January: It's Creativity Month!
December 28, 2018

An elderly man was bothered every afternoon by a group of kids on their way home from school. They’d ring his doorbell and run, taunt him while he was working in his garden, or throw things at his house. He shouted at them, and thought about calling the police or talking to their parents. But then he had a better idea.

On a Monday afternoon, when the unruly students ran by at the usual time, he called them together. “I’m an old man, and I don’t get much company,” he told them. “I want to show you my appreciation for paying some attention to me, so every time you kids come by, I’ll give each of you a dollar.” That sounded good to them, and they each collected a dollar bill from the man. Happy, they ran off and left him alone.

On Wednesday, the man told them, “I’m a little short today, so instead of a dollar, I can only give you a quarter.” That was still better than nothing, so the children took their quarters and ran home.

The following Monday the man came out of his house and told the kids, “I’m afraid I don’t have much money left, so all I can give each of you for visiting me is a penny.”

“Forget it!” they shouted, and left, never to come back to bother the old man again.

How’s that for creativity in solving a problem?

January is International Creativity Month, so capitalize on your creative powers by devoting the month to exploring new ideas and strategies to make you, and the children in your life, more creative.

So how do we do this—particularly during the cold dreary days of January? New evidence suggests that you can boost your imagina­tion by bundling up and getting outside to spend some time in nature. Researchers from the University of Kansas describe the findings this way: “Nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax, and let down those threat responses. Therefore, we have resources left over – to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve.”

Similarly, some of us feel more creative wearing our favorite green T-shirt. Research suggests that the colors around us actually do influence how well we do certain tasks.

But sometimes we can't take a hike or sit in a soothing colored room. Then what? When you are in one of those "dry" spots, try some of these other tips for generating fresh concepts:

Gather information. Research whatever you’re trying to develop ideas for. Don’t think about solutions initially; just immerse yourself in the subject. You may uncover a single fact that can spark a dozen ideas.

Mix everything together. Take a bird’s-eye view of what you’ve collected. Look for underlying assumptions, common concepts and roads not taken.

Let it simmer. Concentrate on something else for a while. Listen to music, take a walk, sleep on it. Let your subconscious take over and sort through what you’ve learned.

Brainstorm. Invest some time in generating more ideas from the information you’ve processed. Quantity often breeds quality. Your third or fourth attempt may prove more useful than your first and most obvious idea or solution.

Share your idea. Run it past someone you trust for feedback. An outside perspective can often be very useful!

Accept mistakes. Give yourself permission to try things even if you’re not sure they’ll succeed. Often you’ll stumble across a different strategy or a better path along the way.

Copy other ideas. Don’t directly steal anyone else’s work, but look at what’s been done with an eye toward doing it differently. Even the most familiar landscape can come to life in interesting ways depending on the colors you use to paint it, or the point of view from which you show it.

Hmmm...Sounds a lot like science process skills, doesn’t it? So get in, get your hands dirty, and try new things. This month we offer a creative take on something you and your children are definitely familiar with—blowing bubbles. Did you know you can make some really cool bubbles using a sock and plastic bottle? This is one of our most viewed videos from the past. Enjoy Rainbow Snake Bubbles!

So as a new calendar year and school semester begins, look for ways to foster your creativity. It will serve you well at work, school, and in your personal life.