RAS Fishing ElephantI’ll answer in a minute.

Putting things together that don’t usually go together is an excellent way to stimulate creativity in children (and adults).  It’s called Synectics.

The word Synectics comes from the Greek and refers to joining together different and apparently irrelevant elements. Synectics are used in business and the classroom as a style of brainstorming, and it’s something fun and productive to do at home as well.

Here are a few simple examples to do at home:

  • Grab a few items from the kitchen (e.g., a colander, a carrot peeler, a tiny spoon) and see how many crazy uses your child can imagine for each one within a minute.
  • Ask your children to pretend they are from the future and to describe what life is like at school and home. (I do this all the time with my daughter Hannah and it cracks me up every time)
  • Cook dinner with your child, but ask them to make it (and eat it) without real utensils.  What would they use instead? Help them think through creative solutions.  (My family recently went out for an Ethiopian dinner and ate the whole meal with Injera, a yummy, flat, spongy bread. What other food can be used as a utensil?)
  • When they come home from school ask them to tell you two or three things about their day, but to tell you in a cartoon or comic strip without words.
  • Give your child some art supplies (paint, markers, crayons) and several sheets of paper.   Play some jazz or classical music and ask your child to draw pictures based on what the instrumental music is saying.  If your child is stumped, you can ask questions like:  “Does the music make you happy?”  “Is the music light or dark?”  “Close your eyes and tell me the first thing the music makes you think of.”

Okay, back to the question I started with:  What do you get when you cross an elephant and a fish?  Swimming Trunks.

I know you can do better.  Give us some jokes.  Or some other synectics ideas.

Mark Rothschild

Letter from Mark: Stimulate Their Senses With Modern ArtCreativity and Time, Part I