Let's get creative!

Originally posted by LifeHack on April 30, 2013 

Is your creativity getting low?

Sometimes, we all hit empty. Searching for inspiration doesn’t always help. Neither does trying to just “work through it.”

When the work needs to get done and you just don’t have the fire anymore, there needs to be a way to get the juices flowing again.

As kids, we were never at a loss for creativity.

What did we know as kids that could help us now? A whole lot, actually.

Playing as a Form of Therapy
D.W. Winnicott, a psychoanalyst of the past century, suggested that playing was the key to emotional and psychological well-being. He devised a mode of therapy with children known as “play therapy.”
The child leads the therapist in some kind of play activity until the child can trust the therapist enough and open up . However, the child must initiate the playing in a spontaneous way.
Why? Because you can’t force playing, just like you can’t force creativity.

The Way That Children Play
Ever watch children play? They’re constantly creating and changing rules for games they invent.
And when the rules don’t work, they re-invent them. For children, a stick could become a magic wand, a sword and a lightsaber all in one afternoon. Kids don’t limit it to just being a stick because someone told them it’s a stick. Heck, they’ll use the stick to make a circle in the dirt and tell you it’s their secret base that you’re not allowed into. Then, five minutes later (when they get bored), you’re suddenly allowed in. They keep adjusting the ‘rules’ of playing until they work.

Changing the Rules of Teaching
A few years ago, when I taught high school, I struggled to come up with a final assignment for my students. When I failed to find one that fit with my students, I decided to change the rules.
Instead of a typical writing assignment based on class readings, I asked my students to create the ‘ultimate super villain’ and present it in two different ways. The only guideline? The villain’s attributes had to be based on characters we studied that semester. That’s it.
The result was a production of their best creative work all semester. I was so blown away that for the final exam, instead of a “traditional reading,” I asked my students to read a Lifehack article and provide a response. It was the most enjoyable marking experience I’ve had. I threw out the rules of teaching and had fun. And the results were spectacular. All it took was a willingness to let my ideas go wild .

What does This Teach Us ?
Our best work comes when we’re having fun with what we do. As adults, we get stuck in our heads, limiting ourselves to set rules and guidelines. Sometimes, you have to throw away the rules and just let things flow. Be spontaneous and do something different.Be yourself in your work. As a student, I hindered my creativity out of a fear to put my own voice in my essays. I depended on the voice of others because it felt ‘proper.’ But when I wrote with my voice, essays became fun to write, and sounded infinitely better .

The second you stop following the prescribed rules, you’ll uncover creativity you never knew you had. According to Winnicott, only in creativity do we find ourselves.

Don’t lock yourself within a set of self-imposed rules.

Act like a kid: when the game doesn't work, change the rules until it does.

Now go play… and tell me how it turns out for you.

Watch our brand new Play Revolution Video and help spread the word on the Importance of PLAY!
Peekaboo Beans is a stand for free unstructured play so our children can develop into happy healthy beans! 

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So... to enter our fabulous giveaway:  Visit our website and sign up to our BeansTalk Newsletter by entering your email address in the bottom right hand corner of our homepage. Contest closes February 6th at 10pm PST.  And the lucky winner will be announced in our BeansTalk on February 7th. 

Is this doing our children any favors?

Infant iPad seats raise concerns about screen time for babies.
Originally posted December 10, 2013 in the Washington Post

A newborn baby cannot hold or even swipe at an iPad, but Fisher-Price is providing a way to keep infants glued to the device.
The Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for the iPad allows parents to strap a baby to the reclining bouncy chair and slip a tablet into an attached case that hovers several inches above the infant’s face.
The seat is chafing parents and child advocates who say the introduction of screen technology so early is harmful to the health and development of babies. Fisher-Price’s seat seems to hit a new low, they say, but other retailers also are promoting holiday gifts that integrate tech into baby gear, even a potty-training seat with an iPad stand.
Fisher-Price’s iPad seat is the “ultimate electronic babysitter, whose very existence suggests that it’s fine to leave babies as young as newborns all alone and with an iPad inches from their face,” said Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a child advocacy group.
The group on Tuesday launched a letter-writing campaign aimed at trying to persuade Mattel, the parent company of Fisher-Price, to stop selling the seat.
“Fisher-Price should stay true to its mission to foster learning and development by creating products for infants that promote, rather than undermine, interaction with caregivers,” Linn said.
Victor Strasburger, a doctor and professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, said attaching iPads to babies’ seats is “a terrible idea.”
“Does anyone out there think that kids need more screen time?” Strasburger asked. “There is no need to hurry to expose kids to new technology, certainly not babies — or newborns.”
Mattel did not respond to a request for comment on the iPad seat, but the company promotes the seat as a way to entertain and foster a baby’s physical development. Fisher-Price describes the product on its Web site as “a grow-with-me seat for baby that’s soothing, entertaining, and has a touch of technology, too.”
Mattel is already under pressure by the CCFC and other advocacy groups that have complained to the Federal Trade Commission that Fisher-Price’s mobile Apptivity suite of apps deceives consumers with promised educational benefits despite little research having been done to prove that online sites can help babies’ brain development.
Mattel encourages parents to download its iPad Apptivity apps, which it says “feature soft, soothing sounds and nature scenes, black-and-white images and high-contrast patterns that help develop eye-tracking skills.”
Other retailers have created similar products aimed at putting screen devices in front of children at the earliest ages.
CTA Digital’s 2-in-1 iPotty With Activity Seat for iPad allows babies and toddlers to tap away at a tablet positioned in front of a plastic potty-training bowl. The company, which makes accessories for tablets and video games, has a commissioned study on its site that touts the use of technology in child development, including potty training.
“Many young children already love playing with their parents’ iPad, and now they can safely do so with the iPotty,” CTA Digital says on its Web site. “It provides a fun and comfortable place to sit, while learning how to safely use the potty, playing apps, reading books or watching video clips.”
The Brooklyn-based company said that despite some criticism, it has seen a boom in sales of the iPotty. The toilet trainer was first introduced a year ago and has become the company’s second-most popular product aimed at babies and children.
“Most families have technology in the home, and the reality is that kids are exposed already, and parents are trying to find the best ways to adapt into their lives the technology in a way that is safe and thoughtful,” said Lois Eiler, marketing associate for CTA Digital. The company also sells an iRocking play seat with an attached feeding tray that can be replaced as an iPad holder.
The slew of new baby-tech products has drawn criticism from parents blasting CTA and Fisher-Price in Amazon.com’s customer-review sections. Fisher-Price’s seat had more than 100 reviews, many negative.
“If you want to damage your child’s development, buy this chair,” one reviewer wrote. “Children of a very young age are genetically programmed to respond positively to interacting with PEOPLE. Even if they are just watching the world go by. This is a horrible gadget.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages screen time for children younger than 2, including mobile technology. As companies rush to integrate technology into toys, baby gear and classrooms, doctors and child advocates say children are immersed more than ever in a world of screens. That constant access to games, television and the Internet may be taking away from family time, exercise and discovery in the physical world, critics say.
What are your thoughts?  We want to hear from you. Please post your comments below and let us know what your experience with Tech Toys for babies and toddlers has been.  Are you for or against?  Do you limit your Bean's usage of electronics?  Or do you need to use gadgets to help "babysit" your Bean while you're briefly attending to other needs? Would you bring a product like the Fisher Price Apptivity Seat or the iPotty into your home?  Share with us... our Bean Brains want to know! 

Top 10 family resolutions

Originally posted on Modern Parents Messy Kids
When you think “kid-friendly holiday”, New Year’s Eve probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind.  But just because the kids might not last long enough to see the ball drop, doesn’t mean they can’t participate.  In fact, New Year’s Eve is a great time to come together and set some family goals for the upcoming year.
In case you need a little help, we’ve put together a handy list of our Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Families.  You’ll notice that a lot of the items on the list are things that you’re probably resolving to do for yourself this year – we just added a family twist!

Get Outside More

If you’re a regular here, you may remember when I had the pleasure of attending an amazing talk on raising creative kids in a hurried world by Nancy Blakey. The entire presentation was fantastic but during the two hours or so of talking, there was a statement that really stood out: 90% of our best childhood memories take place outdoors.  I’m not sure what type of science was involved in coming up with this conclusion but as I thought back on my own childhood it certainly seemed accurate.  Activities such as camping, hiking, boating, swimming and just laying in the grass were pervasive.
Make a commitment this year to get outside more with the kids. That can mean hiking, bike-riding or camping.  But it can also mean simply exploring your back yard together.  For inspiration, see our series on how to set up Natural Outdoor Play Spaces as well as this post on The Many Benefits of Family Camping.
Also, check out one of my favorite books on the topic – 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids.

Practice Gratitude as a Family

I feel like I’ve talked about this a whole lot lately – to the point where you might be grateful if I just shut up about it already.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that the more grateful your kids are, the happier they’ll be their whole life through – and to me that’s something worth shouting from the rooftops.  For ideas on setting up a regular family gratitude practice, see this post (a part of our Happy Family Habits series).

Go on More Adventures

In researching this post (yes, that’s right, I didn’t just throw this thing together willy nilly), I came across a great list of New Year’s Resolutions the New York Time’s parenting blog, The Motherlode, put together by polling some of their favorite parenting authors.
One of my favorite ideas came from Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, “Think about how you want to spend your downtime. Weekends, evenings and vacations can be opportunities for adventure, but we often lose them in front of the TV because we fail to plan… make a bucket list of the fun you want to have as a family — then get those ideas on the calendar.

Keep a Record of Your Life Together

From a similar post over on Disney Family, I love this recommendation from Mark Victor Hansen, best known for co-creating the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, who believes that there are a few very important gifts that parents can give to children in order to provide a sense of what is important.
“Give your children family pictures,” he says. “Create family memories and leave a pictorial family history. Keep a journal so that your kids can really know you…Maintain a library. The books you keep will give your children an idea of what you read, what was important to you and what you found influential. Kids can see where you have dog-eared a corner or underlined a sentence.”Read more of his advice here.
I’m totally smitten with that idea of creating a library to help your kids get to know you. One thing I would also add is not to forget to get yourself into your family photos. As moms, we’re often the ones snapping the pics (or sometimes even hiding from the camera), but we need to remember it’s such a gift to our kids to make sure they have photographic evidence of these years with you! Check out our post, Getting in the Picture with Your Kids, from professional photographer Kristin for tips on how to get in the picture.

Read Together

Studies have shown a steep decline in kids’ interest in reading around 4th grade.  You know what else not-so-coincidentally occurs around that time? Parents stop reading to their kids.  Make a concerted effort this year to read to, with, and around your children.  If your kids aren’t interested in story time before bed anymore, up the ante by graduating from simple story books to chapters of classic adventure books each night like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or (my personal favorite) the Red Wall Series.
And don’t forget the importance of modeling with your teenagers.  Consciously turn off the screens on a regular basis and pick up a book while in plain site of your offspring, encouraging them to do the same.  For even more help, check out our post on 7 Ways to Help Your Child Love Readingfrom our in-house elementary school librarian, Janssen.

Start a Family Game Night

Having a regular family game night is a great tradition to strengthen the family unit. Not only does it ensure time for connecting with each other, it also gets your kids in the habit of communicating with you – something that will pay-off big time when they’re older. Plus, with the right game, it can be really fun!
For help finding the perfect games for your family, check out our Top Picks for Family Game Night.

Give Warm Greetings and Farewells to Each Other

Another great suggestion from that list came from Gretchen Rubin, author of our latest Virtual Book Club selection, Happier at Home, “It’s easy to fall into the bad habit of barely looking up from games, homework, books or devices when family members come and go. For that reason, in my family, we made a group resolution to “give warm greetings and farewells.” This habit is surprisingly easy to acquire — it doesn’t take any extra time, energy or money — and it makes a real difference to the atmosphere of home.

Be Silly Together

This was another one of our Happy Family Habits from the past year that I think bears repeating. In the post, MPMK contributor Kristin wrote, “In raising kids, my husband is often the fun parent and I tend to be the one holding the fort down.  Many of you moms will side with me.  Someone has to keep this ship afloat. Over the past few years I’ve learned that there’s a time let go of the rules and what ‘should be done.’  There’s a time when the goal of having FUN is more important than anything else.  And being the organized mom that I am, I have a few tips on how to have fun.” Get all of her tips here.

Eat & Make Healthier Food Together

No New Year’s Resolutions round up would be complete without a mention of eating better.  As parents we all want to instill in our kids healthy eating habits that they can take with them into adulthood.  Check out our post, 9 Sure Fire Ways to Raise a Health Nut, for tips on just how to do it.

Challenge Each Other to Think More Creatively

Last, but not least, help kill the creativity crisis plaguing our youth by encouraging them to flex their creative muscles this year.  My friend Rachelle of Tinkerlab is my go-to source for raising innovative kids with amazing critical and creative thinking skills.  Check out her 5 Resolutions for a Creative New Year (#5 is my favorite and ties in nicely with #6 on our list).

So... what are your family New Year resolutions?  Ours? Of course it's to PLAY more! 

Visit www.modernparentsmessykids.com for more fun and playful posts.