think outside the boxWhen talking about creative problem solving, many times the term “think outside the box” will be mentioned.  In order for our children to learn how to “think outside the box”, they first need to realize that things “outside the box” do exist. The first step is to teach them how to notice things on a concrete object that are beyond what they readily see when first looking at it. They need to expand the scope of their vision. They need to practice the art of looking for things that aren’t glaringly obvious. This will help them to realize that they shouldn’t just be looking “inside the box”; they should also be looking “outside the box”, “on the box”, “around the box”, “behind the box” and “next to the box”. Once they get in the habit of really studying an object from all angles in order to learn as much about it as possible, they can then take that same approach at looking at less concrete things such as “problems”.  This will then lead to their ability. when faced with a problem, to not stop at the first solution that comes to them when trying to solve it, but instead to believe that there could be other possibilities beyond the obvious, and to motivate them to keep looking or thinking for other possible, better solutions. This will result in them becoming more creative problem solvers.

In this Creative Mindflexor™, have your child pick out a random object around the house. First, without touching it and being an arms-length away from it, have them list all the details they notice about the object. The next step is to have them pick the object up and turn it over in their hands and really study it.  Encourage them to look at it closely from all angles.  Have them now list any additional details that they hadn’t noticed about the object before they really explored it. “Extra points” for them if they tell you a detail about the object that you didn’t even know about it. Whether it’s a button on a remote control that they didn’t know was there, or a warning label on a bottle, or a non-slip surface on the bottom of a jar; explain to them how by really looking at something from all sides, they can learn something new that they didn’t know about it at first glance.  Have them do this a few times with different objects to get them used to the art of “seeing beyond the obvious”.

Later on when you see them having trouble solving a problem, whether it’s a homework problem or a personal one, refer back to this Creative Mindflexor™ and place an object in their hand.  Ask them to remember exploring this object, and have them once again turn it over and around in their hands and study it carefully. Now, tell them to do the same thing in their mind with the problem they are trying to solve.  If it’s a homework problem have them go back and look more closely at the question or the reading passage and see if they can pick something new up that they hadn’t noticed the first time they looked at it.  If it’s a personal problem, ask them to look at the problem from different “angles”, different “points of view” – see if by having them work at looking outside and around the problem (“outside the box”) if this helps clear the block they are having from solving it and open up new solutions for them.

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