Cultivating Problem Solving and Ingenuity

The modern trend to enroll children in as many after school activities as possible is ruining the next generation.

Contrary to popular opinion, children thrive when they are given ample unscheduled play time. Free time to explore, use their imaginations to amuse themselves and even time to be bored because boredom is the birth place of  ingenuity.

Surrounded by babies and toddlers, I was not always free to run outside to solve every obstacle my kids faced as they played. At first, I scrambled to help my kids with every problem with a newborn in my arms and perhaps a toddler wrapped around one of my legs. Finally I realized that the best way to mother my kids was to stay peaceful, rather than frantically running around attempting to meet everyone’s needs at the same time. That meant older kids had to wait for me or try to figure out snags by themselves. Loud shrieks for mum gradually grew less frequent because while waiting for help, my kids often solved their own problems. Impatience is a wonderful motivator.

steve hanks

Six year old Joseph is a prime example. His grade 1 teacher recounted this story to me. It seems that she asked her grade one class this question,

“How would you open the garage door if there were no grown-ups around?”

Everybody just stared blankly at her, except for my kid. He waved his hand in the air and then excitedly blurted out,
“You just stand on a milk crate, push on the upper left-hand corner of the garage door with a hockey stick and push hard. The door comes up a bit, you jump off the crate and crawl in!!”

Then, Joseph beamed proudly.

You don’t have to solve every logistic problem for your kids or give them all the best equipment and toys. Mary was about ten and at our extended family’s cottage with a cousin. Every game my daughter suggested, her cousin would point out that they lacked some piece of equipment. After a moment to think, Mary would brightly say,
“Well, we could always use this instead!”
Her aunt and uncle laughed and remarked,
“I wonder whose daughter she is?”

steve hanks
steve hanks
Ingenuity and creativity do not spring into motion if parents give everything to their kids even before they know to ask. We could not buy expensive toys for our kids but we did make sure we always had paper, crayons, glue, paint and other craft supplies in the house. I loved watching card board boxes magically transform into cars or doll houses, especially when little people asked older siblings for help them. Then everyone became excited and involved in the project.

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