in American children. While those points are valid, I think the previous point — development of creativity — is a strong enough argument for more unstructured play all on its own. I mean, some parents often lament the shrinking amount of time spent on arts and physical education in schools. It turns out, children’s access to “arts” is probably getting a similar treatment (by having been overscheduled and given little time to develop their imagination).

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It turns out that part of the shift to structured activities began in the ’80s and ’90s when the media alerted us to new research in brain development. However, as is often the case when it comes to the media reporting on scientific research, there was a disconnect between what the research actually said and what was expressed in the news. The message from the research was mainly geared to “disadvantaged children” (about the importance of those earlier years) and then the message became co-opted such that all parents thought it was important to focus on those early years. As it happens, this may be to the detriment of children:

Researchers found that early-learning centers, which promise to give infants, toddlers, and preschoolers an academic head start, produced children who eventually had more difficulty: anxiety about tests, lowered creativity, and less of a liking for academics. Many studies show that “artificial stimulation” — early learning that is developmentally inappropriate — can be counterproductive and even hinder children’s development. One well-known study showed that the more babies watched educational baby videos, the more their vocabulary dropped.

There are also myriad behavioural issues that can develop by trying to force this early learning on kids (and we wonder why there’s been an explosion in the diagnosis of kids with ADD or ADHD?). There’s probably a number of reasons for the higher frequency in that diagnosis, but I suspect that the pressures felt by parents to force their kids into environments that will foster behavioural issues is a factor.

I’m already close to 1000 words and I haven’t even talked about how the effects that overscheduling has on a child’s ability to figure out what they’re passionate about (how can you figure out with you like when you’re always being shuttled from activity to activity?) or how it’s important to intersperse physical activity with learning (breaks are essential to improving a person’s attention).

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One of the main reasons that I chose to write about this book through a series was to make sure that I presented different perspectives, so I wanted to make sure that I offer a few examples of that before closing this post.

In Denmark, there’s a forest kindergarten for students between the ages of three and six. Gross-Loh shared a delightful anecdote about the kids wanting to go swimming in the sea (in the winter) and how the teacher didn’t tell them about how the water was frozen. Instead, the class all walked to the sea to learn that in the winter, the water is frozen and that when you break the ice and go in the water (yes, some of the kids put their feet/legs in), the water is extremely cold. A perfect quote from that story: “There is no such thing as bad weather. Only bad clothing.”

In Germany, they also have a forest school where it’s not only normal, but it’s encouraged for kids of different ages to be playing together (just like we learned in Japan in previous chapters).

And let’s leave the last word to Gross-Loh:

The children spend “off task” — time that might seem idle and wasted — is often full of interior richness. Children are doing exactly what they should be doing. The benefits of play seem, to me, to be as crucial for our kids’ futures as anything we enroll them in, because through play, they internalize a valuable lifelong attitude: the idea that they have the power to make something of their own lives, and that they can create so much out of so little.

Attraversiamo: Creativity and Perspective

Chances are, when you leave the house or you leave the office, you take the same route home. All. The. Time. If you’re in a car, you may have to change your route because of construction or traffic, but it’s pretty much the same. If you’re walking (or walking to the bus/metro/subway/etc.), you’re probably looking to get there as quickly as you can, so you’ve learned which parking lots to cut across and which alleys are safe. That’s absolutely a great reason to continually take the same route — efficiency is useful when you’re in a hurry and who isn’t in a hurry these days? In fact, you’re probably so good at taking the same route that often times, you don’t even realize that you’ve passed 4 or 5 blocks. For those of you who drive, there’s the idea that you get in your car at home and all of a sudden, you find yourself at work, but you have no recollection of actually driving yourself to work.

I wonder… have you ever considered walking on the other side of the street?

I’ve written quite a bit trying to encourage you take a new perspective or to take a fresh perspective, but for some people, that’s a bit ethereal. So, I was trying to imagine some very tangible ways that I could suggest to illustrate the ‘power’ of taking a different perspective. While I think taking a different perspective is extremely important when it comes to making important decisions, training one’s self to realize the value of a new perspective seems like it might be helpful, too.

I want to propose an experiment. I’d like you to, the next time you leave the house (or work), walk on the other side of the street. You’ve probably walked down the same side of the street hundreds, if not thousands of times, and I predict that if you walk on the other side of the street, you’re going to see your environment from a new perspective. Now, categorically, of course you’ll have a different perspective because you’re occupying a different vector of space and time, but forget about that aspect for a second and take a chance. This is such a tiny ask — walking on the other side of the street will do little to inconvenience you during your day, but it could do wonders for you in highlighting a tangible example of how taking a different perspective could allow you to see things differently.

If you need more reasons to convince you to try this tiny experiment then consider that it could help you solve that problem you’ve been working on for the last few days. There’s some research that suggests [can’t seem to locate it at the moment] putting yourself in new environments is a way to spark one’s creativity. By making these new connections in your environment, it could spark new connections for the things that have been ‘keeping you up at night.’

How History’s Most Famous People Scheduled Their Day Doesn’t Matter

Last month, there was a chart that was making its way around showing how some of the most famous creative people scheduled their day.

To be perfectly honest, how they scheduled their day should have little to no effect on how you schedule your day. I appreciated that some articles (like the one from Mic) acknowledged part of the issue:

Since the greats examined here were already generally well-off and moderately successful before the peak of their careers, it’s hard to tell whether the schedules helped them reach success or were a product of it.

The sentence that follows is the most important of the article:

But what is clear is that the vast majority spent large stretches of time doing intellectual and creative work on a regular basis.

Trying to plan how you should spend your day based on how da Vinci or Picasso spent their days is ludicrous. They lived in a completely different time than we do. More than that, the ways that they schedule their days might not be the most advantageous way for you to structure your day. That is, maybe you’re not an early riser — maybe you’re a night owl. Or maybe you’re a hybrid in that some days you stay up late and some days you wake up early.

As the article in Mic alludes to near the end, but doesn’t outright say, there are only two important things to consider here: sleep and exercise. Time and time again, research has shown positive correlations between sleep and creativity and exercise and creativity. If you want to be creative, there’s a better chance that you’ll be successful if you get enough sleep and you get some exercise. Everything else is optional.

A New Way to Use Pinterest: Financial Charts

I don’t remember when I first signed up for Pinterest, but I do remember that when I did, I had “big” plans of using the site to create a vision board. As you can see from my Pinterest page, I haven’t used it since I signed up. There are any number of explanations I could offer as to why I haven’t really done what I had initially thought I would, but this post isn’t about my usage of Pinterest, no, it’s about Josh Brown’s.

You see, many people (or at least it certainly seems like it) use Pinterest for shopping. That is, they see something they like and Pinterest is a way to bookmark that image. There are also those businesses who use Pinterest to get a better understanding of how their customers like or dislike their products. There are those hobbyists or designers who are trying to showcase their ideas. There are even people who share recipes through Pinterest. In all that I’ve heard of Pinterest, never had I heard someone use it to share financial charts.

Can anyone tell me what this is an example of? Hint: I wrote about this decision-making bias as recently as last month.

Functional Fixedness.

Josh Brown, the person I mentioned earlier, uses Pinterest to bookmark “amazing charts.” These financial charts, in a way, are breaking through that bias of functional fixedness. By using Pinterest to showcase financial charts, Brown found a way to use Pinterest that was a little out of the ordinary.

There are probably dozens of examples of these in your daily lives. On your commute this morning/afternoon (or the next time you head to work), I want you to take a wider perspective and see if you can notice anyone using something in a way that you hadn’t considered. Maybe someone’s using a skateboard as a “wagon” as they’ve tied a string to truck (where the wheels are) and is letting someone pull them down the street. Maybe by watching them participate in what some may consider a dangerous activity, it gives you that flash of an idea you’ve been looking for on a problem you’ve been having. Lateral thinking begets lateral thinking.

Twenty Online Talks That Will Change Your Life, Part 2

Yesterday, I began going through one of The Guardian’s articles about 20 online talks that could change your life. We got through the first 10 talks yesterday. In this post, we’ll look at the last 10 talks.

11. Shaking Hands With Death – Terry Pratchett

12. The Voices in My Head – Eleanor Longden

If you have no experience with schizophrenia, Longden’s talk will certainly change that. It’s important to note, not everyone comes as ‘far’ as she did. Nonetheless, I hope her story fosters empathy within you.

13. Arithmetic, Population and Energy: Sustainability 101 – Albert Bartlett

I don’t remember when I first saw this lecture from Bartlett, but I know that it was probably one of the first lectures I watched on the internet (maybe 15 years ago?). If you’re captivated by headlines like “Crime Doubles in a Decade,” or you’re confused about inflation then you’ll learn a lot in the first half of the video. As someone who majored (second major) in sociology, I can certainly empathize with the idea of a Malthusian catastrophe. I suppose I’m putting stock in the fact that something will change before it gets to that. You may be tired of hearing that people of time X couldn’t have predicted what life would be like in time Y, but I’d say that this is a big factor in why I think we’re not hurtling toward the future that Bartlett explains. Of course, I could be wrong, but I really think that something will change before it comes to this.

14. The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class – Elizabeth Warren

15. The Secret Powers of Time – Philip Zimbardo

If you’ve ever taken PSYC 100, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Zimbardo. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, his famous experiment will: the Stanford Prison Experiment. I remember watching the RSA Animate version of this talk a couple of years ago. Zimbardo shines a light where you might not have been looking: your relationship to time.

16. The secret to desire in a long-term relationship – Esther Perel

17. Printing a human kidney – Anthony Atala

In 2011 when this talk was given, the idea of 3D printing was brand new. To some, it may still be. I remember talking about it last year in the context of rapid technological change. If you’re still fuzzy on 3D printing, this is an enlightening place to start.

18. Do schools kill creativity? – Ken Robinson

If you’ve ever watched a TEDTalk, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of this one from Ken Robinson. As of this time last year, it was the most watched TEDTalk – ever – with almost 15,000,000 views. If you haven’t seen this one, spend the next 20 minutes doing just that.

19. Sugar: The Bitter Truth – Robert Lustig

20. Moral behavior in animals – Frans de Waal

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If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

Leonardo da Vinci Thinks You Need a Fresh Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a photo of a real estate listing in Korea and the story of the blind men and the elephant. These were both meant to emphasize the point that perspective is really important. A few days ago I came across an article from Inc. that continues to strengthen my opinion that being able to assume different perspectives is extremely beneficial.

This particular article had to do with Leonardo da Vinci — a famous polymath from the 15th and 16th centuries. The article was illustrating the different ways that da Vinci could teach the reader about creativity. The lede for this article:

The Italian master had skill and great ideas, but he also had something else: the ability to look at the world around him differently.

Perspective.

Here’s the two “things” that I think highlight this point:

Independent Thinking

Diversity is critical for creativity and innovation, which is why it’s important to seek out points of view different from your own.

“The problem is the more senior someone becomes the more likely they’re going to believe their own publicity and surround themselves with people who always agree with them. So the more senior you become, the more concerted effort you must make to seek out different opinions. Then you have a chance to think independently,” Gelb says.

Make New Connections

Logical and linear-thinking types–engineers, analysts, and scientists, for example–can have a hard time looking for patterns and new connections, but doing so is the key to creativity.

Again, Gelb likes to use mind mapping, although it take a while to train these kinds of folks since they’re used to doing things in a formal order.

“At first it feels very messy… thinking through association and letting the mind go free and generating lots of key words and other images in different directions,” he says.

So, if you won’t take my word that seeing things from a new perspective is important, will you take da Vinci’s word?

 

Spiritual Development of the Frog: Spiritual Development of Frogs, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the first half of a paper I wrote about the spiritual development of frogs. There was a focus on the  biological development of frogs. Today, we’ll look at the second half of the paper and wrap it up. In this half of the paper, we really get into the “creative” part. Enjoy!

Spiritual Development of the Frog

It is conceivable that all species have some form of spiritual development. It would be ludicrous to assume that we, as humans, are the only species that can experience spiritual development. Given this, it is fair to assume that frogs experience spiritual development. As we learned from an earlier section in this paper, biological development can be tied to spiritual development. As such, a frog’s spiritual development is markedly similar to their biological development.

A frog’s life begins as an egg. Not many eggs make it past this stage, so the eggs that do make it past this stage, must have something rare about them. The eggs that survive this stage have something exceptional about them. These eggs are already into stage one of the spiritual development of a frog – protection. In this stage of spiritual development, the frog has to have the intuitive capacity to have chosen the right egg to be born into that will not be eaten by a predator. Not all eggs make it to stage one of spiritual development, so the eggs that do, are already ahead of the game. It is necessary to say that those eggs that do not make it to stage one are eggs that have remained in stage zero, which is called undifferentiated.

Once an egg has made it past the stages of undifferentiated and protection, they move into becoming a tadpole. In this stage, the tadpole undergoes many transitions. During the tadpole stage, the tadpoles that mature too quickly are not only subject to predation from other species, but from their own kind! Tadpoles that fall into this trap do not move onto the next stage of spiritual development – safety. Those tadpoles that have the compassion and understanding of what is going on in their bodies portray an air of safety to them. They are aware of what is in their environment that can harm them and know not to mature at a rate too quickly, so as not to upset the other tadpoles. To this point, we have learned that a frog begins as an egg in biological terms and as undifferentiated in spiritual terms. If the egg that is chosen is ‘protected,’ then the frog spirit that chose the egg moves onto the next biological stage of tadpole and to the next stage of spiritual development of protection. If the tadpole is smart and ‘safe’ enough, then they are permitted the opportunity to undergo a metamorphosis. Before this stage of metamorphosis, the tadpole has moved into the spiritual stage of safety.

The tadpoles are now far enough on their spiritual journey to have gained the title of ‘safe.’ It is the title ‘safe’ required by the frog Gods before they will permit the tadpoles an opportunity to move through the metamorphosis stage. This metamorphosis stage for tadpoles biologically, is the shift they make into the life of being a froglet. In this stage of froglet, the spiritual developmental stage that coincides is ‘becoming.’ The term becoming was chosen because in this stage of froglet, the frog is not quite a frog and not quite a tadpole. It is, by definition, a transitory state, both biologically and spiritually. It is commonly compared to the Dark Night of the Soul, which was a treatise written by a Spanish poet. However, this treatise is commonly referred to a state in one’s spiritual journey for despair, much like the time for froglets – a time of anguish where multiple changes in their body are occurring.

If these froglets can survive the biological changes occurring in them, then they will be granted the ability to move onto the final stage of biological development – an adult frog. In spiritual terms, this stage is referred to as individuation. All froglets that become adult frogs have tails that have undergone resorption, but this resorption of their tails is what separates them from the froglets. This process is an ‘individuation’ of sorts and as such, is the stage of spiritual development. Once the frogs have become adult frogs, they are individuated and then live lives as normal frogs do.

For those frogs that are lucky enough, they will stumble upon, only by way of intuition, the final stage of spiritual development for frogs – communal. This stage is unknown to most of the frog community and is only accessible for those frogs that spend time looking deep within them. All of the frogs have access to this stage, as all frogs are connected, but only the frogs that pay attention and are mindful have the opportunity to access this spiritual stage of communal. Once the individuated frog realizes that there is a stage of communal, they must swim to find it. There are communities of frogs in the Atlantic Ocean who live on an island not known to any species, except for the communal frogs. These frogs have transcended what it means to be a frog and are living in a state of complete bliss. Being in the company of other frogs who have reached the communal stage only further amplifies a frog’s state of bliss.

Conclusion

There was reasoning offered for pairing biological development with spiritual development. There was an explanation of the biological development of a frog. The stages of biological development of a frog are as follows: egg, tadpole, froglet, and adult frog. The stages of spiritual development of a frog were explained. The stages of spiritual development of a frog are as follows: undifferentiated, protection, safety, becoming, individuation, and communal.

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If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.